By: Naomi Ohana (11th Grade)
This spring semester, Hebrew Academy will welcome a new Director of High School Judaic Studies and Community Engagement. Curiosity driven educator, Dr. Debbie Stone, will fill the position, making her the second woman to head the Judaic department in the high school’s history.
Beginning next week, Dr. Stone will be joining the administration remotely as the Judaic Director for the High School as well as Director of Community Engagement. After a week in quarantine, she will begin teaching in-person. She will collaborate with Judaic teachers on enhancing the Judaic program through innovative and engaging curriculum designs. In addition to working with the faculty, Dr. Stone will be teaching several courses where she will educate students on various topics in Judaism. She will also be focusing on the community as a whole, implementing Jewish learning from the Hebrew Academy into the community.
“I believe Dr. Stone has a lot to offer, not just to our students but to our parents as well. Part of our role as a school is not to just educate our students, but it is also the whole picture, the whole family, the whole community, which will ultimately benefit the students in our school,” said Head of School Rabbi Guttenberg. “I believe in the world today that we don’t just need Rabbis who are our Judaic leaders, but we need females who are the Judaic leaders as well, and Dr. Stone embodies that. She possesses Torah knowledge and leadership skills, but also the sense of passion that she wants to connect, educate, and learn Torah with people.”
Growing up in a religious household, Dr. Stone was able to foster a strong connection with Judisam through influential role models and enriching educational experiences. Her love of knowledge flourished at a young age, as she constantly questioned ideas and beliefs that were widely accepted in her community.
“The most important thing for me about being in education is when you are an educator you are always a learner,” said Stone. “I love learning, I love to know things. I collect books; I am a massive, massive dork! I love the fact that teaching constantly challenges me to learn all the time.”
A small elementary school in London gave Dr. Stone a strong foundation. She continued her education at the Hasmonean High School for Girls, then spent a year in Israel at Michlalah Jerusalem College. After returning to London, Dr. Stone earned her degree in Fine Art and Design at Middlesex University. In order to support herself financially, she worked as a tutor and private teacher. These first experiences with education cultivated her love for teaching.
This new found passion led Dr. Stone to work in a London high school, JFS, for six and a half years. During this time she earned a Bachelors in Humanities, and received her MA in teaching. The students and colleagues she met at JFS enriched her love for education.
Opening a new chapter in her life, Dr. Stone relocated to New York in 2012. Working as the Associate Director of Education for the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), Dr. Stone was able to work on various projects, such as JUMP and Yarchei Kallah. Additionally, Dr. Stone authored the Koren NCSY Siddur, helping students learn and connect to Judaism. She then served as the program director at a Jewish community center on the Upper East Side. This period of time began her shift towards a more informal type of education, as she entered the world of programming and managing. Missing the educational aspect of her life, Dr. Stone returned to teaching by earning her Doctorate in Education at Yeshiva University.
“I think in education, especially Jewish education, there is something that you can see that can really impact a life.” said Dr. Stone.
Along with the students and administration, Dr. Stone is eager to create a robust and sophisticated Judaics program in the high school. Her unique experiences and in depth understanding of Judaism will allow her to implement new and innovative ideas. Additionally, her love for learning will help her foster connections with diverse groups of students.
“I am really excited to see how the new Direct of Judaic Studies will really revamp our Judaic curriculum and enhance all of our Torah learning.” said Esther Nahon (12th Grade). “I look forward to seeing how our high school will overall benefit and improve from this addition to our staff.”