RELIGIOUS STUDIES

Jewish Studies, Ethics & World Beliefs

Tampa Bay International School fosters an understanding of and respect for religions that people choose to practice around the world. As our students develop an appreciation of cultures and religions that differ from their own, they embark on a journey to become well-rounded global citizens.

TBIS is committed to providing each student with an understanding and appreciation of all religions while respecting religious and cultural diversity. Beginning in Kindergarten, students may elect to take Jewish Studies or Ethics & World Beliefs.

  • Jewish Studies provides an in-depth study of Judaism, focusing on Jewish values, the diversity of the Jewish community around the world and an introduction to Hebrew.
  • Ethics & World Beliefs investigates how different cultures around the world address ethical and philosophical questions, and explores the world’s major religions by studying their belief systems, traditions, and holidays.

Tampa Bay International School offers Jewish education that showcases inclusivity in action. Enrolled at TBIS are students of many faiths, ethnicities and nationalities, students with diverse abilities, and families from all socioeconomic backgrounds. The student body is half Jewish and many of those children’s families are unaffiliated with a synagogue.

Those who worry that we may be taking an unconventional path for a Jewish school might be surprised to learn that day schools in numerous communities with smaller Jewish populations — like Pinellas County — are making the move to pluralistic student bodies. Our hope is that Tampa Bay International School can serve as a gateway to Jewish connections and be a touchpoint for more Jewish families to have more Jewish educational and spiritual experiences.

“I wanted a place where we could actively promote the Jewish values that are the core values of our school — tikkun olam, tzedakah, shmirat ha adamah and shalom. Repairing the world, justice, caring for the earth and peace are central to our work. I believe in our school. My wife and I send our two children here, so part of the reason I started this school is for them. I feel really blessed to be in the position we are in. We are attracting families who also believe in what we are doing.”

— Bennett Zamoff, Head of School

 

Our program of Jewish Education is made possible by the generous support of the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast

Priscilla Velez

Priscilla teaches dance, music and Zumba! She loves teaching languages and cultural arts as a means to create bridges between communities. Her dynamic lessons focus on the incorporation of mindfulness and joy. In addition to her work with our students, she has also taught in the 2020 virtual summer camp held jointly by Tampa Bay International School and Jewish Community Camp. Priscilla is additionally the founder and lead educator of Seeds of Peace School of Languages, Health, and Cultural Arts, a space where she facilitates lessons that incorporate dance, language arts, music, and life skills

Dr. Richard Zamoff 

Board member Dr. Richard Zamoff is an associate professor of sociology at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. His areas of specialization include Research Methods and Program Evaluation, the Sociology of Education, and the Relationship Between Sports and Society. Since 1996, he has served as the Director of the Jackie Robinson Project and since 2000, as the faculty advisor to the Jackie and Rachel Robinson Society, a GW student organization. He is a member of the advisory board of the Jackie Robinson Museum in New York City. Prior to his arrival at GW, Dr. Zamoff managed and supervised technical work on government contracts related to day care, health education, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and traffic safety.

Rabbi Danielle Upbin

Rabbi Danielle Upbin teaches Jewish studies and yoga at Tampa Bay International School. She is also the Associate Rabbi and Prayer Leader at Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater; Community Educator for the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast; and a regular contributor to MyJewishLearning.Com. Originally from New York City, Rabbi Upbin graduated from Barnard College with a degree in political science and received her ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2002. From 2012- 2016, she taught throughout the region as the JTS Florida Rabbinic Fellow. Rabbi Upbin enjoys sharing her love of Judaism and song with students of all ages. She is a certified yoga instructor and interweaves Jewish meditation, spirituality, and yoga into her classes. Her musical releases of universal prayer are available wherever music is streamed. Rabbi Upbin resides in Clearwater with her husband (and co-rabbi) Rabbi David Weizman, four children, and a menagerie of pets.

