Congregation Ohav Shalom

Building Community Celebrating Tradition

113 New Krumkill Road, Albany, NY 12208 / (518) 489-4706 / Email Us /

Our Staff


Nancy Pandolfo, Executive Director

Nancy has been part of the Ohav family for 19 years. As Executive Director, she oversees the synagogue’s daily operations — member services, facilities/maintenance, safety and security, technology, human resources, grant submissions, finance and communications. Nancy is also the staff liaison to the Board of Trustees. She is a member of both the North American Association of Synagogue Executives (NAASE) and Ohav Shalom’s Life and Legacy Committee. Her rich experience benefits Ohav Shalom as well as the greater Jewish community. Her door is always open to congregant & community inquiries. Outside of Ohav, Nancy stays extremely busy where she resides in Clifton Park with her husband, Frank, and their three children, Silvio (14), Nina (12.5) and Giancarlo (9). 


Ruth Malka, B‘Yachad Principal

Ruth grew up in Albany, attended the Hebrew Academy and moved to Israel at the age of 17 to study at Tel Aviv University. She took courses in Judaic Studies while majoring in Social Work. She went on to teach English to high school students in Givatayim, Israel. She was nominated by the Israeli Ministry of Education to teach special education high school students to prepare and take the English Matriculation Exam. This was the first program of its kind in Israel and she was honored to be chosen. Ruth married and raised her children in Israel for twenty years. In 2002, her family relocated to Albany. A dedicated Jewish educator, Ruth has contributed her skills to a number of Jewish schools and organizations in the Capital District. In 2002, Ruth began her tenure as an elementary teacher at the Hebrew Academy, where her responsibilities included coordinating the eighth grade Israel trip. She also worked as the Cultural and Holiday Educational Coordinator at Congregation Beth Emeth’s Religious School. She has served as Camp Director for the Schenectady JCC’s summer camps. Mrs. Malka has been the founding Director of Mifgash Jewish Community High School Program since its inception in 2006 and has enjoyed helping the program grow, develop, and flourish. Ruth is noted for her creativity and ability to connect with students and colleagues, as well as her extensive knowledge and experience teaching Judaic and Hebrew studies. 

Sheryl Welton, Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) Director

Congregation Ohav Shalom’s Early Childhood School Director, Sheryl Welton has led Ohav’s Early Childhood Center since 2013.  Sheryl is an inspiring, energetic person who has a passion for teaching children in an engaging and nurturing environment. She is responsible for the daily operations of the school and for developing programs that meet the needs of a diverse group of students. Prior to becoming the Early Childhood Education Center Director, Sheryl worked for 6 years as a Director at Head Start in Troy and for 12 years at the Albany Jewish Community Center as a toddler teacher, Summer Camp Director and as the Assistant Director of the afterschool program. Sheryl has a Master’s Degree in Creative Arts from Hofstra University, a Bachelor of Arts  in Educational Psychology and a minor in Art from Oneonta State College and an Associates in Early Childhood from Dean College.

Sheryl’s responsibilities include developing and implementing the curriculum, supervising the nursery school staff, and recruiting and evaluating the teachers. She also communicates with the families of the nursery school as well as the Nursery School committee and synagogue staff and collaborates with the Rabbis to integrate the nursery school into the synagogue community. Under Sheryl’s tenure, the collaboration with Capital District Beginnings that allows Ohav to offer integrated classrooms has grown and developed in ways Ohav could not have previously foreseen.

For many years, Sheryl taught religious school on Sundays with first and second graders at Congregation Beth Emeth where she and her family are members. Sheryl is the mother of 2 boys. One is a senior at Ithaca College and the other is a sophomore at SUNY Oneonta. Sheryl’s entire career has been devoted to working with children in many different capacities, with special emphasis on incorporating art into her work with students

Tricia Smith, Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) Assistant Director

Congregation Ohav Shalom’s Early Childhood Education Assistant Director and Toddler teacher, Tricia Smith has been part of Ohav’s ECEC family since 2006. Tricia loves being a part of our child-centric, inclusive school where every child is valued, heard and supported. Tricia believes in teaching each child in a way that he/she learns to the best of their own ability, it is that passion that drives her dedication to early childhood education.

Tricia has been working in early childhood for over 25 years where she got her start as a private nanny then transitioning to our head toddler teacher 15 years ago. Tricia went back to school in 2019 to earn her Associates Degree in the Administration of Early Childhood Education along with an Associate’s Degree in Business as well as in Early Childhood. In May of 2020, Tricia stepped into the role of Assistant Director and together with Director, Sheryl Welton, managed to successfully put our school back into full swing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tricia’s responsibilities include developing and implementing age appropriate curriculum, supervising the early childhood staff and supporting Director, Sheryl Welton with organizational and administrative tasks to include but not limited to, record keeping, grant writing and maintaining regulatory compliance records.

Tricia is the proud mother Georgetown University sophomore, Isabella Smith. Like mother like daughter, Isabella is also part of our Ohav family who works at our summer program while on break from college. While not at work Tricia enjoys spending time with her family and friends.


Cecelia Soloviev, Administrative Assistant

Cecelia supports all of the synagogue’s administrative departments. Before coming to Ohav she was the retail manager at a local farm, where she managed beekeeping, taught farming classes to young children, developed programming and oversaw all retail managerial tasks. Cecelia was raised on a farm and thoroughly enjoys sharing her knowledge of farming and animals with children of all ages, promoting an appreciation for the origins of our food. She also holds degrees in elementary education and history. Cecelia home-schooled her three sons and now enjoys spending time with her granddaughters. In her free time she works with the Russian Orthodox community’s youth as a teacher and coordinator, and enjoys working with young children as well as mentoring troubled teens.

