WEST HARTFORD, CONN. – After a decade leading Hebrew High School of New England, Rabbi Daniel Loew has declared this year his last. He will be succeeded by Rabbi Jeremy Bruce of London, England. Loew has not yet announced where he will head once his tenure at HHNE is up.
Loew’s track record is one of academic excellence, says HHNE president David Rosen. “The legacy of any effective head of school, and Rabbi Loew most specifically, is the success of the graduates in whatever path they choose after high school,” he says. Over the past few years, HHNE’s SAT scores have surpassed those from other private and public schools in the state, Rosen says. “This year alone we’ve seen a myriad of college acceptances, including early admission to Princeton and Yale. Our students went three for three on early admission to the University of Michigan, whereas Hall High students [in West Hartford] went one for 19!”
In addition, HHNE boasts a student selected among 30 high-school students nationwide for the United States Senate Page Program, a National Merit Scholarship finalist, and a Congressional nominee to West Point, says Rosen.
“Rabbi Loew is not only leaving us with a school of excellence, he saw to it that the tone, as well as life in general at HHNE, was enjoyable and meaningful and imbued with a love of Israel and Judaism,” Rosen says, to the extent that half the graduates choose to spend a gap year in Israel.
The search for a new head of school began in November, with a 14-member committee representing the three main communities served by the school – Springfield, West Hartford, and New Haven. The committee found Rabbi Jeremy Bruce through an ad placed on one of several online sites dedicated to Jewish professional searches.
Bruce is currently deputy head teacher of the 900-student, multi-faith King Solomon High School in Essex, northeast of London. A state-financed school with an Orthodox ethos, King Solomon began actively recruiting non-Jewish students after experiencing a precipitous drop in the number of Jewish students. Today, a large number of non-Jewish students are enrolled at the school.
Here’s a description by R. Bruce in an online conversation in response to “Struggling Jewish day schools are recruiting gentiles,” an article by Uriel Heilman posted on the Lookstein Center’s website: Bruce will relocate to the greater Hartford area along with his wife, Jo, and their three children, two of whom will be HHNE students. (An interview with Bruce will be published in a future issue of the Ledger.)
He comes at a time when enrollment is down at both the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy in Bloomfield, Conn., and Heritage Academy in Longmeadow, both major HHNE feeder schools.
Rosen says that it is a misconception that students enrolling at HHNE must have a Jewish day school background; many do not. HHNE offers a Mechina (preparation) program specifically designed to mentor and develop those students who come with less or no Judaic studies exposure. To enhance its curriculum in the upcoming academic year, the school is adding problem-based learning pedagogy and STEAM learning, integrating science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. There will be new merit, community-service, and talent scholarships available, as well as a boarding program for students throughout the region – and even from abroad.
“One of Rabbi Bruce’s greatest strengths has been in creating a school environment where all students, regardless of background, feel valued and supported and connected to their religion, regardless of their personal practice,” says Rosen. “His background could not be better suited for HHNE, which is a destination for Jewish high school students, regardless of their Judaic background. He is joining us at a time when he can have a major impact. In his letter to the HHNE community, he wrote that he hopes to ‘build on the remarkable successes of Rabbi Loew and his team.’ What more could we hope for? This is really a great point in HHNE’s history.”