San Diego Jewish Academy Announces Zvi Weiss as New Head of School Starting July 2020
January 8, 2020
San Diego, CA — In the midst of its 40th anniversary year, San Diego Jewish Academy today announced that Zvi Weiss will become Head of School, effective July 1, 2020. Weiss has more than 35 years of experience working in a variety of organizations and roles in Jewish education and engagement, and currently serves as Head of School at Yavneh Day School in Los Gatos, California. Weiss will succeed Chaim Heller, who is retiring after eight years at SDJA and who oversaw significant growth and expansion during his tenure.
“Zvi has that unique mix of experience, creativity, and strategic vision that make him such a stellar leader and great fit for our community,” says Heidi Gantwerk, Board Chair of SDJA. “With so many new families and programs at the school, we are absolutely thrilled to have Zvi taking the helm and helping us reach even greater heights.”
While at Yavneh, a pluralistic day school serving over 200 K-8 students, Weiss helped enrollment increase over 40% and built strong and deep ties with community stakeholders and partner organizations. Prior to Yavneh, Zvi served as Director of Early Childhood & Family Education and later as Director of Early Childhood Strategic Initiatives at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. He also worked at both the San Francisco and Los Angeles-based Jewish education agencies (the latter for which he oversaw their high school engagement programs) and as an early childhood education consultant for the Jewish Community Centers of North America. Indicative of his long history of volunteer leadership at Jewish schools, agencies, and synagogues, Zvi was on the founding Board of Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto. He also served as a psychologist in the IDF.
“I am incredibly excited to join SDJA at this inflection point in its growth—both in terms of its number of families and the increasingly wide array of learning experiences at the school,” adds Weiss. “This is clearly a warm and vibrant community that is welcoming me in, with an unbelievable campus that is second to none.”
SDJA’s search committee was particularly attracted to Weiss’s work experience leading strategic vision and strategic planning processes, his success in collaborative leadership, his track record of innovation, and his deep belief that learning—both Jewish and secular—should be profoundly meaningful and should tap into the passions and interests of all students.
“Zvi articulated such a compelling educational philosophy as we got to know him over these last few months,” add Jessica Fink and Theresa Dupuis, who chaired the search committee. “His belief in valuing each student for their unique qualities, in imbuing our students with skills to meet tomorrow’s challenges, and in strengthening and cherishing our community spoke deeply to us. He clearly rose to the top as we considered all candidates.”
Weiss holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA, a master’s degree in educational psychology from Hebrew University, and completed post-graduate work at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Harvard.
“SDJA is blessed with such talented and committed families who care about each other and the school, adds Outgoing Head of School Chaim Heller. “It has been a privilege to be part of this community for eight years. Zvi is the perfect fit to innovate even further while creating the most nurturing and academically rich environment for all.”
SDJA is a pluralistic K-12 school with more than 600 students and an early childhood center. The school was awarded the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award in 2018 and continues to grow its offerings through unique initiatives like the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking, which brings cutting edge learning experiences to students, and through the Advanced Institute for Jewish Studies, which offers Jewish learning opportunities to students and parents alike. Thanks in part to SDJA’s Open Door program offering four years of half-price tuition beginning in Kindergarten and 9th grade, more than 100 new students joined the school for the current academic year.