New Dean of Student Life leads focuses on unity and ‘value added’


Emma Mackler

EDUCATED: Ms Dr. Ravanshenas holds degrees from UCLA and USC, is studying to receive s’micha as well.

The last name of Shalhevet’s new Dean of Student Life, Dr. Jonny Ravanshenas, is hard to pronounce, but it’s a good name for him.

Pronounced ra-VAN-she-nas, it means psychologist in Farsi, which fits, because his doctorate is in Educational Psychology, from USC.

A father of three and a lover of snowboarding, Dr. Ravanshenas has been Dean of Student Life since January, taking over the work of former Student Life Director Mrs. Raizie Weissman along with other duties.

“The goal for this year is to oversee student life and to see what added value I can add to each program,” Dr. Ravanshenas said.

He was born and raised in Great Neck, N.Y., and moved at age 11 to Los Angeles, where he attended Harkham Hillel Academy and then YULA High School.  He then studied applied child development at UCLA, then spent a year in between college and graduate school at Yeshivat Ohr Sameach in Jerusalem.

He earned an MBA from USC concurrently with his Ed.D. in educational psychology. And he now is working on obtaining s’micha (rabbinic ordination)  at a program called Machon L’Hora Ah based in Minnesota. In Los Angeles, he learns at LINK Kollel.

Dr. Ravanshenas has worked at eight other institutions, including schools serving underprivileged children in Inglewood while working on his doctorate, and most recently as Assistant Head of School and Head of the Judaic Department at Kabbalah Children’s Academy earlier this year.

Earlier, he worked at Hillel, Beth Jacob, Magen David, Young Israel of Century City and camps in the LA area, including Camp Hillel and MJ Sports Camp.   

Why so many jobs by at his age of 34?  

“Hard work, and I am passionate about what I do — and really, Hashem,” he said, thanking God for his success.

“I’m working for the Jewish community and that’s all that matters,” he said. “Achdut, unity. As long as you’re making an impact, as long as you’re inserting yourself in the Jewish community, that’s all that matters to me.”

He said sees especially a lot of similarities between Shalhevet and Kabbalah Children’s Academy, especially in their love of Torah and emphasis on middot, or personal comportment.

“They were very into the reasons and consciousness behind the things we do,” Dr. Ravenshans said.

Dr. Ravanshenas has not any classes of his own yet except for a mini-mester called Sephardic Halacha. He also took over Rabbi Tsaidi’s ninth-grade Foundations of Judaism class last month when Rabbi Tsaidi went out on medical leave.

Freshman Hannah Berman is in the Foundations of Judaism class and is really enjoying the class and learning from Dr. Ravanshenas.

“He’s really understanding and really really nice,” she said. “Even if you’re not behaving in the moment he knows you’re a good kid.”

Next year, he is going to teach Positive Psychology and maybe a Judaics class.

In Great Neck, snowboarding was possible without driving multiple hours to the mountains, and he later traveled to snowboard in Aspen, Colo. But he hasn’t snowboarded in years because, he said, “life got busy”

Dr. Ravanshenas snowboards in Aspen, Colo., and has not snowboarded for the last two years because “life gets busy,” he said, but plans on teaching snowboarding to his kids some days.

His children are four, three, and eight months old and he hopes to teach them how to snowboard one day.  For now, enjoys rooting for the USC Trojans.