JFS Staff | Shalom Austin

JFS STAFF

MEET OUR STAFF

Rabbi Amy B. Cohen, LMSW

JFS Executive Director / Chief Social Services Officer

In her role as CSSO, Rabbi Cohen’s focus is primarily on capacity building, seeking out new funding sources and opportunities to collaborate with relevant organizations in the greater Austin community to ensure highly effective continuity of Shalom Austin JFS services while enhancing collaborations between Shalom Austin JFS and Central Texas Jewish organizations, schools and synagogues.

Prior to joining JFS, Cohen served as the associate rabbi at Temple Beth Shalom. At TBS, Cohen oversaw extensive growth in educational programs and partnerships throughout the campus, while acting as a full member of their clergy team.

Raised in Sudbury, Massachusetts, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in social work with a double major in Jewish history and civilization and a Master of Arts degree in social work from New York University. Cohen also earned master of religious education and master in Hebrew letters degrees from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She completed her ordination as a rabbi at HUC-JIR in New York. Cohen received her license in social work from the state of Texas.

Qualifications

Education:
New York University, BA, MA
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institution of Religion, MA

Professional Affiliations:
Hasidah
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Women’s Rabbinic Network

Christina Gietz, PhD

Therapist 

Christina Gietz is a Provisionally Licensed Psychologist. She completed two post-doctoral internships in nursing homes/assisted living facilities. She enjoys working with older adults on assisting them with finding meaning in life, end of life concerns, transiting to long term care, loss of autonomy, medical and mental health concerns, and processing life decisions. Christina has a variety of counseling and work experience that includes trauma informed care, working with children and children in the foster care system, parenting issues, domestic violence, coping with anxiety and depression. She values working collaboratively with her clients using a person-centered approach, that allows clients to be heard and process their thoughts and feelings. She also incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy when needed.  

Christina was born in Southern California and moved to Austin just before her senior year of high school. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from St. Edwards University. She then moved to Stillwater Oklahoma for her Master of Science in Community Counseling and PhD in Counseling Psychology.  

Christina enjoys spending time outside when it isn’t blazing hot with her husband and 2 dogs. They love traveling, spending time with family and friends, and small home projects. 

Qualifications

Education:
St. Edwards University, BS
Stillwater Oklahoma, MA, Ph.D. 

Specialties:
Adults
Older Adults
Life Transitions
Family Counseling
Anxiety
Depression
Adolescents

Alyssa Gilden, PhD, LSSP

Psychologist

Alyssa Gilden is a Licensed Psychologist and a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP). She specializes in working with children and families to help all find new ways of tackling problems in order to live happier and healthier lives. Her approach to therapy involves a blend of cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, and solution-focused techniques to create a collaborative and supportive environment in which children and families can better understand themselves and one another. She believes strongly that children and adolescents have much to communicate if we can listen openly, and she uses talk, play, and other creative means to facilitate communication. Through creating a safe environment in which to explore, she strives to empower children and families to use their inner strengths to solve problems and foster growth.

She works with children and adolescents of any age experiencing a variety of social and emotional challenges and their parents. She specializes in school-related problems, including depression, anxiety, school refusal, social and peer-related issues, and attentional or behavioral concerns. She has a strong background in family systems and family therapy, positive behavior management, and stress management. She knows that reaching out can be one of the hardest steps to getting help, and looks forward to hearing from and working with you and your family.

Alyssa earned her B.A. in sociology and B.S. in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Tar Heels!). She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in School Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her doctoral internship in clinical and school psychology with the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District and post-doctoral training in policy and administrative psychology with WICHE. Throughout her career, Dr. Gilden has focused on gaining experiences, knowledge, and understanding of working with children, adolescents, parents, and families from a variety of modalities and settings.

Qualifications

Education:
University of North Carolina, BA, BS
University of Texas, MA, Ph.D. 

