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After completing a double chai, yeshiva rabbi will call it a career

By Boris Kurbanov, Jewish Sound Correspondent

Nearly 30 years after he was appointed head of school at what was then the state’s only Jewish high school, Rabbi Bernie Fox will retire after the 2015-16 academic year, capping off 36 years at Northwest Yeshiva High School.

Rabbi Bernie Fox
Rabbi Bernie Fox

“This was not an easy decision,” Fox wrote in an email. “I have enjoyed my tenure as head of school. It has been a challenging and exciting position. However, it is also a very demanding responsibility and it leaves little time for other pursuits. There are many other things I would like to do and I realize that I will be more likely to get to them if I transfer the responsibilities of head of school to someone else.”

Fox, who joined the school’s faculty in 1980, made his announcement in an email on March 12. His last day as head of school is slated for June 30, 2016.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as head of school for three decades,” he wrote, adding, “It has been a very rewarding experience that has enabled me to work with amazing young people, remarkable colleagues, dedicated parents, and inspiring volunteers and supporters.”

He said many in the community have reached out to offer their thoughts and reflections on his decision.

“I appreciate the many people who have contacted me and shared with me their kind thoughts and reflections on my decision. These well-wishers express their gratitude to me for the work that I have done. But I feel I am the one who must be appreciative,” Fox said. “Our community has provided me the opportunity to pursue my passion and to make a difference. The work I have done here is my source of meaning. So, my thanks to all of those who have supported me and NYHS over these many years.”

During his tenure, the high school has seen incredible growth, said Jack De Leon, who has served as the school’s president since June 2013 and has known Fox for the better part of a decade.

“Every year Rabbi Fox continues to do a remarkable job improving our programs,” De Leon said. “Among his many accomplishments, which are many, is that between 25 and 30 percent of our seniors continue to place in the top 10 percent of the state. It’s a feather in his cap and a big kudos to him for having so many of our students represented.”

In recent years, NYHS students have been admitted into some of the most revered universities in the U.S.

In a colulmn in The Jewish Sound last fall, he wrote, “When I consider the past 35 years, I feel very accomplished. So many of the young people with whom I have worked are committed to the Jewish people. Many are leaders in the community. But I am most proud of their commitment to values and living ethical lives.”

The school will form a search committee in the coming weeks to begin looking for a new head of school, De Leon said. He added that he hopes to have two chair positions filled by Passover, which begins April 3.

The school is well-positioned for new leadership, he said.

“Right now we probably have the strongest faculty we’ve ever had,” De Leon said. “We don’t know how long the process will take, but we will do our due diligence in searching the country, and if someone locally wants to apply, we’ll open it up to everybody.”

Fox reflected on his 36-year career in Jewish education and said his biggest takeaway was his work with the students.

“During my tenure as head of school, close to 500 students have graduated from the program. Those lives are more precious than anything else I take from these years as head of school,” he wrote. “But I have also had the opportunity to work with many amazing educators, lay leaders, and volunteers. I was fortunate to be mentored by brilliant leaders within our community and I have tried to use their lessons well.”

While Fox wrote that he was looking for “the opportunity to refocus my efforts and explore other areas,” he noted that he would like to continue to serve at NYHS as an instructor.

“There are so many projects in which I am interested. I will need to set some priorities. Writing will be a high priority…. We have a wonderful community and I am eager to lend a hand where I can be of service. But discussion of what I will do after completing my tenure should be postponed until next June. My job right now is to continue to serve as head of school and that responsibility requires my full attention.”