Berman Academy names new head of school

Rabbi Dr Hillel Broder. Photo courtesy of Berman Hebrew Academy

Berman Hebrew Academy will welcome a new head of school, beginning on July 1.

Rabbi Dr. Hillel Broder is most recently principal for general studies at DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys at the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, in Woodmere, N.Y. Previously, he taught at SAR High School and Yeshiva University High School for Boys, and served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University.

In interviews with school leaders, “Rabbi Dr. Broder demonstrated how he will be a collaborative and inspiring leader,” Board President Benny Berkowitz said in a statement. “His strong background in education, deeply rooted in Modern Orthodoxy, will help solidify and enhance Berman’s powerful and unique pedagogic approach across the entire school.”

A JTA article in 2019 described a meditation minyan, an alternative service at SAR academy, when Broder taughtl there.

“During the formal Jewish call to prayer known as the Barekhu, [students] are told to assume a mountain pose — a standing yoga posture with the spine upright and hands fully extended downward — before performing the traditional bow,” according to the article.

“I always felt there was a tremendous amount lacking in prayer education,” Broder told JTA. “Students had opportunities for self-expression or for song or for movement earlier in the Jewish day school system. But by the time they get to high school, a lot of prayer education has to do with learning the language and choreography, but not the spirit of the prayers. That for me felt developmentally stunting.”

Broder grew up in Silver Spring and attended Berman Academy as an elementary school student. “My family and I can’t wait to return home,” he wrote to the school community. “Go Cougars!”

He earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in English literature at the CUNY Graduate Center; a master’s degree at Queens College; and a bachelor’s degree at Yeshiva University. He was granted smichah by Rabbi Ari Enkin.

He’s the author of two books of poetry, including one based on the Talmud Tractate Berakhot.

In a 2017 ELI talk, Broder told how, as a bored high schooler, he discovered a way around “the stumbling block of fixed prayer” — the three-times-a-day prayer services.

“I had discovered the poetry in prayer by reading my prayers as poetry.”

Reuven Zakheim and Elan Burman chaired Berman’s search committee. Members included Ben Berger, Dafna Berman, Ben Galper, Shmarya Gasner, Adina Goldberg, Rachel Handloff, Ellie Kagan, Connie Lindenauer and Gabe Solomon. ■

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