YULA introduces new leadership, faculty for next academic year

June 29, 2017
Rabbi Joshua Spodek (L). Photo courtesy of Rabbi Joshua Spodek Rabbi Arye Sufrin (R), Photo courtesy of Rabbi Arye Sufrin

When the next school year begins, Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles (YULA) will welcome new heads of school to both its boys and girls campuses along with more than a dozen new educators.

Rabbi Arye Sufrin and Rabbi Joshua Spodek, the incoming heads of the Modern Orthodox YULA Boys High School and YULA Girls High School, respectively, said in a joint interview that their appointments represent an endorsement of the school’s commitment to its core values, rather than a change of course.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of people who have spent years building the school, and we’re only looking to continue that growth,” Spodek said.

“Serious Torah, serious academic rigor and a focus on character development — that’s the driving force,” Sufrin added, saying he hopes to inspire students to lead observant Jewish lifestyles.

The two rabbis sat for the interview in the innovation lab of the boys campus, a high-ceilinged space lined with beakers and containing a pair of 3-D printers and a virtual-reality headset.

Sufrin, 32, is long established in the YULA community, having held positions at YULA Boys High School since he started as a part-time Judaic studies teacher in 2008. Most recently, he was the school’s principal.

He is replacing Rabbi Dov Emerson, head of school since 2013, whose departure was announced in May.

In Emerson’s May 3 resignation email, he said he would be moving to New York to become director of teaching and learning at Yeshiva University’s Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy.

Spodek, 41, was principal at the Scheck Hillel Community School, a K-12 Orthodox day school in North Miami Beach, Fla. He said he was still in the process of moving to Los Angeles with his four children, ages 9 to 17.

Rabbi Abraham Lieberman, the outgoing head of school at YULA Girls High School whose resignation was announced in November, is set to assume the position of Judaic studies teacher at Shalhevet High School for the upcoming school year.

In addition to Sufrin and Spodek, YULA has announced more than a dozen new staff and faculty appointments in recent weeks to both the boys and girls schools.

Most recently, Sufrin announced in a June 23 email that five new part-time and full-time Judaic studies educators would join YULA Boys, including Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, dean of Yavneh Hebrew Academy, and Rabbi Pini Dunner of Beverly Hills Synagogue.

Meanwhile, Spodek said that since April, YULA Girls has hired eight full-time Judaic studies educators; a guidance counselor; a college counselor; an academic adviser; a director of science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM); and a media and communications manager.

Spodek said the hires help fulfill three core missions: cementing YULA’s status as a premier yeshiva for girls; providing emotional, social and college-related support to students; and affirming the school’s commitment to STEAM education.

Spodek said he was attracted to move across the country with his wife and children to take his new position because YULA Girls stands on the verge of “some incredibly exciting opportunities for religious growth.”

Parents, students and alumni are “looking for YULA Girls to become that center of serious women’s Torah learning that will emanate out from our school and impact the entire Los Angeles women’s community,” he said.

Sufrin said, “I feel blessed to have this opportunity and [I] look forward to helping YULA reach new heights.”

He began his professional life as a consultant for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited in New York, auditing Morgan Stanley, before quitting finance to pursue his passion in Jewish education.

“My joke is, the only thing harder than telling your wife you’re leaving corporate America to become a chumash teacher in L.A. is telling your in-laws,” he said. “That’s our family joke. All is great, thank God.”

Sufrin comes from a family of educators. His grandfather became Orthodox through the Chabad Lubavitch movement in England, and subsequently became a head of school there.

His father, Rabbi Boruch Sufrin, is head of school at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, a K-8 Orthodox day school on Olympic Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

During the interview, Sufrin tended to get exuberant when speaking about topics related to Torah and Jewish education. After several uninterrupted minutes talking about 3-D printing, the modern-day relevance of Torah and collaborative teaching methods, he trailed off momentarily.

Spodek took the opportunity to jump in.

“The most powerful thing you’re going to hear from us is that everything Rabbi Sufrin just said about YULA Boys is mirrored at YULA Girls,” he said, stressing that, though the boys and girls schools have different governing boards, they share a community and driving values.

“In his five minutes of his goals and missions of YULA Boys,” Spodek said, “you could use every word to describe the mission and purpose of YULA Girls, and substitute the word his for her.” 

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