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Gan Shalom’s professional team consists of teachers and resource specialists who are passionate about early childhood development and who have significant experience working with young children. Lead teachers have certifications and endorsements in early childhood development and participate in at least 10 hours of training per year. Area clergy are also an integral part of our team, providing guidance on issues of Judaism and engaging with our children for story-time, sports, play-n-pray, and Shabbat activities.

Director of Education, Sophie Homonoff


Sophie grew up in Des Moines and moved to Washington, DC for college in 1995. In November 2012, she moved back to Des Moines with her husband, Matt, daughter Hailey, and son Lester. Formerly a Family Care Coordinator at Early Stages with DC Public Schools, Sophie supported families of children ages 0-5 from time of referral through the child’s placement into special education. Sophie received a MEd in School Counseling from George Mason University and a BA in Elementary Education from American University. Sophie taught elementary school in Montgomery County, MD and Fairfax County, Virginia for 9 years. Sophie’s primary goal is to support and foster children’s growth and inquiry into Judaism.

Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Juli Margolin


Juli has over 28 years of teaching experience. She taught junior high in Illinois and K-6 grade at Fairmeadows Elementary in West Des Moines. She was a pre-kindergarten teacher at the Science Center and St. Timothy’s in West Des Moines. Juli has taught first grade at Bet Sefer Shalom Sunday school for 12 years. She earned her MA degree in Special Education through Iowa State University and Early Childhood endorsement through Drake University. Her class will have a strong focus on Hebrew, literacy, math, and hands-on science activities.

Support Teacher, Zak Randels


Zak has been with Engman Camp Shalom at Caspe Terrace since 2013, as a camp counselor. He has supported his family’s in-home child care business. Zak play and coaches a rugby. Zak is currently attending DMACC and working towards a teaching degree.

Pre-School Director, Anissa Deay


Prior to joining the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines in 2014, Anissa was the Education Coordinator at Bright Horizons Family Solutions. She taught Pre-Kindergarten in Germany, Massachusetts, Colorado and Des Moines, Iowa over the past 25 years. Anissa attended the University of Maryland, the Institute of American Indian Art and earned her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education with DMACC. This year has earned her National Administrator Credential for early childhood program. She is currently, teaching prenatal classes and volunteers as a doula at Mercy Medical Center. Anissa and her husband, Dudley, have one daughter, Keelie and two dogs. She enjoys being a life-long learner and sharing that passion with others.

Preschool Teacher, Lisa Nelson


Lisa has over 28 years of early childhood education experience. She taught preschool taught at Mercy Child Development Center for 23 year. Lisa was an Education Coordinator in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Lisa earned her BA in Early Childhood Development with Grandview University. She has a strong focus on supporting positive social development in a preschoolers. Lisa and her husband, Les raised two daughters in Waukee, IA and just welcomed their first grandchild.

Preschool Teacher, Raizel Small


For 5 years Raizel has been a volunteer staff member at Camp Rainbow, a camp for kids with cancer. She has also served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate for the “I Have a Dream” Foundation. This fall marks her fifth year teaching at Beit Sefer Shalom. Raizel earned her BA in Psychology, minor in Sociology, and concentrations in behavior analysis of developmental disabilities and leadership education and development from Drake University.

Important Contact Information

General Inquiries:

Director of Education:

Sophie Homonoff 515-987-0899 x 221

Pre-School Director:

Anissa Deay 515-987-0899 x 233

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