Heichal HaTorah’s mission is to offer high school boys a classic yeshiva education and provide a first-rate general studies program that prepares them for their college studies and future careers. In order to challenge each student to excel in his studies, Heichal offers small, tracked classes in all general studies subjects, including seven AP courses, YU College Now courses and FDU Middle College courses for college credit. This fall Heichal launched the Heichal STEM department and hired Dr. Joel Berman to fill the newly created position of assistant principal of this department.
Dr. Berman, a former IDF officer, received his PhD from Rutgers University in chemical physics in 1989. After completing post-doc research on how light and matter work together at the Rutgers Laser Lab, he went on to teach chemistry and physics at the University of Dayton. While there, he conducted research on how municipalities could destroy chemical waste safely and efficiently, and also created a way for aircraft carriers to reduce humidity caused by the launch of warplanes. From 1996 to 2017, he chaired the science department at TABC, in addition to teaching courses in advanced math, chemistry and engineering. His students went on to become MDs, PhDs, MD/PHDs and computer engineers.
As assistant principal of STEM at Heichal, Dr. Berman will continue to develop Heichal’s first-rate science and math programs. “My experience teaching at both Rutgers and Dayton helped me to understand what students need to learn in high school STEM courses in order to succeed in college,” said Dr. Berman. Dr. Berman’s goal is to inspire students’ curiosity and creativity in the sciences, and to work closely with students who are considering pursuing careers in the science-related fields.
In addition to teaching numerous advanced mathematics and physics courses at Heichal, Dr. Berman oversees the math and science curriculums and observes teachers in order to ensure that they are adopting the best practices in teaching the sciences. Dr. Berman leads the students on numerous science trips and takes them for periodic astronomical observations.
Dr. Berman also manages Heichal’s top-of-the-line laboratory, and upgraded the equipment in order to make the Heichal lab an optimal environment for students to pursue scientific research. The lab now includes a 3D printer, tesla coil, vacuum chamber, optics bench and spectrophotometer.
Under Dr. Berman’s guidance, Heichal will be offering SAT 2 reviews for all math, biology, chemistry and physics courses. In addition to previously offered electives in psychology and forensics, Dr. Berman has added an elective in engineering. This elective is taught by Dr. Dov Kulger and entitled “An Introduction to Electrical Engineering—Programming Robotics.” Dr. Stevens is an associate professor of electrical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. In this elective students learn animation programming and continue on to basic electronics, such as how to wire circuits. In addition they learn programming C++, how to build small robots and how to make carbon dioxide sensors.
Dr. Berman will supervise a cadre of Heichal students who will be entering the Science Olympiad. Led by Touro University, 15 local yeshivas each send a team to a dozen events revolving around science and math. In the past, teams led by Dr. Berman have placed first or second more than 10 times. Competitions include building a bridge out of balsa wood and building a smartcar. Dr. Berman will also prepare students who excel in math to participate in the National Math League exams.
Dr. Berman’s students will compete in the Jerusalem Science Contest, an international competition coordinated by Machon Lev School of Technology in Israel. This year’s topic is nanotechnology. Students will take eight exams on science and Torah topics related to the subject matter. The top 10 students in the world receive a trip to Israel and the top five get scholarships to Machon Lev. In the past, Dr. Berman has had students place 15th in the world.
“We are excited that Dr. Berman serves as our assistant principal for STEM,” said Rabbi Ronnie Malavsky, Heichal assistant dean and general studies principal. “In my 35 years as a principal, I have never seen someone bring such enthusiasm for the sciences to each and every class he teaches.” Rav Aryeh Stechler, Heichal rosh yeshiva, concurred. “Dr. Berman brings tremendous depth to our faculty. He is the perfect role model for our boys that a person can be both a talmid chacham and a top-level scientist. We are so proud to have him join the ranks of our exceptional staff.”