NoVa day school hires new leader

Dan Finkel
Dan Finkel

After a yearlong search for a new head of school, Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax announced that it has found him.

Dan Finkel is expected to bring “exuberance and gravitas” to the job, said board president Jane Shichman.

The board voted April 20 to offer the job to Finkel, Judaic studies principal at Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City, Calif., south of San Francisco. Gesher announced the hire on April 26. His contract is effective July 1.

The school had been considering “three terrific candidates,” Shichman said. It selected Finkel because “the fit was right – as a master educator, as a parent of young children.” When he and his wife, Ellie Klein, visited Gesher, “it felt like they were part of the community forever.”

“The adjectives most often used about him were: positive, collaborative, easy to talk to, knowledgeable about Jewish days schools and Judaics,” Shichman said.

Finkel said he is tasked with “standard head-of-school duties: Ensuring the quality of education, making sure people know about the school, connecting with other Jewish and private schools to make sure Gesher is part of the community” as well as recruitment, fundraising and strategic planning.

The school has been without a head since last June, when Zvi Schoenberg left after 10 years. Academic leadership this year has fallen to Graciela Granek, middle school director, and Jody Hirsch Rein, elementary school director.

“They rolled up their sleeves and got to work,” Shichman said. The two will be honored at the school’s annual meeting on June 8 with “high fives and special thanks.”

The announcement of Finkel’s hire came a day before the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital announced it had received $21 million in gifts that will enable it to add a middle school.

The visibility that JPDS is receiving for one of the largest gifts made to a Jewish day school will help Gesher as well, Schichman said. “In Northern Virginia, it’s going to show people that Jewish day school is a viable option.”

Finkel will help raise the school’s visibility, she said. “He will be the face of Gesher for the Jewish community.”

Gesher has 138 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Enrollment has gone down, but Shichman expects it to go up between 8 percent and 10 percent next year.

In addition, the donor base is up 18 percent and 92 percent of the goal from the annual fundraiser has been collected, she said.

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