Specialties:
Children (of all ages)
Family Counseling  
Anxiety
Learning Disabilities
Anger Management
ADHD/ADD
Play Therapy

Emma Howitt, LPC-S, LCDC

JFS Clinical Director

Emma brings more than ten years’ experience as a professional in non-profit organizations. Her counseling and therapeutic focus covers a range of needs, including individuals, couples and families dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, self-esteem, substance abuse, relationships, and life transitions. Emma is a person-centered therapist, which affords her clients a safe and non-judgmental environment to work on sensitive challenges. Emma works with clients to strengthen coping skills and advance goal achievement with compassion, support, and curiosity.

Originally from Houston, Emma earned her bachelor’s degree at Texas State University and her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Yeshiva University. Emma began her career working in a number of inpatient and residential treatment settings focused on psychiatric and substance abuse issues. She joined Shalom Austin JFS as a therapist in 2016 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor in 2019, allowing her to cultivate the development of new counselors in the field. Emma took the position of JFS Clinical Director in 2020, a role focused on the expansion of JFS clinical services in our community.

In her professional life, Emma is passionate about working directly with clients, supporting clinical staff, and facilitating group therapy sessions. In her personal life, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking, reading, exercise, and being in nature.

Qualifications

Education:
Texas State University, BA
Yeshiva University, MA

Specialties: 
Adults (18+)
Depression
Anxiety
Couples Counseling
Intimate and Family Relationships
Life Transitions
Self-esteem
Substance Abuse

Hilary Katz

Case Manager

Hilary is excited to be a part of the Jewish Family Service team. She offers 12 years of vast knowledge working with marginalized clients in various areas. Her understanding and mastery of the needs of those underprivileged and at risk is a great asset to the team.​ ​Her knowledge extends to the intensive case management services. Hilary has facilitated training in financial stability and led focus groups to educate both clients and staff.​ ​In addition to her excellent communication amongst her peers and employees, Hilary is skilled at problem solving and conflict resolution. She is also equipped with exceptional team management experience.​ ​She has managed $2M of funding and deliverables for state, city, and local grant-funded private and public programs. 

Born and raised in Dallas with her 3 sisters, Hilary has always been described as the most “sensitive and caring” sibling. She completed her college studies from St. Edward’s University where she earned her degree in human services. It was of no surprise to her family and friends that she would continue in a social work capacity. When Hilary is not working, you can find her outdoors hiking with her husband and running in Mueller with her dog, Summer. She spends a lot of time with her Austin sister and her 4 beautiful nieces playing rummikub, card games, and making her famous popcorn.

Qualifications

Education:
St. Edward’s University

Specialties:
Financial Stability
Problem Solving
Conflict Resolution

Joan Maniere Headshot

Joan E. Maniere

Volunteer and Community Experience Director 

Joan is a licensed pediatric speech-language pathologist with previous experience working in sensory gyms, preschools, speech-therapy clinics, and homecare settings. Speech-language pathology was her first career. She recently retired from her second career as a House Manager (aka stay-at-home) after almost 10 years. However, the third time is a charm, and Joan recently joined the Shalom Austin team as the Volunteer and Community Experience Director. For Joan, this role is a culmination of her years of experience as an active participant in volunteerism and activism within and beyond the Jewish community. She has always been passionate about engaging others in volunteerism and community-based events. Joan could not have thought of a better fit for her dream job! 

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Joan earned a B.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson. When not working, Joan enjoys spending time with her husband, children, pets, and friends. Her hobbies include staying current and vocal on politics, reading, running, swimming, problem solving, consuming food made from the heart, and adopting puppies from dog rescues. 

Qualifications

Education:
University of Texas at Austin
University of Arizona in Tucson

Amanda Mills​, LCSW

Therapist

Amanda Mills is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) trained in EMDR, CBT, and body-based approaches. She works with individuals across the lifespan, with a focus on preteens, teens, and young adults. Her approach to therapy is highly collaborative and she enjoys working with concerns such as anxiety, stress management, self-esteem, identity, and current or past traumatic experiences.

She works to empower clients with knowledge about the brain and the body. She brings a trauma-informed, justice-minded perspective as she walks alongside her clients on their journey towards healing and growth. 

A born and raised Texan, Amanda received her Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin. Outside of work, Amanda enjoys video games, creative writing, yoga, hiking, and cuddling with her cat.

