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Our Staff

Brian Fox, Executive Director 

Brian is originally from Virginia and worked in the hotel and hospitality industry for 25 years before bringing his generous nature and varied skill set to the Beth Jacob community. He likes to spend time with family and friends, travel, engage in fitness, and take advantage of the beautiful outdoors we have here in the Bay Area.

Julia Neely, Gan Mah Tov Preschool Director

Julia was born and raised in the Bay Area. As a child, she and her family belonged to Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek. Julia received a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development from San Diego State University, and completed additional ECE director certifications. With decades of work experience, Julia has been a preschool teacher, director, and executive director. She has also been an adult instructor, field consultant, private consultant, and parent educator. Julia’s prior experience includes working at Montessori schools located in rural areas - with llamas and goats - and in urban settings like the University of Washington in Seattle. At UW she directed an early childhood center for children of faculty and staff. For nearly two decades, Julia was a faculty member at a training institute in the Seattle area, where the curriculum manual she wrote, is still in use today. Julia has developed and led a classroom leadership training program that included positive child discipline, respectful communication skills, training assistance, and a Peace Curriculum. Julia also has experience with non-profits, writing grants in the East Bay in support of underserved families attending preschool. 

Julia has a married daughter and is thrilled to be a Bubby to 5-year-old Finn! Julia enjoys spending time with family and friends, hiking with her dog, reading, and gardening.

Anna Bencuya, Gan Mah Tov Preschool Director

Anna grew up in a very traditional Sephardic home in Turkey. Although Anna has a master’s degree in Chemistry, she realized that her true passion was working with young children. She has been teaching in Jewish ECE for the last 24 years. Because she was deprived of a Jewish education when she was growing up, it means a lot to her to give children the love of learning and the joy of Judaism. She was an assistant director and teacher for two years at Gan Mah Tov before becoming the director. Anna loves partnering with and supporting families and together providing a warm and nurturing program where each child is loved and nurtured.

Kathrina Nichols, Gan Mah Tov Preschool Interim Co-Director

Kathrina has been at Gan Mah Tov for six years and an early childhood educator for 17 years.  Most recently, Kathrina has been working toward a Master’s in Early Childhood Education at American Jewish University.  She completed a fellowship with JECELI (Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute), an intensive leadership development program for aspiring ECE directors. Kathrina loves seeing children explore and discover the world around them.

Kathrina was born and raised in Manila, Philippines where she visits regularly to spend time with her niece and her nephew. Here in the Bay Area, she enjoys driving up and down the California coast, going on hikes, and cheering for the Warriors.

Jen Salvago-Keyes, Beth Jacob Events Manager & Gan Mah Tov Preschool Assistant Director  

Jen Salvago-Keyes has been part of the Gan Mah Tov family since 2007. In 2003, she graduated with a degree in American Multicultural Studies from Sonoma State University which led her on the path of becoming a teacher. Her first ten years at the Gan were as a teacher, and she became the Assistant Director in 2017. In 2021 Jen took on another roll as the Beth Jacob Event Manager.

While working at the Gan, Jen has developed a love and appreciation for Judaism and trusting relationships with our families.

When she's not working at the Gan, she enjoys walking around Lake Merritt, hiking, driving to the coast, spending time with friends and family and hanging at home with her two cats, Boo and  Zoe.  

Rabbi Shua Brick, Director of Family Learning

Originally from West Hempstead New York, Shua is a Wexner Graduate Fellow who received Rabbinic Ordination from Yeshiva University, where he went for high school and undergrad, as well as pursued a dual masters in Jewish Philosophy and Jewish Education. In love with experiential education and summer camp, he has been upper staff in Camps Dora Golding, Ya’alozu, I.O., Stone, Wildrose, and Nageela, always looking for new and exciting challenges. Previously the Rabbinic Intern at the Jewish Center of

Adira Aufhauser, Accounting & Systems Administrator

Adira moved to the Bay Area in 2006 from Mevaseret Zion in Jerusalem, Israel, and she has been with Beth Jacob since February 2017. She currently lives in Portland with her family.  Adira has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science, Humanities, and Theater Studies, as well as a Master of Law degree. Her Jewish education includes a Judaism seminar in Arachim, Israel, and Jewish Studies for Women at Neve Yerushalayim, Israel. Adira’s passions include art and painting, floral design, gardening and hiking. What she likes most about working at Beth Jacob is that she can combine work with spirituality and that she is able to be a part of the Beth Jacob community.    

Austin Blair, Facilities Manager

We are delighted to introduce Austin Blair, our new Facilities Manager, to the Beth Jacob community. Austin has seven years of experience working as a handyman throughout the East Bay. Outside of work, Austin is an avid hockey player who also enjoys hiking, camping and spending time at the beach with his dogs. 

Nolan Givens, Custodian

We are delighted to introduce Nolan Givens, our new custodian, to the Beth Jacob community. Nolan will be working afternoons/evenings, Sunday-Thursday so that he can go to college in the mornings. His dream is to become a respiratory therapist. Nolan has five siblings and was born and raised in the Bay Area. He's a little shy, but please give him a warm welcome to Beth Jacob when you see him. 

Kathy Hollander, Home of Peace Cemetery Administrator

Kathy Hollander is celebrating her 20th year working for Beth Jacob. She worked first in the Beth Jacob office and became the Administrator of Home of Peace Cemetery in 2005. Kathy loves ensuring that everyone receives the kosher and dignified burial they deserve. She also is grateful to have the opportunity to help families pre-plan their burial needs so that families are spared from making complex decisions during a highly emotional time. In addition to her work for Home of Peace, Kathy also volunteers by giving massages to hospice patients and their caregivers a few times each week.

Sat, June 3 2023 14 Sivan 5783