Meet Our Teachers

Lisa Reeves, Pre-Kindergarten

My name is Lisa Reeves. This is my first year teaching Yalla!, and I am excited to join my daughter, Abby, who is a veteran Madrichol in pre-k, starting her third year. I am a third-generation member of B’nai Jehudah. In addition to my daughter, Abby (a junior at BVHS), my husband, Matt, and I have twin sons. Both boys graduated from college in May. Jack is currently serving in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, and Sam recently started a job in radio in Pittsburg, KS. During the week, I teach preschool at Beth Shalom. Prior to joining the staff there, I spent many years as a school psychologist in the Blue Valley School District. Outside of work, I love traveling (especially to the beach), reading, movies, and donuts. I look forward to being a part of Yalla! and having a fabulous year!

Rhonda Karol, Kindergarten

I am so pleased to be able to share time with Temple B’nai Jehudah’s Religious School! My husband, Rabbi Larry, and I retired in June 2020. Covid delayed our much-anticipated move, and we finally made it to Overland Park this June. This area is familiar to us, having lived in Topeka for 22 years where we raised our son Adam. We have a lot of extended family here, and friends in Topeka. We had a 5-year congregational stint in Dover, New Hampshire, followed by our last 10 years in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Larry grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and at Temple B’nai Jehudah! The opportunity to come full circle is very special!

I grew up in Massachusetts. I have a BA in Sociology and Elementary Education from Clark University in Worcester, MA, and a Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. I have taught religious school for 40 years, directed early childhood education centers, worked with a reading grant, and taught early childhood education at 2 community colleges and at Washburn University in Topeka.

Our son Adam and his wife, Rabbi Juli, live in Manhattan, NY with Joshua who is 6, and Eva who is almost 4. We look forward to lots of retirement time with them!

Our world and our Jewish communities need hearts and souls nourished by caring teachers and community members. I believe that children are the best material from which a responsible adult can be made. I am honored to be able to contribute to B’nai Jehudah!

Paula Suroff, 1st Grade

Paula Suroff has been teaching 1st grade at B’nai Jehudah for the past 9 years. Mrs. Suroff has a degree in Music Education from Indiana University and a Masters in Education from Washington University. 

Mrs. Suroff taught elementary music (K-6), pre-school, subbed in various grades and has even been a camp counselor. Her personal passion is singing. She has sung at the Muny Opera in St. Louis, Bells Of Indiana, various choirs, Jewish folk groups, a Klezmer band and independently at weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, nursing homes and community theater. She was the Cultural Arts director at the Kansas City Jewish Community Center and the creative assistant to the president of US TOY/ Constructive Playthings for 18 years.

Dan Peizer, 2nd Grade

Dan Peizer was born and raised in New York City. His mother was a true sabra, and growing up he spent many summers in Israel visiting family and touring the country and absorbing its history. Dan attended The Ramaz School through eighth grade, and after graduating high school he attended and graduated from Cornell University. Dan moved to the Kansas City area in 2003 where he met his wife Emily. They were married in 2007 at B’nai Jehudah, and have two children, Nathan age 13 and Elise age 10 both of whom have been part of the religious school programs at B’nai Jehudah since preschool. His family proudly celebrated Nathan’s bar mitzvah this past November. Dan is currently a VP of Marketing & Strategy for Catalent, a contract pharmaceutical manufacturing company with a location in the Kansas City metro area. As a congregant for nearly 17 years, Dan is excited to join the education team at B’nai Jehudah!

Julie Schlachter, 2nd Grade Assistant Teacher

Miss Julie has lived in and been a part of the Jewish Community in Kansas City her whole life. A member of B’nai Jehudah since age four, she’s excited to be back and to be a part of the amazing team of Jewish educators at Yalla. After graduating from Indiana University, Julie moved back to Kansas City and currently lives in Prairie Village with her dog Emma, her cat Cranberry, and her two foster fail kitties, Grizz and Schmoople.

After college, Julie taught preschool for a few years, she found herself working in radio, and managing socials for a local concert venue. Ever since Julie worked for 101theFox and the Chiefs Radio Network, her favorite season has become Chiefs season (and winter- bring on the snow). She is excited to be back here at B’nai Jehudah, after being away for a few years, and says it’s like coming home.

During her free time, some of Julie’s favorite things are spending time with family and friends, volunteering with local animal rescues, caring for her fosters, doing all the art projects, watching all the Marvel movies, gardening, cooking/baking, and traveling. One of her favorite holidays is Passover, and she always takes on the challenge of cooking for those with dietary restrictions at the Seder. Julie is excited for her first full year as Assistant Teacher at Yalla with so many awesome 2nd graders!

