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David Lamden


David Lamden, a Cleveland, OH native, was raised in Tucson, AZ where he received his Reform Jewish education and spent many years attending Reform Jewish camps. A graduate of the University of Arizona with a degree in Judaic Studies, he served as a camp counselor and song leader at Camp Charles Perlstein (now Camp Stein) in Prescott, AZ, and URJ Camp Swig (now URJ Camp Newman) in Santa Rosa, CA.

Upon graduation, he relocated to Columbus, OH, where he served for six years as Education Director/Family Jewish Educator at Congregation Beth Tikvah. David then became Religious School Director/Program Director and Technology Coordinator at Temple Israel, a position he held for eight years.

Recruited to Phoenix to become Executive Director of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley, AZ, in 2007, David served in that capacity until July 2013 when he assumed the position of Executive Director at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach, FL. In November 2016, David assumed his role as Executive Director of Congregation Emanu El.

David was advanced to Senior Member in the National Association for Temple Administration (NATA) in 2011 and in November 2014 received his Fellow in Temple Administration (FTA) designation. He serves on its Board as well as its Web Site Committee Chair, in 2013 served as Co-Chair of the Association's National Conference, and co-chaired the 2016 National Conference. He was elected a vice president of the Association in November 2018.

David is happily married to Jennifer, the father of two adult children and the proud owner of three standard poodles and two cockatoos.

Jason Plotkin 


Jason Plotkin, a native Houstonian, attended Westbury High School before receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Radio & Television with an emphasis on Public Relations and Promotions in 2005. Jason arrived at Emanu El following seven years as an athletic administrator at the University of New Orleans, the last three as the Director of Athletic Media Relations. During his tenure, Jason ran the day-to-day operations of the athletic media relations including responsibilities associated with the web site, social media and game management.  In addition to his duties with UNO, Jason worked media relations for Super Bowl XLVII, the 2012 NCAA Men’s Final Four and the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four, as well as multiple NCAA postseason events. Previous work experience includes a stint as the athletic director at the New Orleans Jewish Community Center and serving as the first full-time sports information director in Dillard University history.

Jason was the recipient of the Creager Memorial Award in 2005 from SHSU given to the senior male student that has “made the most outstanding contribution to overall student life” and continues his involvement at the college level by serving as a member of the Houston Hillel Board of Directors. Jason is married to the former Aliza Herman, and together they have a beautiful son named Isaac.

Stefani Carlson


Stefani Carlson is a lifelong Jewish learner, as well as an experienced and innovative educator, leader and mentor. Since graduating from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in English Language and Literature (1990), Stefani has lived, learned, and taught in communities in Virginia, Colorado, California, New York, Texas, Illinois, and Ohio. Most recently, she served Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson, Ohio as Hebrew teacher, B’nai Mitzvah tutor, lay leader, and Education Director.

Stefani is a 2017 graduate of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI), and its partnership Graduate Certificate program in Jewish Education from the University of Cincinnati’s Center for the Study of Jewish Education. She is a member of the Network for Research in Jewish Education (NRJE) and the Association of Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE), and a Fellow of the Portraits of Jewish Learning Project of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education of Brandeis University.

Stefani and her husband, Steve, have two adult sons, Alex and Evan, and are delighted to be making their home in Houston.

Barbara Loeser


Barbara Loeser has been asked to serve as the Interim Director for the Becker School. Barbara was the very first director of Becker more than 30 years ago! Her educational background includes a Masters in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction. She has spent her entire adult life as an educator and Jewish communal professional. Some of you may know her as Emanu El’s cantorial soloist, singing and teaching and praying with adults and children for many years. Barbara is also a mom and a grammy.

Jose Perez 

Facilities DIRECTOR

Jose lived in the suburbs of Maryland/Washington DC for 17+ years before moving to Texas. He began his career in the maintenance field, performing preventative maintenance on fan coil units. Jose attended the University of Maryland and received a Bachelor's Degree in Computer and Information Science, and later became a Certified Network Engineer.

Laura Kocian 


Laura started at Emanu El in Feb 2011. She graduated from University of Houston Downtown in 1997 with degrees in Finance and Accounting. Her most memorable work experiences are at Channel 13 and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston. She has lived in England, Nevada, Alabama, North Dakota and West Virginia thanks to her dad being a “Fly Boy” and then choosing a career in Engineering. She has been married to Kenneth for over 20 years and has a son, Damon and a dog, Lucy. She loves to read and take naps in her spare time.

Stephanie Kamion 

Communications Coordinator

Stephanie arrived at Emanu El in 2012 as Helfman Religious School's Education Communications Coordinator. She graduated from the University of Houston with a dual degree in advertising and Spanish. During her tenure at UH, she was actively involved in its study abroad program and spent time studying at the University of Granada, Spain. After graduating, Stephanie worked as a trial consultant for a company that offers presentation strategies for litigation to attorneys. She's a fan of camping, she lives for communication, and she loves Emanu El. 

Becca Schwartzberg


Becca joins the Emanu El community by way of New Orleans. A graduate of Hofstra University with a Publishing Studies Degree and a minor in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Language, Becca's mission is to help energize a new generation of engaged Jewish youth.