Tracy Bortnick Lynn

Board member Tracy Bortnick Lynn is a mother of three and was a criminal prosecutor for 8 years in Montgomery County, Maryland. She began practicing law in 2005 after graduating from the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. While raising her family in Florida for the past 6 years with her husband Eric, Tracy has been an active volunteer for organizations such as: Friends of North Shore, Temple Beth El Early Childhood Center, The Florida Holocaust Museum, Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, and Congregation B’nai Israel. Tracy also served as chair of After School programming for the Parent Teacher Association at North Shore Elementary School- leading the scholarship program to help ensure equal participation by all students in after school programs. Tracy studied Spanish in Seville, Spain while earning her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan. Tracy values diversity and bilingualism in an educational setting and looks forward to her children and all of those at TBIS continuing to learn how to make a positive impact on their communities.

Rachel Elias Wein

Rachel Elias Wein is a  board member and a parent to three sons, two of whom are students at Tampa Bay International School! Professionally, Rachel is a strategic advisor to retailers like Walgreens, Publix, and Kroger, as well as institutional real estate owners. Rachel serves on the boards of directors of Great Explorations Children's Museum in St. Petersburg, Camp Judaea in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and the University of Florida's Bergstrom Real Estate Center.

Angelica Long-Diaz

Lead Teacher Angelica Long-Diaz is a Panamanian-American educator who spent most of her childhood years in Varese, Italy. Angelica comes from a multicultural family and speaks English, Spanish, and Italian. She holds a bachelor's degree in Special Education from Columbus State University and a Master's Degree from the University of Kansas in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL.) Angelica has taught both children and adults in a variety of settings, both in the US and abroad. Before joining the faculty at Tampa Bay International School, she taught in Daegu, South Korea. An avid gardener, Angelica also leads our students in the creation of our school garden, where our students grow herbs, vegetables, and flowers.

ERIKA LOPEZ

A native of Chicago, board member Erika Lopez is a mother of three with a profession in dental healthcare. Erika holds a BA in Communications/Marketing but her passion is working within her community, where she has been active for the past decade. Erika has served as a board member and vice chair of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum and is currently a Political Action Chairwoman for the NAACP St. Petersburg Branch, educating the community about the political process through voter registration, public events and candidate forums. Erika has earned the NAACP Presidential Award for Excellence in Service. Growing up bilingual in English and Spanish, Erika believes in an intellectual as well as a cultural advantage in education that she very much desires for her own three children, and would love to help bring to children throughout Tampa Bay.

VIRGINIA CHACON

Visual Arts teacher and aide Virginia Chacon is originally from San José, Uruguay. Before moving to Florida with her family a decade ago, Virginia lived in Washington, DC, where she worked at the Embassy of Uruguay for several years and obtained a degree in Hospitality Management. Virginia has worked with children in a number of capacities at Washington International School in Washington, DC and throughout the Tampa Bay area, including as a Spanish tutor. A licensed Realtor, Virginia feels that teaching art and spending time with children offer a nice balance to the sometimes stressful and fast pace of the real estate world. Virginia hopes that children learn to enjoy the process of creating art and that they become inspired by learning about other artists, from nature and by their own need to create.

DR. VONZELL AGOSTO

Board member Dr. Vonzell Agosto is an associate professor of curriculum studies in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of South Florida. Her research agenda focuses on curriculum leadership and anti-oppressive education for adults and youth with an emphasis on issues related to race, gender, and dis/ability. In pursuing this line of inquiry she considers the role of technology, ethics, arts, aesthetics, and culture (ethnic, popular, material). She has published articles in Teachers College Record, Educational Researcher, and the Journal of School Leadership.

BENNETT ZAMOFF

Bennett Zamoff is the founder of Tampa Bay International School and additionally serves as our school Head and a Lead Teacher. Bennett is an experienced educator who is passionate about language immersion as best practice in fostering bilingualism. Bennett has taught in a number of schools throughout the Washington, DC area, in Ecuador, and in Tampa Bay. Bennett’s graduate and professional interest and expertise center on first and second language acquisition and immersion education in the United States and Canada. Bennett is also a strong proponent of arts integration as a vital component of a rigorous academic program. Bennett holds masters degrees in Education K-8 and Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in TESOL. He is a recipient of the 4.0 Schools Essentials Fellowship as the founder of Tampa Bay International School. Bennett believes strongly in bilingualism as a necessary tool for all global citizens. He is the proud father of two children whom he and his wife are raising to be culturally competent, empathetic, and bilingual world citizens.