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Our Educators


Rabbi Phyllis Sommer served Am Shalom as Associate Rabbi since 2003, and became Director of Congregational Learning in 2014. She is a native of Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2003, and in addition to Am Shalom has served congregations in New Iberia, Louisiana and Billings, Montana.

Rabbi Phyllis is passionate about Jewish life and learning... and baking... and technology... and reading... and quilting... and posting regular (!) updates on Facebook... and pretty much everything! She spends part of every summer on faculty at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, where she also leads a well-attended spring quilting retreat for adults. She has blogged the Exodus at, and the ins-and-outs of balancing her life as Rabbi, wife, and mother of four as Ima On and Off the Bima: Real-Life Jewish Parenting and Living (

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Rabbi Anne Persin joined Am Shalom as Associate Director of Education in 2017. She has been teaching Hebrew School and tutoring B'nai Mitzvah students with Am Shalom since 2013. Rabbi Persin was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2003, and has previously served as a Rabbi, Education Consultant and more at a variety of different congregations.

Rabbi Persin is an amazing teacher and educator who we are proud to add to our team at Am Shalom. Nothing excites her more than when she sees the lightbulb go off over someone’s head or when someone is truly transformed by a new understanding from information that she was able to share with them! She has a passion for Judaism and Am Shalom and aids in running our religious school, our redesigned 6th grade curriculum, Hebrew School and more!

Email Rabbi Persin or call her at 847.835.4800 ext. 304

Sarah Jane Heyman, Youth Programs Associate

Sarah Jane Heyman joined Am Shalom as Youth Program Associate in 2023, after teaching Sunday School at Am Shalom since 2019. She has a passion for sharing the joys of Jewish life and culture, both in and out of a classroom.

Sarah Jane graduated from Lake Forest College in 2020 with a B.A. in Biology. While there she served on the executive boards of the campus Hillel and It’s On Us, an organization that combats campus sexual assault.

Sarah Jane is excited to be part of the Am Shalom community! In her spare time, you can find her reading, listening to music, or taking part in any form of art.

Email Sarah Jane or call at 847.835.4800 ext. 201

Dana Poncher, Bet Mitzvah Coordinator

Dana Poncher After leaving her position as Special Events Director at UIC in 2012, Thrilled for the opportunity to share her love of learning, Dana fell in love with her students and ultimately became a teacher in both the Religious School and Hebrew School, as well as a Bet Mitzvah tutor. Dana loves working with her students and considers Am Shalom her extended family.

In 2017 Dana became part of the full time staff at Am Shalom supporting the clergy and working as the Bet Mitzvah scheduler. Recently Dana was promoted to Bet Mitzvah Coordinator, supporting all phases of the Bet Mitzvah program and being a liaison for families as they take the Bet Mitzvah journey.

Dana enjoys spending time with her family, hockey (go Blackhawks!), motorcycle rides and sunny autumn days.

Email Dana or call at 847.835.4800 ext. 339

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyar 5784