Genna Stowe, 3rd Grade

Genna Stowe was born in Des Moines, IA but moved to Kansas City almost 30 years ago after graduating from the University of Iowa with a BA in History. She also holds a Masters degree from Baker University.  Currently, she works and lives in Prairie Village, Kansas with her husband and two children. The Stowes have been at Bnai Jehudah for just over a year, recently celebrating their son’s becoming a Bar Mitzvah in June. This will be Genna’s first year teaching at Yalla! 

Despite a demanding job, Genna finds time to support her kids’ passions: baseball for Nathan, and music for Bella. She also crochets and recently learned needlepoint. Not known to be very good at relaxation, Genna dreams of a vacation searching for beautiful sea shells on the beach. Instead, the whole family shares Spring Break vacations with her parents, siblings, and nieces visiting national parks, presidential libraries, and other historical points of interest. Those trips may not be considered entirely relaxing, but they are loud and hilarious!

Genna is so excited to share Sunday mornings with the amazing 3rd graders at Yalla! She is looking forward to lots of learning, and lots of fun!  

Ariel Silverman, 4th Grade

Ariel Silverman has been a part of the Kansas City Jewish community her whole life. She grew up at Beth Shalom, and now she is so excited to be working with students at B’nai Jehudah. She taught 7th grade English for four years in Kansas City, KS before switching to her new position as an Academic Advisor at the University of Kansas. She got married just over a year ago to Sam Benson, and has two black cats, Stellaluna and Freya. She is looking forward to a great school year!

Thomas Birdeno, 4th Grade Assistant Teacher

Thomas Birdeno is new to Overland Park and is a substitute teacher for Shawnee Mission School District. Previously, he taught at public schools in Hutchinson, KS, as a paraprofessional, World History teacher, and substitute teacher as well as a Screenwriting instructor at Hutchinson Community College. At the University of Kansas, Thomas majored in English – Creative Writing and minored in Theatre. During college, he volunteered at the local Chabad. He enjoys making short comedies and has won several film awards locally and internationally. He dabbles in watercolor painting and makes greeting cards as a hobby. He moved to Overland Park to be closer to friends, his mishpocha, a growing film industry in KC, and to be surrounded by a thriving Jewish community. Since moving here, he hopes to be a part of the community through teaching, filmmaking, and volunteer work. 

Joy Costa, 5th Grade

Ms. Joy was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri and has been a member of B’nai Jehudah since kindergarten. Currently, she works and lives in Olathe, Kansas with her three children. Next summer, she will graduate with her second degree, Library Science BMS, from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Then she will work towards a master’s in Reading/Literacy Education. Joy has been active in public and private schools for 15 years, this will be her first year teaching at Yalla! 

In between Taekwondo, dance, and music lessons, Joy and her children spend the majority of their free time outside. They usually bring a little piece of nature back home with them. A stick for the dog, rocks for collecting, or leaves and shells for crafts with Bubbe. Joy has a passion for baking and cooking, and tries to make each holiday memorable by incorporating a few traditional Jewish recipes. Her kids love trivia night (which is nearly every night) during dinner, encouraging life long learning, laughter, and chances are it’s going to get loud! 

Joy is very excited to share Sunday’s with the amazing 5th graders at Yalla! She is looking forward to learning and growing together.  

Emily Williams, 6th Grade

Emily Williams has been a member of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah for over 20 years. In her youth, Miss Williams was active in PBnJ (the B’nai Jehudah high school youth group) and its national youth program, NFTY. 

Miss Williams attended the University of Kansas where she was an active member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority and graduated with degrees in Curriculum Design and Instructional Strategies, with an emphasis on secondary education. 

Many of our families first met Miss Williams at the Kansas City JCC where she was a camp director, and after school specialist. She has been teaching in the B’nai Jehudah Religious School since she was a madrichol in her middle/high school years. Among all of the amazing things Miss Williams does at B’nai Jehudah, she officially serves as the Multi Access Coordinator and is responsible for the congregation’s audio, visual, and virtual technology. 

