By Michael Sudhalter
Jason Feld is grateful that he listened to his wife’s advice 16 years ago.
Feld’s wife, Rebecca — an educational consultant who was a teacher for 23 years — encouraged her husband to become an educator.
At the time, it may have seemed counterintuitive to make a career change from real estate development to the classroom.
“Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles needed a part-time person to come in and teach Jewish history, and Rebecca graciously volunteered me,” Feld said. “I fell in love with the classroom and from that point forward, I never looked back.”
Feld’s first teaching position set him on the path to become head of school at Yeshiva Northwest High School in Seattle, where he’s led a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school in Washington State’s largest city for six years.
Feld recently chose to trade the rain for the heat, accepting the head of school position at Akiba Yavneh Academy in Dallas. He’ll officially start July 1 and oversee approximately 350 students from Early Childhood through 12th Grade.
While the school’s religious orientation is Modern Orthodox, its students belong to various Jewish denominations.
“My two primary areas of focus will be using data to inform instruction,” Feld said. “We want our students to master content and skills. We also want to maximize opportunities to make a Jewish day school affordable for as many families as possible, without compromising quality. In today’s learning environment, we know students have different learning styles and challenges and interests. We will deliver unique learning experiences and give students ownership of their learning.”
Feld said he’s inspired by the students on a daily basis.
“The students really, really inspire me,” Feld said. “I’m the type of head of school that likes to be fully engaged in what’s happening in the school. I’m certainly not a micromanager, but I’m thrilled to be in a learning environment.”
Feld points to a trip when he took the Northwest Yeshiva senior class to a Jewish orphanage in Neptun, Romania. The kids who lived in the orphanage had been relocated from their hometown of Odessa, Ukraine, after Russia invaded Ukraine last year.
Most of the kids they visited were “younger than bar mitzvah age.”
“It was an incredible experience,” Feld said. “As educators, we think about the values we want our students to have. We had the courage to seize the moment and contribute in a meaningful way. To have this opportunity, there was no equivocation. The students enthusiastically said ‘yes.’”
Feld, 55, will celebrate 30 years of marriage with Rebecca. They have three children, Katie, 28, a nurse in Los Angeles; Yonah, 24, an Israeli navy veteran who is finishing college in Israel; and Harrison, 18, who is taking a gap year in Jerusalem.
Feld grew up in the San Fernando Valley community of Encino, California, where he graduated from Valley Torah High School.
Like his son after him, Feld took a gap year in Israel before choosing to study political science at New York University.
Feld was intrigued by politics and wished to understand it on a deeper level. While at NYU, he served as the campus representative for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
He would later work in the Los Angeles district office of then-U.S. Congressman Howard Berman (D-Calif.).
Feld chose to attend law school at the University of Baltimore.
“If you ask my mom, she’ll say I went into law school because I don’t like the sight of blood,” Feld said. “It was the natural next step for my education. I loved law school, but I wasn’t cut out to be a practicing attorney.”
The Felds were married in Jason’s third year of law school, and they moved to Israel upon completion of his J.D.
Feld opened an art gallery in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. It was the 1990s when a large number of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia were making aliyah to Israel.
Feld had an opportunity to feature their art “as they started their absorption into Israeli culture.”
Feld’s time in Israel emphasized his already-strong relationship with the country. As an educator, he’s been honored to see his former students make their own connections with the Jewish state.
“A number of my students have made lives for themselves in Israel,” Feld said. “They credit the learning they did in my class with inspiring them to move there, serve in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and to make homes and careers in Israel. When they share that with me, it’s quite rewarding.”
The Felds stayed in Israel for close to seven years before returning to Los Angeles — where Feld worked in real estate development, mostly with different entertainment venues.
During his early years as an educator, Feld became a department chair, then a dean of students and earned a master’s degree in education from the American Jewish University.
Feld had visited Texas only once, and that was at a Jewish educators’ conference at Akiba Yavneh. This time, he was ready for a change and heard about the job opening at Akiba Yavneh.
“I really liked what I heard,” Feld said. “It is a warm, welcoming and inclusive learning community. I met the board and search committee. I was honored to be invited out to visit the campus and meet with teachers, parents and stakeholders. Everything felt right and I’m excited about the next step in my journey.”
Feld would like to see Akiba Yavneh students and graduates fully engaged in the communities where they call home.
“I want my students to know what the important issues of the day are and be able to contribute in the modern world, in a meaningful way, using Jewish values, text and traditions,” Feld said.