A Unique Approach to Jewish Affiliation

Meet Our Team


Executive Director: Sharon Friedman

Sharon Friedman has over 30 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: 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 25 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.

Teacher: 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 and now as teacher in our Sunday morning Learning Center.


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 her two children, Felix and Isadora, as well as her dog Paisley. 

 

Teacher: Nicole Kramer

 

For the past twenty 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. 

 

When she's not teaching, Nicole enjoys spending time with her two 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 fifteen years teaching Hebrew school.  During the summer, she teaches a cooking class in the Warren Township Summer Fun 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!
Secretary: Sandy Wilpon

 

Sandy Wilpon is one of the founding members of Chai Center.  Sandy has had many prior years of experience in synagogue governance and engagment, including serving as Temple co-president, secretary, a member of various committees, and a choir member.  

 

After living in Warren for 38 years, and raising their two children there, Sandy and her husband Jay relocated to the Jersey shore in 2018, but remain dedicated members of the Chai Center community. Sandy's favorite activity is reading on the beach. When the weather precludes that, Sandy enjoys hosting family and friends at their beach home, participating in book and study groups, and watching sports.

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.