Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rav Tomer Ronen, New Head of School, Yeshivat He’Atid

Rav Tomer Ronen, who has led Yeshivat Ben Porat Yosef (BPY) for the past decade, will be joining Yeshivat He’Atid in the fall as Head of School, as part of a joint initiative with the Affordable Jewish Education Project (AJE). In addition to his position at Yeshivat He’Atid, he will be the Head of AJE’s Startup School Network where he will be exploring ways for schools to collaborate and share resources.

The Affordable Jewish Education Project, funded by private donors, was founded in 2011 to work with new and established Jewish day schools to lower the cost of day school education while raising academic performance. AJE has developed a proprietary methodology called 2 Sigma Education to accomplish both goals. The name 2 Sigma comes from research showing that one-on-one instruction gives students greater than two times more success in the classroom. In the 2 Sigma model, small groups of students at similar levels rotate between a teacher who gives an overview and an assistant teacher who helps with assignments and individual lessons with computer software. The results are similar to one-on-one instruction.

Yeshivat He’Atid opened in 2012 and was the first school to work with the AJE to adopt this methodology. Yeshivat He’Atid now has almost 300 students in pre-K through 5th grade and will be moving next month to a new campus at 1500 Queene Anne Road in Teaneck. Jeff Kiderman, AJE executive director, said in an email interview that AJE was the largest provider of seed funding to open Yeshivat He’Atid and has contributed to the school’s new campus.

Abby Flamholz, president of the school said, “The academic part of our mission is working beautifully—our educational results speak to that. Now we want to take affordability to the next level by building a network of start-up schools that can share deeply. This is done in the business world, and also with non-profits like the Jewish Federation. We haven’t seen it yet in the day school world—sharing curriculum and personnel. This is a work in progress and Rav Ronen was hired to help build the network.”

Right now, the only other school in the network is the Westchester Torah Academy which opened the year after Yeshivat He’Atid.

Rav Ronen said that when he first learned about Yeshivat He’Atid he was skeptical that a high-quality education could be provided at a lower cost, but changed his mind after seeing the results. “I am absolutely amazed by what these two groundbreaking organizations have achieved. I’m honored to be joining this movement and I look forward to doing my part in taking it to the next level.”

School Principal Dr. Tani Foger said she was looking forward to welcoming Rav Ronen to Yeshivat He’Atid. “His vast experience as a Head of School, combined with our innovative educational model, will make Yeshivat He’Atid an even more outstanding 21st century Jewish day school. Rav Ronen’s expertise in maintaining a true Ivrit B’Ivrit institution will further complement our already robust and successful Hebrew immersion program.”

Rav Ronen said he was very proud of what he accomplished at BPY, bringing it from a small start-up to the thriving school it is today. “I feel lucky and fortunate that I was a part of BPY for ten years. We did something at BPY the community thought couldn’t be done. I feel like we made history. I am excited for BPY to have new leadership that can take them to the next level. I have always been about being progressive and cutting edge in education. The opportunity to join the AJE and Yeshivat He’Atid and starting a revolutionary way of education was one I couldn’t pass up.”

At BPY, Rabbi Dr. Steven Lorch has been named interim head of school while the search committee looks for a permanent administrator. Dr. Lorch is the former founding head of school of the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, which he led for 20 years.

Rabbi Ronen’s departure from Ben Porat Yosef was expected but the initial plan was for him to continue at the school for one year while a search committee examined candidates. Cheryl Rosenberg, BPY president, wrote in a letter to parents that his employment contract ended on June 30 of this year and they were unable to reach an agreement on a contract for next year. “We thank Rav Ronen for his many years of service and wish him all the best for the future,” she said.

In a phone interview, Rosenberg said the school looked for a seasoned educator who could take the reins but was not interested in a permanent position, so the committee could take time to define what they were looking for and conduct interviews. Dr. Lorch fit the bill perfectly, she said. “He has a unique appreciation for all that makes BPY so special and is committed to strengthening the resources that support our core values, some of which include inspiring ahavat and yirat Hashem, ensuring Sephardic continuity while embracing Ashkenazic customs and history and achieving Hebrew language fluency.”

Rabbi Ozer Glickman, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University and longtime advisor to BPY, said Dr. Lorch will focus on management issues that BPY would like to improve. “There has been some misunderstanding that as Dr. Lorch comes from Solomon Schechter, the school may be moving in a similar direction. That is not the case. BPY is a vibrant, warm, modern Orthodox school fully committed to halacha and, in fact, Dr. Lorch was a talmid of Rav Joseph Soloveitchik. BPY is fortunate to have Dr. Lorch’s great expertise as a management consultant for one year. My grandchildren attend the school and that is a resounding endorsement of its Torah values.”

Rosenberg said the committee solicited feedback from parents, staff and current and former leaders of the school to craft a job description for a permanent head of school. “The ideal candidate will be someone who can make our vision stronger,” she said. “Ben Porat was founded by a group of Sephardic families to promote Sephardic continuity while embracing everyone. All traditions are alive and well here but we promote Sephardic custom, tradition and history in a way that no one else is doing.”