Rabbi Block to be Head of School starting next year
November 26, 2019
Musical, close to students and known for both humility and a sharp mind, Head of School-designate Rabbi David Block hopes to make his own mark on Shalhevet by listening and “thinking deeply” about what Modern Orthodoxy means in a school setting.
At only 31 years old, Rabbi Block has earned four degrees and is working on a fifth, has experienced fame as a founding member of the Maccabeats singing group, has three children with his wife Gila, and will soon replace Rabbi Segal, who is making aliyah, as Head of School at Shalhevet.
“Rabbi Block has the respect and admiration of his colleagues and students at Shalhevet, in our community, and beyond,” said Rabbi Ari Segal in an email sent to students, parents and faculty on Aug. 12, announcing his own departure and Rabbi Block’s succession.
“This is in no small part due to his passion, dedication, talent and, perhaps most importantly, his deep humility. I am honored to partner with him.”
In the current school year, Rabbi Block is working with Rabbi Segal as Associate Head of School to prepare him for his upcoming role.
Before this year, Rabbi Block spent three years at Shalhevet as a teacher and spiritual adviser, including almost two as the school’s Assistant Principal for Judaic Studies.
In an interview with the Boiling Point, he said he’s excited to think about different approaches to making the school a “thoughtful Modern Orthodox institution.”
“We would do well to think about what Modern Orthodox education looks like in terms of halacha, and Modern Orthodox thought and things like that,” Rabbi Block said. “I want to think a little bit more deeply on that, but I’m open to curricular changes, to whatever our students need. I’m happy to meet them there.
“I’m very excited to continue the amazing things the school has been doing, [and] to make my own mark in some unique ways.”
Rabbi Block is an original member of the Maccabeats Jewish a capella group at YU, and also teaches Judaics Studies classes including Jewish Philosophy and Talmud while serving as mashgiach ruchani.
Students say he reaches out even to those who don’t have him as a teacher, and that he treats every person as his favorite.
Incoming SAC chair Caroline Edry said Rabbi Block helped her start the new Hope 4 Humanity club last year.
“I think Rabbi Block would be a great head of school,” said Caroline. “I’ve had him as a teacher and I’ve also grown very close with him because … he was sort of my advisor throughout the whole process. I have a great relationship with him and I know he’s going to do a great job, and I know he has a great relationship with a majority of the students.”
He’s also a known coffee fanatic and displays a sarcastic sense of humor in class and one-on-one settings. Hailing originally from Long Island, New York, he is a fanatic fan of suburban teams including the Mets, the Jets and the Islanders.
Rabbi Block became Assistant Principal after the departure of then-principal Dr. Weissman in 2018. Dr. Noam Drazin, head of Shalhevet’s board, said the board would be looking for someone to replace Rabbi Block in the assistant principal role.
Rabbi Block’s degrees are a Master of Science in Education, from Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration; rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary; a Master of Arts in Medieval Jewish History from Y.U’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts in Jewish History from Yeshiva University.
He is also pursuing an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Curriculum Development at Yeshiva University. He has finished all the coursework and is now working on his dissertation.
“There is a need to educate students in the values and challenges Modern Orthodoxy ideology,” said Rabbi Block to the Boiling Point. “I plan to write a curriculum that addresses that through the lens of Jewish History.”
Dr. Drazin said he is more than qualified for the role of Head of School.
“I think we should think of it as not chronological age but functional age,” said Dr. Drazin. “Despite his young age he has a very mature stature and is incredibly mature and humble. I think he’ll do phenomenally.”
In an interview with the Boiling Point, Rabbi Segal declared his excitement in his replacement.
Student reaction to Rabbi Block’s appointment was uniformly positive.
“Both Rabbi Segal and Atara Segal are integral parts to the Shalhevet community,” said incoming Agenda Chair David Edwards. “While no one can replace Rabbi Segal, Rabbi Block is an amazing leader, teacher and an inspirational person. He will definitely do well in his new role.”
Rabbi Block anticipates he will continue teaching while head of school, although perhaps fewer classes than he does now, which is two regular and one class that meets two hours a week rather than three.
“It’s very important to me that I’m still going to continue to be involved,” said Rabbi Block. “I have to make sure that I take care of everything, and it’s a lot, but I don’t see that as being an issue. It’s extremely important to me that I continue in the classroom.”
CORRECTION: The print versions of this story contained errors about Rabbi Block’s education. Rabbi Block attended Shalvim Yeshiva in Nof Ayalon for two years, but the Yeshiva does not award academic degrees; the print version mistakenly said that he earned a B.A there. Also, Rabbi Block is still completing his doctorate at Yeshiva University, though the print version mistakenly said that he finished it. The Boiling Point regrets the errors.