Story & People
Our Founders
Gail Baker

Gail Baker

Gail received her Honours B.A. and B.Ed. from York University and M.Ed. from the University of Toronto, where she specialized in curriculum development. In addition to certification in dramatic arts, Gail completed a course in “Teaching for Understanding” at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Gail also completed the Jewish Day School Principal Certification Programme offered jointly by York and the UJA Federation Board of Jewish Education. She has co-authored the text book called “Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations” the first of a series under production. Gail served as the Chair of the Principals Association of the Centre for Enhancement of Jewish Education from September 2006 to September 2008. Gail was The Toronto Heschel School’s Principal and Head of School from 2001 to 2014. Among other projects, Gail currently writes for THINK Magazine and runs The Intergenerational Classroom with Heschel’s Grade 8 students and Seniors from Baycrest.

Judith Leitner

Judith Leitner

Judith values the Arts as essential, universal learning tools. As a Visual Arts educator and Director of Arts, she continues to develop integrative, arts-based programs that engage students in making artful connections to themes across the curriculum, while exploring and mastering diverse media. In ongoing exhibitions of student artwork, she co-creates a community of artful creative thinkers. In 1990, Judith was awarded a 3-year grant from The Canadian Jewish Congress to establish an Integrated Arts Program at She’arim Hebrew Day School, and in 2008 she was invited to write a Judaic Arts Compendium for the Lola Stein Institute.

When living in Israel, Judith worked as Assistant Curator of Photographs at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and founded the Photography Department at Machon Avni in Tel Aviv. In Toronto, she also teaches self-portrait photography to artists of all ages and learning styles. An active artist, her most recent photography exhibitions include ‘Tefillat Ha’Derech: A Traveller’s Prayer At Ground Zero, Madrid and Shanghai’ and ’Embedded’.

Ellen Kessler

Ellen Kessler

Ellen received her B.A. from the University of Toronto and her B.Ed. from York University, specializing in environmental science. A charismatic, child-oriented teacher, Ellen is a nature lover and interpreter of natural phenomena to students. She shares Rabbi Heschel’s vision of radical amazement – the ability to see miracles in nature every day. Under her leadership, the School’s nature study and ecological literacy programme has won several awards and honourable mentions from JNF, the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario.

Rachael Turkienicz

Rachael Turkienicz

Rachael Turkienicz was the Founding Judaic Studies Director at The Toronto Heschel School. Rachael is the Director of Rachael’s Centre, a non-affiliated educational centre that focuses on Jewish text. Rachael received her Honours B.A. and B.Ed. from York and her M.A. and PhD. In Talmudic and Midrashic literature from Brandeis University. She writes a monthly column for the Canadian Jewish News, is heard twice weekly on CHIN radio and hosts a weekly television show on issues of spirituality. Rachael is a Governor with the Canadian International Peace Project and is a national officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, chairing the Holocaust Remembrance Committee. She is also a certified dance teacher.

Otto Baruch Rand

Otto Baruch Rand

Baruch Rand was the founding principal of The Toronto Heschel School and remained principal until his retirement in 2001. He directed Jewish schools and school systems for twenty-five years. He was the Principal of the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in Manhattan, Director of the Board of Jewish Education in Toledo, Ohio and Superintendent of Jewish Schools in Winnipeg. Baruch received his B.A. from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and M.A. from the University of Toronto. He underwent intensive training in Accelerated-Integrative Learning and from 1990-1992, operated the R.E.A.L. Education Institute in New York, working in several school districts. Baruch Rand has written a series of textbooks “The Story of Civilizations for Young People”, the first volume of which was co-authored with Gail Baker.

Story & People