Community Blog Welcome Dr. Susie Tanchel
We are so pleased that Dr. Susie Tanchel has joined Hebrew College as Vice President of Community Education, overseeing adult, teen, and professional development programs. Dr. Tanchel comes to Hebrew College from Boston’s Jewish Community Day School (JCDS), where she served as head of school from 2011 through 2020. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, she moved to Boston in 1988 to attend Brandeis University. Before working at JCDS, she was a founding faculty member and associate head of school at Gann Academy. Read the press release
Tell us about your new role?
I’m the Vice President of Community Education, overseeing four main areas at the College: Adult Learning, Teen learning, the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership work, and professional development for rabbis and educators.
I will also be working with President Sharon Cohen Anisfeld on institutional goals, including further integrating the different parts of the college and further building and strengthening Hebrew College’s role in the larger Jewish community and our collaborative partnerships.
Hebrew College’s mission inspires me deeply. I am honored to be a part of enacting this sacred mission and of serving both Boston’s and the broader Jewish community. The main focus of my career to this point has been in day school education; I am thrilled to be expanding my own learning about the diversity and richness of our local and national Jewish communities. I’m looking forward to exploring how Hebrew College can play an even larger role in Jewish life in Greater Boston.
At the same time, throughout my career I have taught a variety of adult education classes. I love that adults bring insights and questions from their extensive life experiences to Torah study. I find our Jewish sources to be among the most fascinating and intriguing texts in the world, and I am delighted when adult learners build bridges between their lives and these texts. In that way the resonance and continued relevance of our Jewish texts becomes even more evident.
For the professional development component of my position, I’m excited to help provide opportunities for professionals to learn and to grow. I deeply believe that continued learning is critical for professionals to stay fresh and invigorated about their own work, which translates to the people they serve, and they also then serve as models for their communities.
You have a distinguished career as a Jewish educator. Tell us about your background and professional interests.
I’ve worked in K-12 pluralistic Jewish education for more than 25 years – briefly at Prozdor, then at Gann Academy, and mostly recently at Boston’s Jewish Community Day School (JCDS). In 1997, I was a founding faculty at Gann and I became Associate Head of School in 2006. I became the Head of JCDS in 2011, and just concluded my tenure there this summer. My role at JCDS was both as an educational leader and as a leader of a non-profit organization. I am excited to further develop both these sides of my leadership practice here at Hebrew College.
I have been pretty consistent in three decades of work – gravitating toward mission-driven pluralistic institutions. Hebrew College is a place of Jewish learning and service – and that’s what I’m all about.
Why are you excited to work at Hebrew College?
I am inspired by the mission of Hebrew College and I’m thrilled to be working with talented educators and dedicated professionals to enact it. I love that HC is committed both to digging deeply into the study of Judaism, Jewish texts, and Jewish education, and to connecting with all who want to learn. I appreciate its placing value on the learning and on the community building. Hebrew College touches different segments of the community – adult community members, teens, future Jewish professional leaders, and the larger interfaith community. I’m excited to contribute to serving and teaching these diverse groups. In addition, Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld inspires me and I’m excited to partner with her in enacting her vision for the college. I felt blessed to becoming a part of another pluralistic institution that embodies joyful Jewish learning.
It’s clear that Jewish pluralism is very important to you. Why?
I grew up attending the one Jewish day school in Cape Town, South Africa. It was de facto pluralistic because the vast majority of Jews all attended that school. That was all I knew, I saw a community coming together and figuring things out – it’s been in my blood since I was a small child. Even if I didn’t always agree with the decisions, as a student leader in my high school, I observed people remaining in community through joyous celebration and challenges.
I became President of Brandeis Hillel in my junior year of college, which is a bustling and fantastic pluralistic organization. In my leadership role, I was part of a team grappling with a diverse set of communal issues that had to listen to multiple voices and make space for different perspectives, and that expanded the joy of community.
At Gann, under the leadership of (former HC President) Daniel Lehmann, I learned about pluralism as a principle, as a guide for building community. I think pluralism is holy work, and the precedent is in our Jewish texts. We are a people with a founding story of multiple opinions, discussion, and even struggle, while staying in community. Valuing diversity is embedded in our history and I believe is a critical part of our strength as a People. This was a large part of my work while at JCDS, that is, integrating throughout the educational program, the habits of heart and mind necessary to engage in a pluralistic community. I think that the world can use more models of pluralism – how do we stay connected and in community even when we see things differently? I believe Hebrew College is an inspiring and exciting institution grappling with some of these same questions.