Her background includes 10 years of Jewish camping, youth group participation and leadership at NFTY​​​​​​, collegiate Hillel activity, and Hillel professional staff experience at Tulane University.

A native of Denver, CO, and a former Long Islander, Becca enjoys baseball, hockey, vocal jazz, and really good food.

Leda Karchmer


Leda has been the Sisterhood secretary since 2015. Born and raised in Biloxi, Mississippi, Leda moved to Houston in 1972, where she attended the University of Houston and received a B.A. in Journalism. She worked for many years as a legal secretary and has been active in many Jewish organizations including NCJW, Hadassah and West Houston Lodge of B’nai B’rith. Congregation Emanu El has been a significant presence in her life- she met her husband Mike at an Oneg Shabbat at Emanu El, was married at Emanu El, and became a bat mizvah Emanu El.

JoAnne Karnuth


JoAnne joined Emanu El in 2014 as the assistant to Senior Rabbi Oren Hayon and Rabbi Emeritus Roy Walter, bringing years of experience with her. She moved from the Chicago area to be closer to her two children who transferred to Houston through their jobs. JoAnne now has the joy of being close to her now seven grandchildren, which keeps her on her toes! JoAnne seeks every opportunity to go shopping and out to eat, and she truly enjoys working with the Emanu El community.

Donna Fraley

Ritual Coordintor / Assistant to Rabbi Silk & Cantor Simmons

Donna moved to Houston in 1986 and lives in the Westbury Area. She and her husband travel to Austin frequently to visit their two beautiful daughters and two grandchildren Both daughters attended the University of Texas in Austin, so “Hook ‘Em!” Donna and her husband have a long bucket list of future travel destinations.

Alisha Klapholz 

Cemetery Coordinator / Assistant to Rabbi Fixler

Alisha moved with her family to Houston from the DC area, and has been at Emanu El since 2015, serving as the Cemetery Coordinator and assistant to Rabbi Fixler. Previously she’s worked in ESL, publishing sales and academic administration. She lived in China for four years and, thanks to her, there are now tens of thousands of middle school students learning about graffiti as art in their ESL classrooms. In her free time, she’s a mikvah attendant at the community mikvah and a chatan/kallah teacher with the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA). Since arriving in Houston, Alisha and her husband have also helped start Minyan Kochav, an independent minyan. She loves the Jewish community in Houston and her role in helping to build it at Congregation Emanu El.

Tiffany Siegel


Tiffany started at Emanu El in January 2020. She is a native Houstonian, but has also lived in Manhattan where she graduated from Yeshiva University in 2010 with degree in General Business Administration and Management. Her most memorable work experiences are at Landry’s, Inc. and Argus Media, Inc. She has been married to Jake for over five years and has a daughter, Chloe. She loves to travel and spend time with her family.

Christian Simmons


Christian has a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations from Sam Houston State University. She loves being at Emanu El and, other than working, in her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and making plans for the future!

Lisa Damen


Lisa (Elizabeth) Damen was born in Houma, LA to Dutch immigrants and was raised in The Netherlands. She lived briefly in Beirut, Lebanon, during its hay day before moving to Louisiana, where her family settled. She joined the Emanu El team when she moved to Texas in October of 2014. Lisa has over 30 years of accounting experience and previously worked in banking and oilfield. She enjoys traveling, canoeing, painting, gardening, and volunteering at Ronald McDonald House with her therapy dog, Sophie.

Maranda Evans

accounting staff

Maranda Evans is a native Houstonian. She received her bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from Sam Houston State University and her master's degree from Texas Southern University. Outside of Emanu El Maranda spends her days working with the youth community through her non-profit organization, The Troubled Movement, Inc. She brings happiness and humor to the temple with her love for Mickey Mouse, and you may catch her wearing Mickey ears on her head. 

Elizabeth Townsend

Membership & Engagement Coordinator

Elizabeth is a native Houstonian who walked the halls of Congregation Emanu El as a toddler. Many of her earliest memories are spending time with her family at synagogue and learning in religious school. After spending a few years in the beautiful city of Durango, CO, she returned to Houston and our congregation. She previously spent three years as a teacher in Becker Early Childhood classrooms and is currently a teacher at Helfman Religious School. She enjoys long walks on the beach with her husband, Luke, and their dog, Lilly. Her newfound passion is Mahjong and she looks forward to winning many matches in the coming years.

Dolly Montgomery


Dolly Reynero Montgomery was born in Yoakum, TX, was raised in Austin and moved to Houston at the age of 10. She's been happily married to her husband Kevin for nearly five years. She has six children, a whopping 17 grandchildren and two great grandsons. Dolly has been taking care of the Emanu El building and staff for six years, and she loves every minute of it. You will never see her without a smile on her face.

Juan Torres


Juan began his tenure at Emanu El at the age of 18 and has been an integral part of the Emanu El family for nearly 15 years. Born and raised in Pasadena, he loves barbecuing and football, and his favorite pastime is fishing. Juan has a number of talents, and you will see him all over the building providing the best support possible to all of the staff.

Manuel Perez


Manuel has been a part of the Emanu El family for 13 years. He was born in El Salvador and lived in New York for five years before moving to Houston, Texas. Manuel has been married for 25 years. Together he and his wife have five beautiful daughters. 

Wed, May 27 2020 4 Sivan 5780