It’s official: Rabbi Block is Head of School as Rabbi Segal steps aside

In final Friday newsletter, outgoing head says it’s time to ‘pass the torch’

TRANSFER%3A+Rabbi+Ari+Segal+%28left%29+became+Head+of+School+in+2012.++New+Head+of+School+Rabbi+David+Block+%28right%29%2C+who+was+announced+as+the+next+head+of+school+in+2019%2C+says+he%27ll+stay+in+his+old+office+for+now+and+move+into+Rabbi+Segal%27s+next+fall.

Photo illustration by Eli Weiss

TRANSFER: Rabbi Ari Segal (left) became Head of School in 2012. New Head of School Rabbi David Block (right), who was announced as the next head of school in 2019, says he’ll stay in his old office for now and move into Rabbi Segal’s next fall.

By Benjamin Gamson, News Editor

Rabbi Ari Segal, who began a gradual departure as Head of School more than a year-and-a-half ago, signed off in what he announced was his last weekly newsletter to the Shalhevet community, sent last Friday, March. 25.

As planned and previously announced, he turned over his position as planned to Rabbi David Block.

“Now, the time has come for me to pass the torch of leadership on to my dear colleague, Rabbi Block,” wrote Rabbi Segal. “This comes as the perfect and timely culmination of a thoughtful, deliberate 20-month transition plan.” 

Rabbi Segal was appointed head of school in October 2010 and arrived in Los Angeles the following fall, in 2011. 

His eventual departure was first announced Aug. 12, 2019, but stated he would remain Head of School through the 2019-20 school year and that during this year, 2020-21, he would be traveling back and forth from Israel.  His family, including Yoetzet Halacha Atara Segal and three of their daughters, made aliyah last summer.

It was never exactly clear when he would officially hand over the reins to Rabbi Block, who has served so far this year as Associate Head of School. The original announcement, in a joint email from Rabbi Segal and board president Dr. Noam Drazin, said Rabbi Block would become the new head of school “during the second half of the 2020-2021 school year.” 

Friday’s email filled in the details.

“It’s bittersweet to tell you that after 10 years, this will be my last newsletter to you,” Rabbi Segal wrote in his final weekly newsletter. “We have covered lots of ground together, much of which I could never have imagined when I began writing when we embarked on this journey.”

Rabbi Block said he did not expect an official installation event. 

“The switch will take hold after Pesach (though I don’t imagine [there will] be any official moment to point to),” wrote Rabbi Block in an email response to questions from the Boiling Point. 

Of Rabbi Segal’s farewell email, he said, “It was just the last newsletter before Pesach, and as his last newsletter as Head of School, Rabbi Segal took the opportunity to ‘sign off’ and share a beautiful message of reflection and gratitude.”

Rabbi Block also said he would not move into the Head of School’s office in the executive suite just yet. 

“Things will stay as they are for the remainder of this school year, and we’ll figure out the rest over the summer,” Rabbi Block wrote to the Boiling Point. 

 

In the same farewell e-mail to the community, Rabbi Segal also said he would be staying on staff as Chief Strategy Officer for two years.  This arrangement, too, had been announced in August 2019, although at the time, Dr. Drazin said that Rabbi Segal would have the strategist role indefinitely. 

“I’m grateful to say that I won’t be entirely out of the Shalhevet picture – (you couldn’t get rid of me that easily!)” Rabbi Segal wrote last week. 

“Rabbi Block and the Board have asked me to extend my stay for two more years in the role of Chief Strategy Officer. I love Shalhevet and am ecstatic that I will be able to continue helping make sure it soars to higher heights, at least in some capacity.”

He wrote that he would be on campus one week per month. The second-oldest of Rabbi Segal’s children, Gray, did not move with the family to Israel and is a current Shalhevet sophomore.

But he will be spending most of his time in Israel with his family. Yoetzet Segal taught numerous classes at Shalhevet including Talmud, Tanach, and AP Statistics as well as minimester seminars. The Segals’ oldest daughter, Noa, graduated in 2018 and made aliyah herself the following year. 

Over the last decade, Rabbi Segal oversaw the planning and completion of the new building after years of Shalhevet being housed in a converted hospital and medical office building.  He also replaced the entire Judaic Studies faculty and founded the Steve Glouberman Basketball Tournament, and developed the first-ever high school “pledge” to include LGBTQ students fully in school life, including in religious ceremonial roles.

When the building — named the Feder Family Campus, after alumni parents and major donors Esther and Steve Feder — opened in 2015, Rabbi Segal invited Ikar, a synagogue that lacks its own building, to use it when Shalhevet was closed. This arrangement, which caused Shalhevet classes to end early on Tuesdays when Ikar has religious school, has continued and according to Rabbi Segal has brought income to the school.

In his March 25 email, Rabbi Segal recounted his time at Shalhevet by recalling past newsletters he sent out over the years.

“Some newsletters were just school updates that I was excited to share, an opportunity to highlight an awesome teacher, student, or alumni,” Rabbi Segal wrote.  “Sometimes, I told of the success (or honorable failure) of a co-curricular or sports team. In other weeks, I shared what happened at a town hall. 

“Sometimes, I addressed issues of critical importance to the broader Jewish community, our local Los Angeles Jewish community, and our Shalhevet family.”

Writing from Israel, he described the pre-Pesach atmosphere as “intensely Jewish” and said he could hardly believe that a year ago, he wasn’t yet there.

“I just returned from spending a day in Tel Aviv with my family – eating incredible food, walking the streets of Old Yaffo, marveling at the skyscrapers of downtown Tel Aviv,” Rabbi Segal wrote in his farewell email.  

“Throughout the day, I kept thinking: this is a miracle. Give or take about 600 kilometers and 3000 years; this is the equal of the unimaginable triumph that was our nation’s first Exodus.”

This is a developing story. More information will be added as it becomes available.