Raliek Polk, Chef

Raliek has worked in Ohav Shalom’s kitchens for more than 25 years. His kosher cooking experience began with Susan Shapiro’s Food for Thought catering. Raliek’s culinary skills are on display most weekends at kiddush — and especially at Shabbat dinners, Yom Kippur break fast, fundraising galas, BBQs and Sunday Schmoozes… just to name a few! A lifetime resident of Albany, he is the doting father of four children and a very proud grandfather. When he’s not cooking or baking, Raliek enjoys spending time on his boat and fishing.

Pete Demereski, Housekeeping and Kitchen Supervisor

Pete brings a multitude of skills and talents to Ohav Shalom along with a strong work ethic. Since joining the staff in 2005 as a housekeeper, he has added chef and chief room decorator to his expertise. Pete knows and cares for our facility both inside and out. He is a lifelong resident of Troy where he resides with his wife, Kimmarie. Pete enjoys keeping his vehicle as clean as he keeps our building, new sneakers and sunglasses and occasional shopping sprees to NYC.

Alexandra McClure, Wait Staff Team Captain 

Alex joined the Ohav staff in 2018, and is our own “Jill-of-all-trades.” Alex works doing our banquet services, and also lends support to to security and late night parking lot patrol. With a knack for crunching numbers, Alex spends her days as a Senior Accounting Associate for the NYS Nurses Association’s Pension Plan and Benefits Fund here in Albany. Prior to that, she was a member of the accounting department at Fuller and O’Brian Inc. Alex has done farm work, and earned her license to operate farm equipment when she was only 15! Since then, she’s learned how to bring old cars back to life, often times with nothing more than a paperclip (just like McGyver!). On a personal level, Alex is the proud mother of three sons. In her “spare time,” Alex enjoys reading, volunteering at her church, and going to the movies.

Rivi Bahir, B’Yachad Administrative Assistant

Rivi Bahir comes to us from Kfar-Saba Israel. She recently relocated to Guilderland with her husband and their three children. Rivi graduated with a degree in Graphic Design and Visual Communications and worked for 10 years as an assistant artistic director in the graphic arts department of Israel’s Yellow Pages. In addition to managing organizational projects and working in the design and management department, Rivi has led individuals and groups in sales and marketing. Rivi is a very caring, patient and patriotic Israeli who wants to share her love of Israel and knowledge of Hebrew

Tom Sicko, Caretaker

Tom joined the staff of Ohav Shalom in 2018, and is currently the synagogue’s trusted the live-in caretaker. 

Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) Teachers

Listed alphabetically

Sarah Biers, Co-Teacher in the 3-Year-Old Classroom – Sarah joined the ECEC staff at Ohav in 2018.  Sarah was a stay home mother of 3 and previously worked as an Assistant Director at Little Feet Childcare.  Sarah has degrees from the College of Saint Rose in Adolescent Education and a Master of Arts in American History from SUNY Albany. Sarah is a lead teacher in our typical three-year-old classroom.

Ann Coryell, Co-Teacher in the Toddler Classsroom – Ann began teaching in the toddler room at Ohav in 2018 following her internship at Ohav as an Early Childhood student at Hudson Valley Community College. She earned her Associates in Early Childhood with a minor in Special Education and joined our team of teachers immediately upon graduating.

Beth HarwoodCo-Teacher in the 4-Year-Old Integrated Classroom – Beth is a certified teacher of Elementary Education and Literacy. She has worked in Ohav’s  4-year-old integrated room as a lead teacher and parent since 2015.  Beth has extensive experience teaching Kindergarten and worked at the Albany Jewish Community Center.

Meghan Rappoport, Co-Teacher in the 3-Year-Old Classroom – Meghan began working at Ohav in 2016. She is an assistant teacher in our typical 3-year-old class. Meghan went to SUNY Oneonta and maintained her 4-year degree in Early Childhood Education. 

Polina Verba, Co-Teacher in the Toddler Classroom – Polina joined the ECEC staff at Ohav in 2018.  Prior to Ohav, Polina worked at the Albany Jewish Community Center for 20 years working with toddlers and kindergarteners.  She was also our director Sheryl’s co-teacher at the Albany Jewish Community Center for 7 years. 

Jasmine Belcher, Co-teacher in the toddler room. Jasmine works with Ms. Tricia and Ms. Ann. Jasmine has been working with Ohav for a little over a year. Prior to Ohav, she worked in a day care program in New York City for 2 years. Jasmine is the dotting mother to her 3 year old, son Micheal, who is an Ohav student. Micheal is enrolled through Ohav’s collaborative partnership with Capital Districts Beginnings program. Jasmine is currently pursuing her CDA, and plans to continue her education in special education upon completion. Jasmine’s long term goal is to teach children with special needs. In her free time, she loves going for walks with her son and enjoys art and cooking. Jasmine’s motto is: the bigger the mess, the better the fun!

Hannah Smith. Co-Teacher in the 3-Year-Old Integrated Classroom – Hannah joined the Ohav ECEC in 2020 and what a year to start! Hannah has always loved children and while working with 3 year olds was not her first career path, she couldn’t be happier to be working with children in Ohav’s ECEC. Hannah has 3 older sisters and currently has a total of 6 nieces and nephews all under the age of 6. To say Hannah has a lot of  experience with young children is an understatement! Hannah received her Bachelor’s Degree from Syracuse University in Spanish Education and will soon be certified to teach Spanish in New York to 7th graders through seniors in high school. Currently, Hannah is working on her Masters Degree in Special Education online through Grand Canyon University which will be completed in the fall of 2022.