Rabbi Segal tells assembly to focus on moving forward on ‘a cloudy day’


Alyssa Wallack

FOCUS: At an all-school assembly in the gym, Rabbi Segal told students to concentrate on their classes today but to seek out guidance counselors if they needed help.

By Hannah Jannol, Editor-in-Chief

Less than 12 hour after the news was released that Assistant Head of School Dr. Noam Weissman will not return in the coming fall, Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal held a 10-minute meeting with the entire school at 8 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Urging students to continue to attend classes, he focused on moving forward and asking the community to not gossip or “move backwards.”

He began by saying that he wanted to bring everyone together during “a challenging time.”

“I don’t think it’s helpful to move backwards,” Rabbi Segal told the entire student body, which was gathered in the gym, and listened with a rare silence in comparison to the normal chatter during Town Halls. “The world loves nothing more than gossiping about things.”

Rabbi Segal asked students to not ask their teachers questions, as they cannot respond to them, and to not discuss the matter in class. Rabbi Segal quoted the statement Dr. Weissman gave to the Boiling Point: “It has been the great joy and honor of my life to teach Torah to the extraordinary students of Shalhevet High School. I’m focusing on these next six months during which I get to continue working with our faculty and learning with my cherished students.”

Rabbi Segal elaborated saying he had spoke to Dr. Weissman, who told him he wants students to keep learning.

“Please learn in class,” Rabbi Segal said. “If you need to take a moment to go out, that’s okay.”

He noted the mood, both inside and outside, of the day.

“It’s a very cloudy day today,” he said. “I think it feels cloudy, and it’s cloudy outside.”

Senior Sam Hirschorn asked if Dr. Weissman would be joining the Poland-Israel Experience.

“We’ll see,” Rabbi Segal answered. “Nothing has been decided yet. He’s certainly a fixture of the Poland-Israel Experience, fixture might be the wrong word.”

Then Dr. Weissman himself made a comment from the back of the 12th-grade seating section, much to everyone’s surprise. He was sitting with his wife, Ms. Raizie Weissman, who is on maternity leave, and Mr. Noey Jacobson, who used to teach Judaic Studies at Shalhevet and has now founded a branding company in Century City.

Senior Daniel Lorell asked why Dr. Weissman was not talking to the student body directly, as he was present for the assembly.

“We’re not going to be talking about it,” Rabbi Segal responded. “It’s a very delicate situation. This is about moving forward. He [Dr. Weissman] wants you learning Torah, not talking about this.”

Rabbi Segal ended by saying that Guidance Counselor Esther R’bibo would be around to answer questions and to support students no matter their response to the situation. Students were instructed to go to their first period classes after a 10-minute recess.

Students had a mixture of reactions to the assembly. Sophomore Gabby Lasry said it hadn’t helped.

“I feel like Reb Weissman really was Shalhevet,” Gaby said. “I don’t know what it will be like without him. I don’t know how much the assembly helped. No one understands why one of Shalhevet’s greatest faculty members is leaving now. I don’t see how to move forward from this.”

Junior Katia Surpin said she was upset she could not hear from Dr. Weissman, but understood if there was a larger reason for him not speaking.

After the assembly, Dr. Weissman taught his first-period Advanced Jewish Philosophy class in the gym. He began with a daf aleph — the theme of the most recent Shabbaton, and a term that refers to what experiences students are bringing into their learning.

After being emotional for a moment to “address the elephant in the room,” he made some jokes to try and lighten the mood. Dr. Weissman added he would like to answer questions but is not allowed to do so.