Rabbi Leubitz leaving next year to be head of Oakland Hebrew Day School

BP Photo by Annie Asch

Leila Miller, Editor-in-Chief

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Judaic Studies principal Rabbi Ari Leubitz is leaving Shalhevet at the end of the school year to be Head of School at Oakland Hebrew Day School in Northern California effective on Aug. 1.

“It’s a hard decision,” he said in a news conference with Boiling Point staff on March 26. “I have a strong connection to the school and to the kids, but it’s time for me to take the next challenge in education.”

He said that it will be particularly difficult for him to leave because he already has a strong connection to many of the incoming freshmen, whom he met through B’nai David-Judea’s youth group program.

“The kids coming in now are the kids I’ve had the longest exposure to… which makes this more challenging,” he said. “Before I get emotional I’ll stop.”

Oakland Hebrew Day school, a K-8 modern-Orthodox school in Oakland, California, is close to Shalhevet’s size with 170 students. Rabbi Leubitz, who came to Shalhevet five years ago under then Head of School Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach before teaching at Milken for a year, said that he had “just recently” decided to take the new job and doesn’t know yet who may replace him next year.

“One of the tests of true leadership is to empower the people who are left behind and to create a good transition team,” he said. “This place needs to be solid when I leave.”

During his time at Shalhevet, Rabbi Leubitz took a leadership position during the ’10 closing of the middle and elementary school and is credited with having strengthened the Judaic studies program – specifically creating the “CAJS” honors track – with Judaic studies teachers Mr. Feld and Mr. Weissman.

“Rabbi Leubitz has been an anchor of the Judaic program and a critical member of the leadership team over the last few years,” wrote Shalhevet Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal in an e-mail to parents on March 26 announcing the news. “His presence has provided an essential element of calm continuity through a difficult period in the school’s history.”

“He spends countless hours on scheduling, discipline, curriculum development, budgeting and student growth. None of what we have accomplished thus far would have been possible without his partnership.”

Oakland Hebrew Day School’s search committee also picked up on these accomplishments, particularly his innovation in the Judaic Studies curriculum.

“The administrators and staff of Shalhevet spoke very highly of working with Rabbi Leubitz,” said Mr. J.B. Leibovitch, the treasurer on Oakland Hebrew Day School’s board of directors, who was involved in the school’s search process. “I know he’s popular there. He did a good job of keeping things together in that leadership position [when the middle school closed] and what we’ve seen and heard is that he’s been very effective in mentoring people.”

Mr. Leibovitch said that the school wants to expand on its outreach and sees Rabbi Leubitz as someone who can be “a very good ambassador of the school with a wider community.” He explained that the search committee also liked Rabbi Leubitz’s open-mindedness and his approach to “inclusion in modern-Orthodox education” [across the wider Jewish community] is consistent with the school’s mission.

“We’re very excited,” he said, explaining that the search process had taken around a year. “It’s clear that Rabbi Leubitz stood out as someone fit for the school. He’s got skills, experience and his vision and our school’s mission are very well aligned.”

Rabbi Leubitz said that he’ll miss Shalhevet’s students the most, many of whom he’s developed close relationships with.

“I love the kids here — I love to teach,” he said. “I’ve built strong relationships with the kids. People who I have taught appreciate my honesty and [ability to go] back and forth to come to a resolution.”

“My job is to hold students accountable. I’ve done a very good job balancing their need for space and [maintaining] decorum.”

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