Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School
Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Harold M. Schulweis Day School offers general studies and Jewish studies to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Rabbi Deborah Schuldenfrei began as Head of School on July 1. She earned a joint master’s degree in Jewish nonprofit management and Jewish education at the Hebrew Union College in both Jerusalem and Los Angeles, and she was ordained in 2006.
“VBS Day School provides academic excellence while being mindful of the soul.”
What is your educational philosophy?
“Within each of us is a soul that longs to be nurtured. A soul-centered educational approach acknowledges that a child is a whole person with academic needs, feelings, creative sparks and the ability to think deeply. Honoring young voices is a core principle of education, and the teachers who connect with the heart of the student will have the greatest impact.”
Who mentored you, and how did it impact your career?
“Mentors have taken many forms in my journey. Some have been my teachers. All of my students have taught me profound lessons about learning and life. My parents and siblings always believed in me, encouraged me and supported my decisions. Now my three sons inspire me and root for me. Last week my son hugged me and said, ‘Mommy, I am so proud of you! You are going to be the head of the whole school. That is a big deal!’”
Advice for women going into your line of work?
“Even in 2018, I often meet people who have never met a woman rabbi before. My advice for future educators and rabbis is that there is only one you. You are the only person who writes, teaches, inspires or preaches like you. The earlier you can align your professional self with who you are, the more authentic your work will become.”
What sets your school apart from the rest?
“Our school partners with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to offer our students daily opportunities to make emotions mentionable and manageable. Social emotional learning is the foundation for deeper understanding and personal growth. VBS Day School provides academic excellence while being mindful of the soul.”
What would you like our readers to know?
“As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, alumni parents now send their own children to our school and look to us to prepare their kids for tomorrow. With our strong foundation, we are ready to soar into the next 40 years!”