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Rabbis and Staff


Rabbi Binyomin Friedman is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  As a child Rabbi Friedman attended day school in Minneapolis and Hebrew Theological High School in Skokie, Il.  Two years into the University of Minnesota, Rabbi Friedman decided to go to Israel to get some answers.  He ended up studying in Yeshiva in Israel for four years.  Rabbi Friedman continued his Yeshiva career for eight more years at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore where he received his Rabbinic Ordination.  In Baltimore he also met his wife Dena.

In 1987 the Friedmans joined a group of young couples who founded the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.  In 1993 classes being taught by Rabbi Friedman in Dunwoody morphed into Congregation Ariel.  One year later Rabbi Friedman became Rabbi of Congregation Ariel in Dunwoody a position he holds to this day.

The Friedmans are blessed with five children and thank G-d many grandchildren.

Rabbi Izrael Zelman


Congregation Ariel is dedicated to providing its members with what they need to grow in their Judaism. The members from the Former Soviet Union need an opportunity to learn Torah from a teacher who speaks their language and understands their experiences. After studying Torah for many years in his native Moscow Rabbi Izrael Zelman received Rabbinic ordination in Jerusalem. Rabbi Zelman came to Atlanta to serve the King David Bukharian community in Norcross. In 2006, the Zelman family took up residence in Dunwoody and Rabbi Zelman started his nonstop teaching schedule. With specialties in Talmud, Jewish Thought and Kabbalah Rabbi Zelman enriches the lives of all who learn from him even in English.

Rabbi Yossi Vakrat

Picture of Rabbi Yossi Vakrat


Rabbi Yossi Vakrat heads Achdut Yisrael, a full time program of classes and minyanim for Hebrew speakers at Ariel. Rabbi Yossi was born and raised in Israel. After having studied in Israeli Yeshivot he spent time at Aish Hatorah preparing himself to teach Torah in the diaspora. Rabbi Vakraat came to Atlanta under the auspices of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel. Rabbi Vakraat is a founder of Sharsheret, a network of centers doing outreach to Israelis in North America. He and his wife Malka have three children.

Denise Jacobs
Synagogue Administrator


Denise joined Ariel in the summer of 2020. She has a wealth of experience in the 'shul' business, having worked for several Atlanta area congregations. Denise pegs herself as the 'wondering Jew' as she has lived in Ontario, Canada, Netanya, Israel, San Francisco, CA, Houston, TX, and originating from Queens, New York.  She loves working for and being an active member of the Jewish community.  Although, they don't live locally, Denise's children (living in Canada and California), are a huge part of her life.  Denise and her husband Steve  relocated to Atlanta in 2008. 

Elka Reisch

Youth Director




Elka Reisch is excited to return to Dunwoody with her family, after spending two summers here as a Camp Shamayim Counselor. She also led youth groups at Shomrei Emunah Congregation and served as head counselor at Camp Bais Yaakov in Baltimore, where she grew up. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a Masters in Social Work she has worked as a child and family therapist to help her clients overcome mental health challenges. She is looking forward to working with the youth at Congregation Ariel and hopes to build meaningful and lasting relationships with both children and families

Flavio Ramon
Facility Maintenance

Flavio has been at Ariel since 2013 and is the smiling face behind-the-scenes at the synagogue.  Flavio ensures we always have a building to be proud of, and can clean a room, set up a kiddush and repair a broken lock – usually simultaneously!  Flavio is the “right-hand man” to our many volunteers, making sure our events run smoothly, and making it all look so easy!

Fri, June 14 2024 8 Sivan 5784