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Day School Administrative Staff

Cara Axelrad

 
My name is Cara Axelrad and I am very excited to be joining B’Nai Israel Community Day School as the Head of Educational Programming. I am thrilled for the opportunity and look forward to meeting everyone in the B’Nai Israel family.
 
My background comes from a variety of teaching experiences in both secular and Judaic studies. I received my Bachelors Degree from The University of Hartford in Elementary Education and Judaic Studies and completed my Master of Arts in Literacy from Columbia University, Teachers College. After starting out teaching in New York City charter schools, I transitioned to Mazel Day School in Brooklyn where I taught third grade for the last ten years. Simultaneously, I spent eight of those ten years as a Shabbat Teacher at Park Avenue Synagogue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. During summers, I worked various positions as a camp counselor including leadership capacities in the Art Department at Ramapo Country Day Camp.
 
This past January, my husband Andrew and I welcomed our first child, Emma. We recently moved from New York  to Gainesville and are looking forward to being a part of the B’Nai Israel Community. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with family, and our Goldendoodle Winston. Other activities I enjoy include traveling, baking, crafts, and going to the beach. Words cannot describe my enthusiasm to collaborate with my peers and bring innovative ideas to BICDS!

Hannah Rynning

 
Originally from Ocala, Hannah and her husband moved to the Gainesville area back in 2018 and has been a part of our community every since. One of her favorite things about her position is meeting new families and building relationships with the students.  Apart from B'nai, she also runs the Wednesday night Children's ministry at her local church. She loves the outdoors and traveling. A goal of hers is to one day see all of America's national parks. In her spare time, she is usually outside riding her bike, hiking, gardening, or spending time with her husband and friends.  "I am looking forward to another year of watching our students grow and getting to know the families in the B'nai community." 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lynn Salter

 
With more than 20 years of experience in office administration, Lynn began working with the Day School in 2015. Originally from Winder, GA, she and her husband moved to Gainesville in 2015. They have two grown sons, Brandon and Nick, and three fur babies, Prim, Apollo, and Fox. Outside of work, Lynn enjoys spending time with family, as well as exercise, tennis, hiking, kayaking, pretty much anything that gets her outdoors. She really enjoys the family-type closeness of the staff at B'nai Israel, along with watching the children learn and grow, year after year.
 
 
 
 
 

Melanie Gonzalez

 
While not new to B’nai Israel, Melanie is eager to step into the Financial Administrator role here at the synagogue! Previously, Melanie was the Student Services Coordinator for the Day School for four and a half years. She absolutely loved working with the incredible teachers, an unbelievable staff, and the wonderful families in this community and is so very grateful for the friendships and skills that she gained there.  
Originally from Miami, she moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida, and has since been here for almost 10 years, where she lives with her 2 cats. She spends as much time outside, hiking or camping, as possible.  Melanie loves animals and enjoys working with Gainesville’s rescue community. She is an avid Harry Potter nerd and has memorized every Gilmore Girls episode.
B’nai Israel truly has become a second home to her, and she appreciates how warm this community has been in welcoming and teaching her. She cannot wait to get to know more of you during her time here. Please feel free to stop by and say, “Hello!”
 
 

Ilana McAfoos

 
Ilana is new to Gainesville but not to being involved in Jewish life. Having recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with a Master’s degree in Archaeology with a specialization in Medieval Archaeology, Ilana’s background is rooted in Jewish engagement within her community. She has served as the first full-time Director of Programming for her home congregation at Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, PA. She has also served as a Youth Services Educator at Beth Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and at the Hillel Jewish University Center in Pittsburgh worked as the Jewish Spirituality and Learning intern. 
 
Ilana is also no stranger to Jewish camp, having grown up going to Camp Ramah in the Poconos as the child of camp staffers. As she got older, she also became a staff member and served as the Director for the Theater Arts Program. Having participated in USY as a teen, Ilana recognizes the importance of being engaged in Jewish life from an early age and making programs engaging and fun. 
 

Jenifer Petrescu

 
Jenifer is our Executive Director and has served in that role since 2013. However, her time at B'nai Israel began in 2003, when she worked at a teacher in our day school. Jenifer has also served on the day school committee and been an active participant at B'nai Israel since she started here, nearly 20 years ago.
 
Jenifer has her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Florida, both in Political Science with a focus on Public Administration. With specialization in grants management, Jenifer has helped organizations seek out funding to advance their mission in serving their communities.
 
Having grown up in California, Jenifer moved to Florida to pursue her academic studies at UF and is now an avid Gator fan but still roots on her hometown San Francisco Giants whenever she gets the chance.  Jenifer and her husband Vlad have three children: Cristian (10), Stella (7) and Eloise (3). All of her children have gone through the day school, including her youngest who is currently in the 3-year-old class.
Sat, November 26 2022 2 Kislev 5783