A Unique Approach to Jewish Affiliation

Meet Our Team

Executive Director: Sharon Friedman

Sharon Friedman has over 25 years of experience as a Jewish educator.  Her most recent position was Director of Education at Temple Har Shalom in Warren, NJ.  While in this position, she developed innovative school curricula, built a thriving high school program, and earned the prestigious honor of national accreditation for the school.  In addition to working with students from Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade,  Sharon shepherded over 125 adults toward the milestone of B'Nai Mitzvah, has been responsible for creating many highly acclaimed family education programs, and has served on the faculty of URJ Camp Harlam.

Sharon has received intensive training and certification at many high level educational programs, including the Whizen Institute for Family Education, Storahtelling Lab, and the Feinstein Fellow for American Jewish Studies.

Ms. Friedman is a dynamic, energetic, and creative educator.  Her love of Judaism, strong knowledge base, impeccable people skills, compassion for children, and practical experience make her the perfect choice to lead Chai Center for Jewish Life toward its goal of building an inclusive and affordable Jewish community.

Founding President: Wendy Merkin Piller

Wendy Merkin Piller played important roles in Jewish synagogue life.  She was a member of the Union for Reform Judaism's National and Regional Board of Directors, sat on the Board of Directors of a local synagogue for over 18 years, and served as its president for two non-consecutive terms.


Wendy's professional life was dedicated to the teaching of gifted, talented and enrichment education.  She was a teacher in Warren Township for over 25 years.  She was selected as a recipient of the Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching and as the Watchung-Warren Rotary Club Teacher of the Year.  Additionally, Wendy received a fellowship granted by the Society for Gifted Children.  


"Creating Chai Center has been a great passion which is filled with positive energy and great enthusiasm by so many wonderful people.  It has brought forth a venue for affordable progressive Judaism to Somerset County.  I am looking forward to combining my leadership skills, knowledge of education and love of Judaism to help foster the success of Chai Center for Jewish Life".

Wendy has left a lasting and unforgettable legacy and we honor her life achievements. 

Treasurer & Teacher: Shari Halpern

In addition to bringing her organizational talents to her role as Treasurer, Shari Halpern also serves as a teacher in the Learning Center.  She has been a beloved Jewish educator for more than 20 years.  In 2011, Shari received the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, a national award given to those who have made a difference in Jewish education.


Ms. Halpern believes Jewish education should and can be fun and she brings this enthusiasm to her classroom.  She believes Chai Center for Jewish Life is about friendship and learning, and a place where Jewish values will be taught and role-modeled. 



Believing that social action is an important Jewish value, Shari Halpern embodies this in her personal pursuits.  She cooks for the soup kitchen at the Bound Brook Reformed Church, serves as the volunteer coordinator for FlyPups, a rescue dog transport organization, andvolunteers locally with Aspen, her certified therapy dog.

Secretary: Traci Rosen Blank 

Traci Blank has a life-long love for her Jewish faith. After marrying, Traci and her husband looked for a Jewish community that had a close sense of camaraderie and Jewish tradition - and they were thrilled to discover Chai Center for Jewish Life. Because Traci is someone who submerges herself in everything she does, she was eager to take part in all Chai Center had to offer and helped to create our monthly Ladies' Night Out and take on a leadership role as Secretary

She has an innate desire to empower people to live their best lives, which she does professionally as a Medical Support Clinical Hypnotherapist, specializing in anxiety issues. She has practiced in a variety of settings, including doctors' offices and hospitals, and most recently in her own private practice in Somerville.         


In her free time, Traci enjoys the shore, reading, exercising, and spending time with loved ones, including her dog Paisley. She and her husband have two young children that keep them busy. 


Teacher: Nicole Kramer


For the past eighteen years, Nicole Kramer has taught a variety of Sunday and Hebrew school classes ranging from Kindergarten to seventh grade.  She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary and Special Education, with a Minor in Disability Studies from The University of Delaware and a Master’s Degree in Special Education with a Learning Consultant Certification from Rutgers University.  She works as an eighth grade special education teacher in Hillsborough. 


Nicole also serves as the coordinator of Chai Center’s involvement at the Bound Brook Soup Kitchen.

When she's not teaching, Nicole enjoys spending time with her two young sons, volunteering, reading, and baking.

Teacher: Meredith Fishelman

Meredith Fishelman brings many years of teaching experience to Chai Center.  For over 25 years, she has been a warm and nurturing Kindergarten teacher in the Warren public schools.  She has also spent fourteen years teaching Hebrew school.  During the summer, Meredith serves as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a local day camp.


Meredith has a background in fine arts, which she incorporates into her lessons on a regular basis, by combining creativity and hands-on learning with the important lessons from the curriculum. 


When she is not teaching, you can find Meredith reading, swimming or baking something delicious!
Teacher: David Fishelman


David Fishelman graduated from Rider College with a degree in English writing.  He spent twenty three years working as a retail manager before finding his present position as a medical billing manager in Warren. 


For the past twelve years, David has worked as Hebrew school teacher, fulfilling a lifelong dream of giving back to the community.  In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar, studying Kung Fu, and working with dogs.

B'Nai Mitzvah Tutor / Officiant: Enid Lutz

For the past twenty years, Enid Lutz has taught Hebrew and Judaic studies to children in grades Kindergarten through eighth grade.  She also has many years experience working in early childhood education.  Additionally, she prepares B’Nai Mitzvah students in Torah and Haftorah trope.  She specializes in tutoring children with special needs for their B’Nai Mitzvah.


Enid graduated from George Washington University with a double major in History and Psychology.  In her spare time, she plays tennis, bridge, canasta and loves to read.