by Shiela Steinman Wallace, Editor
“The High School of Jewish Studies is very excited to announce the hiring of Sarah Harlan as the new principal,” said Board President Liam Felsen recently. “The Board undertook an extensive search, and we are confident that Sarah is the right person for the job. We are all looking forward to a great year, and to providing new, exciting Judaic core curriculum, electives, and confirmation studies to our 9th and 10th grade students.”
Harlan, too, is excited about her new position and the opportunities it gives her to help young people connect to their Judaism.
While the position of principal is new to Harlan, she’s an experienced religious school teacher and has formal training as an administrator. She’s been teaching at The Temple for 12 years and taught at Temple Israel in Memphis before that.
She earned her Masters degree in Public Health from UCLA’s School of Public Health with an emphasis in Health Services Management and has a B.A. in human biology from Stanford. With that background, she said, “I understand general management and administration,” and she believes the basic skills will translate well to administering the HSJS.
In addition, she has done a lot of volunteering. She’s currently in her third year as president of the St. Francis Parent Association, and prior to that, she served three years as president of the Collegiate Parent Association. She will also draw on her experience as the parent of three current or former high school students.
Harlan has a core group of skilled, dedicated teachers, both clergy and lay, who will be returning this year, and she will add some new teachers to the mix. She wants to ensure that the faculty can engage the students and elicit positive responses from them.
“This year,” she said, “we really want to re-energize the school and make sure every student who’s going wants to be there.” To achieve that goal, she is striving to create “a nice balance between traditional academics and experiential learning. We’ll be going out into the community and doing things,” she said, “and there will be plenty of time for students to socialize with their friends.” She feels one of the best things about the HSJS is the time it affords students to be with kids from other congregations.
“And of course, we’ll still feed them,” she added.
Harlan realizes that the High School of Jewish Studies’ purpose is to build strong Jewish identities. “I know kids today are a lot busier than we were,” she observed, “but it is so important that every student who comes through feels extraordinarily grounded in his or her Jewish identity. We’ll be sending them off to college, and we really want them to have a strong sense of who they are.”
Reaching out to parents is also an important part of her plan. “We want parents to feel very connected to the school,” she said. “I’m going to work very hard to make sure parents are kept up to date, in the loop, and that they know what’s going on.
“We welcome their participation, too,” she added, “as substitute teachers or on field trips.”
Harlan is also cognizant that the High School of Jewish studies is just one of Louisville’s Jewish agencies. “We, like the other schools,” she said, “rely on funds from the Federation’s Annual Campaign for our budget, and we’re going to create the absolute best program we can within our budget. I hope that the community and our parents realize that by supporting the Campaign, they’re supporting us, Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad, The Temple Religious School and other agencies in town.”
“I’m really excited about the school year,” she concluded. “This is a very new thing for me, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. … We really have the opportunity to turn this into a premier community Hebrew high school experience. Down the road, I’d like to see it going beyond confirmation.”
Harlan is a member of the Jewish Community of Louisville’s Board of Directors, and this year she served as Super Sunday chair. She has been an active member of the CenterStage Board since 2007 and has chaired the successful Light Up CenterStage fundraiser for four years. She also chaired the JCC’s Jewish Festival of the Book for several years.
With National Council of Jewish Women, Louisville Section, she’s a new director, a member of the Nominating Committee and has worked with the Adopt-a-School program. She has been teaching at The Temple Hebrew School for a number of years, and will continue to do so in addition to her new duties with the HSJS.
Harlan and her husband, Michael, have three children, Jennifer, 23; Sadie, 19; and Joseph, 17.