July 20, 2024
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Q&A With MTA’s New Head of School Rabbi Joshua Kahn

During the “lull before the storm” of the start of the school year, The Jewish Link was able to speak with Rabbi Joshua Kahn, new head of school at MTA, Yeshiva University’s High School for Boys, located on the Yeshiva University campus on Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights. After a summer dedicated to “reflection,” together with his team of administrators and staff, Rabbi Kahn was excited to share his insights and goals for the coming year.

What is your educational background and when did it become evident to you that you would be pursuing a career in chinuch?

As a son and grandson of educators, my childhood and teen years were definitely imbued with a strong emphasis on the value of quality education. My mother recently retired from her lifetime career as a second-grade teacher at Yavneh, which I attended for elementary school. My grandmother was a public-school assistant principal and my grandfather a pulpit rabbi and hospital chaplain. My father served as the chairman of the board at Ramaz during my high school years. At Ramaz, I was a great admirer of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein and the pivotal role he played in the precision running of the school.

During my second year learning at Mevaseret Yerushalayim, I began learning with small groups of shana alef students and felt great satisfaction from this interaction. At YU, I majored in economics at Yeshiva College while studying at RIETS. After graduation, I continued on at YU earning my smicha and a master’s in Jewish education. I have currently completed all the coursework for a doctorate from the Azrieli Graduate School of Education, for which my dissertation deals with creating a meaningful davening experience for young people. When my wife and I married, we served for two years as youth leaders at Lincoln Square synagogue. In retrospect, all roads led me to a career in chinuch, which I treasure greatly for the opportunities it grants me to impact the lives of Jewish American youth.

What positions have you held in chinuch prior to becoming head of school at MTA?

I have been on the educational team at Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) for the past 12 years. I came aboard as the director of student activities. Subsequently, I became the dean of student life in charge of all extra-curricular activities such as clubs, teams, trips and discipline. Eventually, I assumed the position of associate principal of Judaic studies. In all three positions, I also had the opportunity to interact with the students as a rebbe, which gave me the opportunity to relate on the most meaningful level with my students.

What motivated you to apply for the head of school position at MTA?

I see the position of head of school as an unique opportunity to be involved in the education of the whole child—inside and outside the classroom. Each hat that I wore prior to assuming this new position prepared me for this role. As head of school I will partner with all the people involved in the education of the students; my administration, faculty, the parent body and the board, as well as the students themselves. At MTA, I see an amazing leadership team already in place. I am fortunate to be moving into a situation of such strength. I eagerly look forward to working closely with Rabbi Taubes, rosh yeshiva; Dr. Taylor, principal of general studies; Rabbi Shenker, associate principal of Judaic studies and director of the learning center; Rabbi Jon Green, dean of student life; and all of the stellar grade deans, rabbanim and teachers. We are all on the same page in our unwavering commitment to raising our students to the highest level of Torah and madda. Our mornings are totally devoted to Torah study, which is sacrosanct in our mission. MTA students are physically surrounded by a Beit Midrash filled with gedolei hador and hundreds of serious bnei Torah who serve as role models for our high schoolers. How excited they are to see their “camp counselors” sitting in the Beit Midrash.

Our general studies program as well is greatly enhanced by being situated within a college campus. Our students can avail themselves of multiple classes on the university level after completing their high school requirements, including accounting, computer science, Jewish history, economics, marketing and calculus.

How do you respond to those who view MTA as a “commuter” rather than a “community” school?

Our student body is comprised of boys from Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, West Hempstead/Long Island, Bergenfield, Teaneck, Riverdale/Westchester, Passaic and Monsey. Our 25 dorming students hail from Philadelphia, Memphis, California and even South America.

We are striving to create an MTA community within each of these communities. We provide transportation three nights a week so that our students can attend our robust night seder and return home in a timely manner. We are scheduling Shabbatonim, melave malka gatherings and special learning programs within the communities that our students reside so that our presence is felt. When needed, we will provide opportunities for our students to stay over on campus for special activities.

What are your specific goals for this coming year?

Through our “summer reflections” in collaboration with 100 percent of my administration and staff, we designed an agenda of several primary areas upon which we will be focusing in the coming year. First, we are launching a new Night Seder program in the YU Beis Midrash under the expert guidance of Rabbi Schenker. Next, our STEM curriculum will be reinforced and incorporated throughout the school through collaborative and project-based learning. Furthermore, we hope to celebrate the centennial year of our school appropriately as the first school of its kind to implement innovative Jewish education one century ago and which still sets the bar for current Jewish education.

For me personally, as well as for my wife and children, we look forward to forging meaningful relationships with the MTA community and to hosting my colleagues and students in my home throughout the year. We already started by enjoying a team-building barbecue for the MTA Leadership Team and we are looking forward to future opportunities.

By Pearl Markovitz

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