Nachum Joel, administrator who taught hands-on Economics, moves to Yavneh Academy

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BP Archive Photo by Alessandra Judaken '21

HANGOUT: Nachum Joel’s office became a place for students to talk about many subjects.

By Liad Machmali, Deputy Editor-in-Chief

Mr. Nachum Joel, a teacher whose office was often full of students and who had his economics students practice paying taxes and investing in the stock market, has left Shalhevet to become Chief Operating Officer at Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Hancock Park. 

Mr. Joel — known to all students as Nachum — began working at Shalhevet in 2019 and served as Assistant Executive Director to Chief Operating Officer Sarah Emerson, who shared with him some of her projects and tasks. 

But students knew him for his teaching and other interactions with them.

“During any free period, me and the rest of the Econ crew would always go to Nachum’s office and hangout and just talk to him for a while,” said senior Andrew Petlak, who took Nachum’s economics class last year. “He was always very open and always wanted to speak to us.”

Nachum taught SAS Economics for two years.  A budgeting project required them to map out a hypothetical and financially stable life for themselves seven years in the future. Students had to find a job they could qualify for given their education, decide on housing they could afford, pick a mode of transportation, pay taxes and more. 

Thoses who took the course said they also learned how to earn money from the stock market and choose an insurance company. 

Senior Marlee Drazin found the budgeting project to be especially helpful.

“It introduced me to what I’ll face once I enter the real world and am dealing with my money,” Marlee said.

That was exactly what Nachum was trying to do.

I thought it was important to add different topics that I wish I knew coming out of high school or college. In a regular economics course we wouldn’t have spoken about how a credit card works, what’s credit score, what’s a tax bracket…”

— Nachum Joel, former Assistant Executive Director and SAS Economics teacher

“I thought it was important to add different topics that I wish I knew coming out of high school or college,” Nachum said in an interview. “In a regular economics course we wouldn’t have spoken about how a credit card works, what’s credit score, what’s a tax bracket, what are different ways of investing.”

Beyond his administrative and teaching role, Nachum also helped chaperone the Choirhawks’ 2019 Chanukah performance trip to the Bay Area — a natural role for him since Nachum is also a member of the Maccabeats, the famous Jewish a capella group.

At one of their stops, elementary school students asked for his autograph.

“It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen,” said choir co-president Emily Klausner.  “All of the kids were lined up and Nachum was signing his name with a little note on printer papers that the kids were using for arts and crafts.”

Students said they would miss hanging out in Nachum’s office and talking in the halls.  Emily said she enjoyed reminiscing with him last year, when the Choirhawks couldn’t practice in person due to Covid.

“I am really going to miss seeing him in the hallways and talking about memories,” Emily said.

Before working at Shalhevet, Mr. Joel worked at an insurance firm for eight years. When he decided to work in schools,  he was undecided between teaching a class and working on the business side of schools, as an administrator.  Then-Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal, he said, found him a middle ground.

At Yavneh, Nachum will not be teaching any classes. 

“I unfortunately do not think I will be able to teach, at least this year, in my new role,” Nachum said. “I’m very busy taking on new challenges in the administrative role and looking forward to the growth opportunity it provides me.”

Nachum said he’d miss many things about Shalhevet, including his office filled with students. 

“I’ll miss students stopping by my office, whether to ask questions or just to hang out,” he said. “I’ll miss the vibrancy of Color War, Glouberman, and just the feeling that everybody felt a part of it. The halls were alive. I’m going to miss it.”