Message from Head of School

Dr. Bruce Powell, Head of School

Dr. Bruce Powell, Head of School

“New Jew” – our nickname.  Coined by wise students in our first class back in 2002.  Did they know how profound that name actually is?

Let me explain.

Human education has, over the past 5000 years, moved from the oral tradition, to the printed word, and now to the digital age.  While technology has accelerated the spread of information, it often slows or even obfuscates the spread of wisdom.

In January of 1942, the German leadership of the Third Reich held a meeting in a suburb of Berlin to plan the murder of every Jew on the European continent.  This meeting was benignly called the Wannsee Conference.  Many who attended the conference held M.D. or Ph.D. degrees from German universities.  Several lessons emerge:

  • First, one can hold a Ph.D. and be an S.O.B.
  • Second, these Germans possessed tremendous intellectual imagination, yet were horribly devoid of moral vision or ethical action.
  • Third, we learn that advancement in the world depends upon the power of the intellect; but the very existence of the world depends upon intellectual imagination and ethical action.  The two are inseparable.

A New Community Jewish High School education fuses the enormous power of contemporary advances and ideas of human civilization with the sacred obligation of humans to apply that knowledge to advance moral vision and ethical action.  The power of knowledge left untethered from ethics and morality is often dangerous; ethics and morality without knowledge is weak.

At NCJHS, knowledge must lead to both power and wisdom.  The two are inseparable.  This is what we mean by intellectual imagination and ethical action.  This combination in the context of 3000 years of Jewish tradition, history, culture, ideas, and religion, is what we call wisdom.

At NCJHS, students are taught that mathematical and scientific advances are to “promote the general welfare” of humanity; that powerful writing must serve the greater good and never devolve into demagoguery; that arts uplift the soul and explore human meaning; that Jewish text study has practical application in business and medical ethics; that from the study of history emerges wisdom for the future; and that world language study both connects us with the “other,” and transmits culture.

This is what we call education for the 21st century.  Those educated at NCJHS are what we call “New Jews”—leaders who are nuanced and thoughtful, knowledgeable and wise.   Leaders who are capable of succeeding in the unknown future because he/she is well versed in our history and our values.  Leaders who understand that intellectual imagination and ethical action are inseparable.

A student speaker at the graduation of our Class of 2009 is one of our “New Jews.”

He told the audience, “In a society where teenagers are often depicted as naturally cruel, selfish, exclusive, naïve and pessimistic, the noble creators of New Community Jewish High School set out to demonstrate to society that high school students had the capacity to exhibit care, inclusiveness, depth and hope in the present and future.  By learning about our rich and diverse traditions, we have the freedom to express our Judaism in new, innovative ways.

We stand on the shoulders of many former New Jews who, throughout the ages, redefined themselves through debate and action.  We can change the future and the present.

We embrace our role as the new generation of our people.
We will be innovators, integrating our Jewish values with technology.
We will be leaders of our people.
We will shake up the art world.
We are the next generation’s New Jews.”

Welcome to New Community Jewish High School.

Dr. Bruce Powell
Head of School

Dr. Bruce Powell, Bio

Dr. Bruce Powell, founding Head of School of New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, California, is one of the preeminent visionary leaders in the movement to develop Jewish day high schools throughout America. Dr. Powell’s visionary leadership, his passion for Jewish education, and his standards of excellence, have made New Community Jewish High School the third largest Jewish community high school in the United States.

Dr. Powell, a native of Los Angeles, received his Bachelor of Arts degree from University of California, Los Angeles in English Literature and History and his Master of Arts in Education and lifetime Teaching Credential from California State University, Northridge. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Jewish Studies from the University of Southern California. His doctoral thesis examined the nature and power of informal education as it is practiced at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, California.

In addition to founding New Community Jewish High School, Dr. Powell was also instrumental in founding both Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles, where he served for thirteen years as the first General Studies Principal, and Milken Community High School in Los Angeles, where he held positions of first Headmaster and first President of the school over his nine-year tenure. Before working in the administrative arena, Dr. Powell taught English and history in the public schools for seven years, pioneering a school-within-a-school program for disadvantaged youth within a large public school setting. For many years he also directed the summer programs at Camp Alonim and the Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) at the Brandeis Bardin Institute. In order to meet the variety of needs of Jewish day schools throughout America, Dr. Powell founded Jewish School Management (JSM), a national consulting firm dedicated to developing and training skilled professional and lay day school leadership. Through JSM, Dr. Powell has helped to establish fifteen Jewish high schools across the country, and has helped to train passionate leaders to manage and govern these new enterprises.

Dr. Powell’s outstanding work in developing Jewish high schools in Los Angeles over the past twenty-five years brought him to the attention of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE), a Boston-based organization at the forefront of developing new Jewish day schools throughout North America. PEJE engaged Dr. Powell as one of its lead experts in the field of Jewish high school education to guide and train both professionals and boards in the process of founding a Jewish high school. Dr. Powell continues to serve as a valued PEJE Coach, enabling the wisdom of his work developing Jewish High Schools in the Los Angeles area to benefit schools throughout the U.S. and Canada. PEJE leaders consider him to be a precious asset of the day school movement.

The AVI CHAI Foundation in collaboration with the Jewish Theological Seminary, recognized Dr. Powell’s eminence in Jewish education and selected him as one of the founding faculty members of the Day School Leadership Training Institute, a national program for training Heads of Jewish elementary and high schools. Dr. Powell also served on the faculty of the Wexner Heritage Foundation summer retreat, leading workshops in day school leadership. The Wexner Heritage program is one of the most successful Jewish leadership programs today in America with a nationally renowned and esteemed faculty.

Over the past several years, Dr. Powell has lectured nationwide on Jewish education and the power of Jewish day schools. In addition, Dr. Powell serves on the faculty of the Fingerhut School of Education at the American Jewish University (formerly, University of Judaism) as well as having taught in the Ziegler School for Rabbinic Studies.

In 2005, the Bureau of Jewish Education and the Milken Family Foundation awarded Dr. Powell with the Milken Jewish Educators Award, recognizing his outstanding contributions to Jewish education in Los Angeles in helping to found three Jewish high schools. In 2006, Dr. Powell was honored by New Community Jewish High School at a gala event, along with two of the school’s founding lay leaders, for their exemplary contributions to Jewish education.  In 2007, Dr. Powell received an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Humane Letters) from the American Jewish University (formerly, University of Judaism).  Most notably, Dr. Powell also received the prestigious “Covenant Award” — an award given by the Covenant Foundation to visionary Jewish educators who make positive changes in the communities that they serve through a combination of inventive thinking and dedication to Jewish values, expressed in kindness, generosity, and patience.