Our Curriculum and Staff

Our Curriculum

Our integrated curriculum brings together creative play, music and art, Shabbat and holiday celebrations, language, literacy, math and science, all grounded in Jewish values.  Play allows the child to develop a positive sense of self and others, to grow as a curious learner, and to successfully negotiate the world around them.  We use the Massachusetts Department of Education Frameworks and Standards for Curriculum as the base of our secular curriculum.  Our fully integrated Judaic curriculum revolves around the holidays we celebrate together throughout the school year.


Going to the Sukkah during Sukkot is one of our favorite activities. We learned how to shake the lulav and etrog, then we had snack!

    rh_applesauce.jpgOn Rosh Hashonah we use apples to make our own applesauce to bring home for our families.


Our Staff

We are very excited to have a team of outstanding classroom teachers for all four of our classes.   As early childhood professionals, each one of our teachers has a love of children and expertise in child development.  They work with each child to provide experiences and opportunities that foster curiosity and exploration, and that develop every child's unique talents.  We recognize that a highly-qualified and well-trained staff are among the primary factors which contribute to an excellent and high-quality educational program.   Ongoing training is a requirement of our Massachusetts licensing agency, and is central to our program.  Our goal is to exceed the minimum number of professional development hours per year.  


debbi_fendell.jpgDebbi Fendell, Director of Early Childhood Education

Debbi Fendell is the Director of Early Childhood  Education at Temple Aliyah, and oversees all aspects of the preschool program.  In addition, she works closely with the Temple Tots group within Temple Aliyah, and collaborates closely with the Director of the Religious School to coordinate programming with the youngest grades (Kindergarten and First) as well, as a natural transition for children in the preschool to enter into our Mercaz Aliyah religious school.   

Debbi has been involved with our Gan Aliyah Preschool since before its opening, and has served in several roles during her tenure here.  Before we officially opened, Debbi served as our consultant to help us through the rigorous licensing process.  She advised us and helped us create all of the policies, procedures and forms which are currently in use at the preschool. After attending the licensing visit, she agreed to become the Interim Director of Gan Aliyah for the first two months of its existence to help us get the inaugural school year started without a hitch.    

Debbi has had an extensive career in the Early Childhood Education field which includes experience teaching as well as directing in various programs, both full day year-round and part day school-year.  She spent 6 years in a local Jewish preschool as the Assistant Director/Director of Admissions and is very familiar with the process of seamlessly integrating the Judaic and secular curricula at the preschool level.   Debbi is passionate about the importance of Early Childhood Education, and looks forward to supporting our well-educated and experienced staff as they create a rich Judaic as well as secular curriculum at Gan Aliyah.  She is especially excited because she feels that she has at home at Temple Aliyah.

Debbi has three grown children and two young grandchildren.

Debbi can be reached at (781) 444-8522 or by email.


Opal McDonnell, Preschool Lead Teacher opal_website.jpg



 Gabrielle Birnbaum, Preschool Teacher gabby_for_bio_0.jpg

 Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Gabby is excited to be a part of the Gan Aliyah team and bring her clinical experience as a licensed social worker into the classroom. She is passionate and dedicated to working with young children and believes in creating a safe and nurturing environment where children feel comfortable to take risks, discover and make connections. Gabby holds both a Master of Social Work and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Psychology from New York University and has several years of experience as a child and family psychotherapist. Gabby grew up in New Jersey and lived in Manhattan before moving to Boston, where she began working as a school based therapist in a Boston Public School.  She places a strong emphasis on social and emotional development and fostering a child-centered learning environment where children are engaged in play based exploration.



Stella Kamenetsky, Toddler Teacher, Judaic Specialist  stella_head_shot.jpg


Stella is very excited to be one of our Purple Room toddler teachers at Temple Aliyah this year. She is an enthusiastic and experienced teacher who engages the children in both English and Hebrew. It is her passion to observe children incorporate the knowledge she has given to them in their play and hear them formulate their own interpretations. Stella is truly passionate about Israel and enjoys making it come to life in her work. Stella arrived here in 1999 from Israel, where she completed a four-year program at David Yelin Educational College in Jerusalem, earning a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education. Since then she has worked in Jewish early childhood education, including preschool and Day School settings here as she did in Israel. Stella also teaches at Temple Emanuel on Sundays, with children ages 5-6. She lives in Sharon with her husband Alex, and their two boys Nathaniel (10), and Ben (14).


