Rabbi Ari Segal named to lead school

Rabbi Ari Segal of Houston is expected to arrive at Shalhevet Aug. 1.

Rabbi Ari Segal of Houston is expected to arrive at Shalhevet Aug. 1.

By Zev Hurwitz, Editor-in-Chief

Rabbi Ari Segal, praised as “awesome,” “chill” and “supportive” by students at his current school in Houston, was named head of school at Shalhevet Oct. 21, effective next fall.

Currently head of school at Robert M. Beren Academy, a 330-student Modern Orthodox co-ed day school in Houston, Texas, Rabbi Segal comes to Shalhevet with more than 12 years of experience at Jewish day schools in Texas and New York.

“Wow, I didn’t even know Rabbi Segal was leaving Beren until today,” said Beren senior Sam Gorme last Friday. “Rabbi Segal is awesome. I really think Shalhevet is going to enjoy having him as head of school. I think he will truly be missed at Beren.”

An e-mail to the community sent by Board of Directors president Larry Gill announced the news to parents and students, ending a period of uncertainty that began when Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach unexpectedly resigned last April. A contract agreement with Rabbi Segal had been reached earlier that day.

“Rabbi Segal is a genuine star in today’s constellation of Modern Orthodox Jewish educators and administrators,” wrote Mr. Gill in the email. “I hope and trust that when you meet Rabbi Segal, you will share my genuine enthusiasm and anticipation as Shalhevet leaps forward into its next chapter at the forefront of the Modern Orthodox educational world.”

Rabbi Segal began working at Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston in 2004 as the Judaic Studies Principal, according to his webpage (http://www.visualcv.com/arisegal). He became Head of School in 2007 and will hold that post until June 2011. Before Beren, he was the Director of Student programs at Ramaz Upper School in the Upper East Side of Manhattan where he taught Shalhevet Judaica teacher and Ramaz alumna Raizie Weissman.

“He was a great teacher and related to students well,” said Raizie. “As student activities director he made activities that were educational, organized and fun.”

He earned his undergraduate degree and and a master’s in social work from Yeshiva University and is pursuing an MBA at Emory University in Atlanta.  His rabbinic ordination is from Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg in Jerusalem.

In an e-mail exchange with The Boiling Point, Rabbi Segal said he was interested in Shalhevet because of its “unique educational philosophy.”

“I noticed students who seemed so happy to come to school,” he wrote of his visits here earlier this year, “and lay leaders and parents who are extraordinarily passionate about this enterprise and see it as a sacred mission for the LA community.”

Last month, Rabbi Segal met with a group of Shalhevet students to get to know the student body a little bit. Junior Michael Suriel said that he came out of the meeting with a positive attitude toward Rabbi Segal.

“He seemed like a pretty good guy,” said Michael. “He has good intentions and a lot of experience. Rabbi Segal is young, he’s chill, and seems pretty liberal. He also seems like he can bring some stability to the school because things have been kind of hectic lately.”

Beren students said that during his tenure at their school, Rabbi Segal has been “hands-on” and very supportive of students and activities. Some students, like Beren senior Ahrony Guttman, say that Rabbi Segal has had a fairly lenient stance on missing class for extra-curriculars and has reshaped the faculty.

“Throughout Rabbi Segal’s six or seven years he has made a significant change in our Judaic staff, so that now our staff is truly Modern Orthodox,” said Ahrony. “He has also been very helpful in recruiting new secular teachers whom have elevated the learning in the entire school.”

Rabbi Segal says that his move is not for dislike of Beren but for excitement about Shalhevet.

“I’m not leaving Beren as much as I am going to Shalhevet,” he said. “I have loved my time at Beren and in Houston but felt the Shalhevet opportunity was too good to pass up.”

Rabbi Segal will succeed Interim Head of School Nathan Reynolds who has been working since July 1. He will become Shalhevet’s fourth head of school since 2008 after Mr. Reynolds, Rabbi Weinbach, and school founder Dr. Jerry Friedman.

A search committee headed by Marci Spitzer had been actively interviewing candidate since last spring.  Rabbi Segal was in Los Angeles this past Shabbos and met community members at an event Saturday night in the Bet Midrash.