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Our Teachers


Torah Tots (Preschool)

 Rachel Loria

Rachel Loria grew up at Or Ami since the age of 5. She attended Christopher Newport University and graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2009 while getting a minors in religious studies and helping at a local synagogue. She earned her Master’s in Education in Early Childhood Special Education in 2012 and worked at Richmond Public Schools while in graduate school. Rachel has taught students of all ages at Or Ami for a number of years. During the week, Rachel works as a Disability Advocate. She is happy to give back to Or Ami as a teacher after all of her years of being a member.

K-2nd Grade

Naomi Simon has been part of the Or Ami community for almost two decades. She is currently studying Elementary Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. She taught the Art Elective last year and is excited to have the opportunity to teach K-2 this year. 

3rd-5th Grade

Joanne Nordlinger loves education, Jewish life, and Jewish traditions. After raising her three children in Ithaca, NY, Joanne returned to her hometown of Richmond where she has been very involved in Or Ami’s adult educational activities, including Torah Study and Intro to Hebrew. Joanne loves to bake for the holidays, especially honey cake. She also loves to spend time in nature and hike with her adorable dog. Joanne is looking forward to teaching and sharing her love for Judaism with your children.

6th-7th Grade




Ariela Press grew up in Richmond and is currently a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University where she is pursuing a degree in musical theatre performance. In high school, Ariela was very active in BBYO and before beginning college, she completed a gap year abroad in Israel. Ariela has a passion for Jewish culture and learning and she is excited to continue her journey as a Hebrew school teacher here at Or Ami.


Alyssa Alyssa Freeman has worked in the field of Jewish education since 1999. She has taught kindergarten through seventh grade in addition to working at Camp Sababa (a local weeklong Jewish community summer camp with K-6th grade campers). Originally from New Jersey, Alyssa graduated from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland in 1987, moved to Virginia in 1988, then earned her teaching certificate from VCU. In her spare time, Alyssa enjoys reading, hiking, nature photography, and playing saxophone as well as clarinet for Or Ami’s klezmer band – Klezm’Or’Ami’m.


Alex Simon

Alex Simon has taught in Or Ami’s Religious School for 20 years, taking time off only when serving as the congregation’s President. He has worked as a lawyer in Richmond for over 40 years and raised his family at Or Ami. All three of his children were Confirmed at Or Ami after their Bat Mitzvah ceremonies. Alex generously volunteers his time as a Hebrew teacher today because he is still grateful for the volunteers who took time to teach him Hebrew prayers when he was a child.


Ellis Hibbard is excited to share his love of art and Judaism with the students at Or Ami this year. He has been creating art for as long as he can remember and has had his work featured at the Perkinson Center for the Arts and Education. Outside of art, Ellis also loves building PCs and spending time with his beloved cat, Nevermore.

Education Director

Rabbi Ahuva Zaches has been teaching students of all ages for two decades. As the Director of Education at the Joy Kramer Religious School, Rabbi Ahuva leads creative assemblies for students in Kindergarten through 8th grade every Sunday morning. Every other Sunday evening, she also teaches our Confirmation students in 9th and 10th grade. And on other days the week, Rabbi Ahuva leads Or Ami’s Torah Study group, Reel Theology (a film-based class), adult Hebrew, and our Introduction to Judaism course (open to Or Ami members and guests).

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