Sara O'Brien, Young Toddlers Teacher


Sara is very excited to officially become a member of the Gan Aliyah staff this school year! Sara grew up in Westwood, MA, the third born in a family of six.

Having always had a fascination with psychology and development, she realized at a young age that a passion of hers was working with children. In her teen years she found experience by working in the daycare program at Westwood Children’s school, she continued working with children of various ages throughout college spending 3 consecutive summers as a camp counselor at Dedham Health and Athletics Center. Her last 3 years have been spent nannying for a family she has come to consider part of her own, as well as substitute teaching at Gan Aliyah since 2016.  This past summer she began her studies at Becker College - completing her certification for teaching toddlers and preschoolers. Sara strongly believes that children are able to best express themselves when taught with joy, excitement, and compassion.

Tayech Workalemahu, Older Toddlers Lead Teacher, Toddler Coordinator  

Tayech joined our staff in our second year, 2015, as a teacher in the Purple Room. She grew up in Ethiopia and lived in Israel for 12 years. She lives with her 14 year old son Nahum in Newton, which has been their home town for the past 12 years. When she is not in the Purple Room Tayech enjoys being outdoors and spending her free time gardening, cooking, knitting and reading. Tayech can work magic with just about anything creative, and is a knitter without peer, creating original design doll clothes for all of the dolls at the preschool. She has also baked us three challot for our weekly Shabbat celebration, which have been preserved to use over and over to everyone's delight. Tayech loves teaching in the toddler classroom. The rate of their language acquisition at this age always amazes her. She is committed to providing the children in her care with a loving and developmentally sound foundation for a lifetime of learning. Tayech believes that play is a toddler’s most important work, and strives to create and maintain an environment where each child can grow and thrive while exploring the world around them. She also believes that every child should be valued and treated with respect. 

Tayech's prior experience includes 10 years teaching at the JCC and Schechter preschools. She feels fortunate and blessed to be co-teaching alongside our other amazing teachers at Gan Aliyah.








Temple Aliyah Welcomes You!

Temple Aliyah is an egalitarian Conservative congregation in Needham, Massachusetts, with a warm and inviting atmosphere. We are a dynamic and diverse community that embraces people of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles. With the guidance of Rabbi Carl Perkins, we encourage our members to enrich their Jewish lives, to enhance their Jewish identities, and to engage in lifelong learning.

Join us for Shabbat services and schmooze during kiddush following services. Check out the exciting Temple Tots programming for our youngest members. Attend the Rabbi's Adult Education classes. Participate in one of our many Social Action projects. Become a member of our Sisterhood or Men's Club.    

Not a member? We invite your family to join our family!

Join Us

Did you know...?

Did you know that Temple Aliyah is a member of Mayyim Hayyim, a beautiful mikveh in Newton? Did you know this entitles a limited number of congregants to a free immersion gift certificate? To learn more about the benefits and reasons behind an immersion, please visit the Mayyim Hayyim website. To schedule an immersion 1) request your immersion appointment online  2) wait 24 hours for a response, 3) show up at the designated time, and 4) let them know you are a member of Temple Aliyah.

Want to learn more fun facts about Aliyah? Click here!

Shabbat and Weekday Services


Shabbat Morning Services  9:15 am
Sunday Morning Minyan* 9:00 am
Monday Morning Minyan   7:00 am
Weekday Evening Minyan 7:30 pm

* During the summer, minyan meets on Monday morning and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.


Under the direction of our Adult Education Committee and as part of our commitment to lifelong learning, Temple Aliyah offers a wide range of opportunities for our members and others to enrich their Jewish lives throughout education.  Click here to see all of our current Adult Education offerings.

Sisterhood welcomes all women of our community, sharing our passion for Judaism, our families and ourselves. We invite you to learn more about becoming part of our amazing community. Whether you're looking for camaraderie, spiritual connection, social action, or the opportunity to get involved, Sisterhood is here for you.