Rabbi Shmuel Jablon will be ending his tenure as principal of Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia at the conclusion of the coming school year.
In his announcement to the school community, which came in an email in June, Jablon said he had no definitive plans but that he would seek job opportunities in North America and is also giving “serious consideration” to making aliyah with his family.
The Orthodox day school in Wynnewood, which serves students from preschool through eighth grade, has formed a search committee for a new principal with the help of Yeshiva University’s Institute for University-School Partnership.
The announcement came as a surprise to many in the school community, including the school’s former board president.
Amir Goldman said that while there’s “no uniformity in any Jewish institution, all in all, people were very happy with the educational quality” under Jablon, who came to the school five years ago after spending seven years as leader of the Fuchs Mizrachi School in Cleveland.
As head of the school, Ja-blon guided Torah Academy through the country’s recession, which started a few months after he began in 2008.
He said the economy was the biggest challenge for the school at the time, but there was also a perception among some in the Jewish community that Torah Academy was guided by the right-leaning sectors of Orthodoxy, excluding other parts of the movement.
But Jablon, who grew up in the Reform movement and earned a master’s degree from American Jewish University in Los Angeles, a Conservative institution, before becoming Orthodox, said Torah Academy had always tried to serve the entire Orthodox community. What changed under his leadership, he said, was that the school became more outspoken about its inclusiveness.
“We simply started talking more about what a beautiful thing it is to have a school where all sorts of Orthodox Jews are in the same place learning, no matter what kind of Orthodoxy they subscribe to,” said Jablon, 44. “People now appreciate that this school is able to serve the entire breadth of the community and is proud of doing that.”
In spite of the tough economic conditions, the school managed to boost enrollment from 270 students in Jablon’s first year to 319 students last year, according to the principal. He said the school saw an increase in the number of students who needed financial aid, which “meant there was more fundraising to be done.”
“There was absolutely no one who was asked to leave because of economics,” said Jablon, who has four children, three of whom attend Torah Academy.
Jablon, who is a contributing writer to the Jewish Exponent’s weekly Torah commentary, has tried to strengthen his students’ links with Israel. Goldman, the former school president, said Jablon’s strong sense of Zionism and connection to Israel made a significant impact on the school. Prior to his arrival, he said, the school’s Hebrew program was “pretty much non-existent” but under Jablon, the school hired someone to head the program and it has grown to be very strong.