Mark Kover, Sasone/Student Support

Mark grew up at Temple Israel, in Detroit and while he didn’t like Sunday School and Hebrew School, he loved the Rabbi and his wife, Rabbi M. Robert & Sonia Syme. They embodied wisdom, kindness and caring. Mark graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Urban Community Problems (James Madison College) and fulfilled the requirements for a degree in Psychology. During those years, he worked at Camp Tamarack as a Camp Counselor and as a Tripper – preparing and taking kids on hiking and canoe trips in Michigan. Following graduation from MSU, Mark moved to Springfield, MO. in the position as a Volunteer in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A). Mark earned Masters in Agency Counseling and later School Counseling. After working at various Substance Abuse Centers and Mental Health Centers and worked for twenty years as a School Counselor in Kansas City, MO. Public Schools, with the last ten being at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Mark became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 1989 (MO).

Mark and his wife, Karen, raised two sons, Robbie and Brian who became B’nai Mitzvah and went on to be Confirmed at B’nai Jehudah. They are now raising our grandson David who is in the Yalla! 3rd grade class, and attends Prairie Point Elementary in the Park Hill School District.

Rabbi Karol, 4th Grade Hebrew

Rabbi Larry Karol was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. His family was active for many years at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, where he became a Bar Mitzvah and was later Confirmed and where he was active in the Temple Youth Group.

Rabbi Karol was ordained as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1981. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from HUC-JIR in 2006. He served at Temple Israel in Dayton, Ohio (assistant rabbi in 1981-1984); Temple Beth Sholom in Topeka, Kansas (1984-2006); Temple Israel of Dover, New Hampshire (2006-2011); and Temple Beth-El in Las Cruces, New Mexico (2011-2020). During his congregational rabbinate, Rabbi Karol focused on Jewish education, innovative worship, interreligious and multicultural programs, and Jewish musical creativity. He has written often for the local press, including a monthly column for a weekly newspaper in Las Cruces. He released three albums of original Jewish music in 2003, 2005 and 2014. Since his retirement in 2020, Rabbi Larry has enjoyed new opportunities to sing/play guitar during worship and to teach Hebrew and Judaism to the next generation! 

Rabbi Padorr, 4th Grade Hebrew

Rabbi Beryl Padorr, spiritual leader of Congregation Ohev Sholom for three years and served as Associate Rabbi of Beth Shalom to help facilitate with the consolidation of the two congregations.  She currently serves as a visiting spiritual leader of United Hebrew Congregation in Joplin, Missouri, and is currently involved in our Yalla program at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah.

Rabbi Padorr previously worked as Shared Vision Coordinator at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. She served as a Resident Chaplain for two years at Research Medical Center, and as a chaplain at Children’s Mercy Hospital and taught a class for the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning.

Rabbi Padorr served as the Rabbi and Religious School Director for Temple B’nai Hayim in the Los Angeles area, and on the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

She served as Rabbi for Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Des Moines, Iowa where she was called upon to offer prayer for the House of Representatives at the State Capitol, and sang with the Java Jews Klezmer Band at the Iowa State Fair. She also served on the Des Moines Jewish Federation Board of Directors, and participated in interfaith services and events. She taught in the Des Moines Jewish Community Religious School, and conducted Yizkor and other holiday services at the Jewish Life Center.

Rabbi Padorr received her ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies form American Jewish University as well as both a Master of Arts in Rabbinics and a Master of Arts in Education from the Fingerhut School of Education.

A long-time resident of the Kansas City area and a mother of three married children and six grandchildren, Rabbi Padorr graduated with distinction from the University of Missouri with a degree in Education and an emphasis in English. She continued her postgraduate studies in communications, journalism and education before entering the graduate programs at American Jewish University.

Outside of the synagogue, Rabbi Padorr enjoys running, Pilates, Zumba, scuba diving, pottery, and reading by the ocean. She holds a strong commitment to community, ma’asim tovim – a life of good deeds, and teaching, the joy and love of Torah.

Rabbi Steigman, 6th Grade Hebrew

Rabbi Linda Steigman is a native of Chicago.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, a Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Bryn Mawr College, and a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters, as well as Ordination, from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Rabbi Steigman moved to the Kansas City area in 2008 to be closer to her children.  For the past nine years she has served, on a part-time basis, Temple Adath Joseph, in St. Joseph, MO.  Rabbi Steigman is also a trained hospital and hospice chaplain, and is currently working in a joint Jewish Family Service – Synagogue program which aids congregational rabbis in providing pastoral care to their congregants.  Although she does enjoy tutoring children, she especially loves teaching about Judaism to adults.  Rabbi Steigman is also available for weddings, funerals, and other life-cycle events.