Qualifications

Education:
University of Texas, MSSW

Specialties:
EMDR
CBT
Preteens 
Teens 
Young Adults
Anxiety 
Self-esteem
Trauma

Liron Ramon

Community Case Manager 

Liron is an experienced Gerontologist with a vast background in implementing case management plans in collaboration with patients and caregivers. She is experienced in conducting assessments of patients’ financial mobility and independence, educating and coaching them on developing a long-term solution for the betterment of their situation. Liron has led caregiver groups to educate and support caregivers as well and providing emotional support for patients. 

Born and raised in Israel, Liron is fluent in both English and Hebrew. She earned her master’s degree in Gerontology from the University of Ben-Gurion, Israel.   

Liron enjoys spending time with her family, baking, hiking, and traveling. 

Qualifications

Education:
University of Ben-Gurion, Israel, MA

Specialties:
Conflict Resolution
Financial Stability
Problem Solving

 

Shelly Russell, LCSW

Therapist

Shelly has been providing clinical social work services in Austin for over 25 y​ea​rs. She has previous experience working in hospital and home health settings and has a passion for older adults. She enjoys working with clients from a strengths-based perspective on a variety of presenting concerns including self-discovery, anxiety, depression, life transitions, relationships and grief and loss.

Born and raised in the Dallas area, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science degree in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington.​ ​

Shelly enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading and running around Lady Bird Lake.

Qualifications

Education:
University of Texas at Austin, BA
University of Texas at Arlington, 
MSSW

Specialties:

Older Adults (60+)

Self-Discovery

Anxiety 

Depression 

Life Transitions

Relationships  

Grief and Loss 

Emily Siegler, LPC-Associate

JFS/Hillel Therapist 

Emily Siegler completed her undergraduate education at the University of Kansas and received a Master’s degree in Human Development Counseling at Vanderbilt University.  Emily has experience working with adolescents and adults struggling with chronic pain, severe mental health concerns, as well as facilitating mindfulness-based psychoeducational group therapy. Emily utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and a sensorimotor approach in her work with clients as well as relational and mindfulness-based techniques.   

Emily is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Associate and is currently receiving supervision from Emma Howitt, LPC-S, LCDC.

Emily recently moved to Austin from Nashville, TN. She enjoys Barton Springs, playing tennis and good ice cream.  Emily is excited to join the JFS/Hillel community! 

 

Qualifications

Education:
University of Kansas, BA
Vanderbilt University, M.Ed.

Specialties:
Adolescents
Adults 
Chronic Pain Management
Mindfulness 
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Matt Smith, LMSW

Therapist

Matt Smith has worked for over fifteen years as a social worker and conflict mediator. As an individual therapist, his practical, supportive approach helps people build a greater sense of control in their lives. Matt is interested in the complexity of human identity – including age, race and religion and has particular expertise in gender and sexuality. Matt also works with couples and families in moments of conflict, or as they grieve a loss, helping them figure out a path forward.

Matt earned a B.A. in linguistics at Yale and a Master of Science in Social Work at U.T. Austin. He’s worked at local agencies like Shoal Creek Hospital and Out Youth, and he’s taught social work at U.T. Austin and Texas State. Matt is currently supervised by Arlene Montgomery, Ph.D., LCSW.

Qualifications

Education:
Yale, BA
University of Texas, MSSW

Specialties:
LGBTQIA+
Couples Counseling 
Family Counseling
Grief and Loss
Life Transitions

Rachel VanScoyoc

Office Manager 

Rachel Moved to Austin 4 years ago by way of Colorado. She has spent the last 12 years working in various administrative roles and has loved them all. Rachel grew up at the JCC in Denver attending theatre camps every summer and then working for that same camp throughout her college years. She feels blessed to be able to be a part of the Austin Jewish Community. Working with the JFS team is a true joy and helping members of this amazing community in Austin is a dream come true. 

Rachel VanScoyoc

Rachel VanScoyoc

JFS Office Manager

O (512) 250-1043
jfs@shalomaustin.org

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