Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh is about to get a new leader.
The school’s board voted unanimously to appoint Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum as the school’s new CEO, effective Sept. 1. He will succeed Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, who has led Yeshiva Schools for more than 40 years and will continue to serve the Chabad community as the head shaliach of western Pennsylvania and the rabbi of the Lubavitch Center of Pittsburgh.
Rosenblum, 55, of Squirrel Hill, grew up in Pittsburgh and attended Yeshiva Schools before becoming part of the staff some 32 years ago. His work includes professional development with teachers, student engagement and training within and outside Chabad, including at more than 50 Jewish day schools nationwide. He served as principal of the Yeshiva Boys School for 25 years, and was educational director and head of Yeshiva Schools for the past five years.
“My passion and my experience is education – Jewish education, general education. I think it’s going to be helpful moving forward to have an educator telling our story,” Rosenblum told the Chronicle. “I see myself as sharing our school’s story. I think that’s one thing parents can look forward to.”
“Right now, I am focused on doing what I can and making a difference,” he added.
In addition to Rosenblum’s role as CEO, Yeshiva Schools announced new roles and expanded responsibilities for other team members. They include: Dr. Chaim Oster, who previously served as a member of the board of directors and has accepted the role as president of the board of directors; and Rabbi Chezky Rosenfeld, who was formerly the director of development and has been promoted to chief operating officer.
Rosenblum’s peers heaped praise last week on the educator best known for creating the Zekelman Standards, which are used as benchmarks for best practices in Jewish studies. Yeshiva Schools was an early adopter of Zekelman, initiating the protocol about seven or eight years ago.
“Rabbi Rosenblum will help take our success to the next level, and it’s the education of the students that’s the basis of that existence,” Oster said. “In general, [Rabbi Rosenblum] wants to make the educational program more rigorous and more successful. Yeshiva Schools is one of a limited number of Chabad schools that offer Judaic and general studies from preschool through high school. Rabbi Rosenblum is very focused on improving that education so that it is as successful as it can be.”
Yosef Hashimi moved his family to Pittsburgh in part because of the work of educators like Rosenblum, he told the Chronicle.
“We left Chicago and came here because we believe in higher education and we wanted to send our children to a Chabad school that provided a balance between general studies and Jewish studies,” said Hashmi, a Harvard-educated technology consultant who has two students in Yeshiva Schools and four children who already have graduated.
“Our desire is for Yeshiva Schools to maintain a strong dual curriculum along the ethos we came here for. We want it to be a place where future generations of children can get an excellent, well-rounded education,” Hashimi said. “Yeshiva is unique among Chabad schools. Central to its mission is the goal to raise Jews capable of supporting their families both spiritually and financially. A bird needs both of its wings to fly.”
The appointment of a new CEO has dovetailed with the development of a strategic plan at Yeshiva Schools that “blends the traditions of the past with the needs of the future and goals of the new leadership team,” officials said. The plan yielded six categories of initiatives and a whopping 110 action-plan items. That work – aiming to improve education there, among other measures – was undertaken by a 25-member committee of parents, academic staff and community members.
“[The committee] was an incredible community experience – a true partnership between parents and the administration,” Hashimi said.
“I was always interested in standards-based learning, having some direction for where we’ve got to go, like a GPS,” Rosenblum said. “One of the things where we’ll get more rigorous is by asking essential questions.”
Yisroel Rosenfeld was excited by the appointment of Rosenblum, whom he taught as a student in the eighth grade decades ago.
“[Rosenblum’s appointment] will enable more to see that other things will continue to grow,” Rosenfeld said. “Hopefully, this is a win-win for everyone and it will enable us to get through the challenges we have, our community has.”
Rosenfeld stressed that he will continue to take an active leadership role in Pittsburgh’s Orthodox community.
“At some point, being the rabbi of Lubavitch, being the head shaliach of Chabad – that’s a lot happening, a lot on the plate,” he said. “Now, I have and will continue to have time for many positions.”
Yeshiva Schools, founded in 1943 in Pittsburgh, includes The Early Learning Center, a middle
school, and girls and boys high schools. Collectively, the school educates 450 students, employing 125 people annually while attracting Jewish families to the region. PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.