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Clergy and Administration

Rabbi David Kaiman

Rabbi David Kaiman has served as rabbi at Congregation B'nai Israel since June 2003.  Rabbi Kaiman was ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, NY in June of 2003 with an MA in Hebrew Letters and concentration in religious education.  Rabbi Kaiman has served as a rabbi and educator at congregations in Florida, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Maryland.  Rabbi Kaiman also spent several summers as an educator at Camp Ramah including two years with the Tikvah Program for Special Needs Jewish Education at Camp Ramah in New England. Prior to entering seminary, Rabbi Kaiman spent 21 years as a corporate manager in industry where he was active as a community leader for religious and secular organizations. Rabbi Kaiman also is proud to be a graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville and a Gator.  Married to Rebeca Shalom, LCSW, they have two grown sons and two wonderful daughters-in-law. They also have three adorable granddaughters and this year welcomed their first grandson.

Contact Rabbi Kaiman at or (352) 376-1508 x104.

Jenifer Petrescu
Executive Director

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 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. 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 two youngest who are currently in 1st grade and the 2-year-old class respectively.

Contact Jenifer at or (352) 376-1508 x103.

Ilana Gertler
Coordinator of Jewish Learning

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. 

Contact Ilana at or x122.

Melanie Gonzalez
Financial Administrator 

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!”

Contact Melanie at or x105.

Vinny Picataggio
Head of Maintenance

Vinny joined the B'nai Israel staff in 2021 after moving from South Florida, where he worked at Temple Beth El in the maintenance department. Vinny and his wife Mary Ann have 5 children collectively and 4 grandchildren. Vinny has been a tremendous asset to B'nai Israel and we are happy to have him as part of our team. He loves country music and the mountains of the Northeast.

Contact Vinny at

Day School & Chavaya Staff

2022-2023 Day School Staff
Amber Gale Lead Teacher Infants
Francis Romero Lead Teacher Infants
Haylee Brown Co-Teacher Infants
Alisa Griffin Lead Teacher One's
Mykayla Gammage Co-Teacher One's
Marissa McGuire Lead Teacher One's
Chelsea Cayton Co-Teacher One's
Marie Trester Lead Teacher Two's
Kimberly Dorman Co-Teacher Two's
Laurin McMullen Lead Teacher Three's
Shannon Barr Lead Teacher Three's
Brittany Ray Lead Teacher Pre-K
Lauren Brockway Co-Teacher Pre-K
Jessica Gera K-2 Teacher K-2
Shakerra Baker Floater
Leah Ungarten Floater
Lizzie Allen Floater
Tamara Ashley Floater
Karen Wilson Music/Art
Meagan Reagle Teva (Nature)
Hannah Rynning Student Services Coordinator
Lynn Salter Office Coordinator
Teresa Dorman Curriculum Development Specialist
Cara Axelrad School Director


2022-2023 Chavaya Staff
Ilana Gertler Coordinator of Jewish Learning
Shiri Abramson Teacher
Jamie Bielski Teacher
Noa Gershoni Teacher
Gabbi Thaw Teacher
Noah Gilman Teacher
Rachel Beer Teacher
Sara Beer Teacher
Aaron Fintz Teacher
Blair Wales Teacher
Mollie Hoffman Teacher


Custodial and Maintenance Staff
Vinny Picataggio Head of Maintenance
Terrance Johnson Custodial & Maintenance
Maria Gallea Custodial


Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784