Head of School Helena Levine Wants to Impact the Jewish Future
The path to becoming the head of a K-12 Jewish day school does not usually begin in the psychiatric unit of a children’s hospital, but for Helena Levine, head of school at Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, the connection is clear and direct.
“Working with children has always been my passion, and after working with the most severe childhood cases, I sought to combine the therapeutic orientation of my clinical social work training with a preventive approach,” said Levine. “If we can develop strong, resilient individuals grounded in Jewish values, then the kind of work that we do in our schools can have a dramatic effect on the future of the Jewish people.”
Levine joined Donna Klein Jewish Academy (DKJA) as a guidance counselor when the high school was in its infancy. She and her husband chose to move to the Boca Raton community with their three young children specifically because of the strength of the school and its community.
Participating in DSLTI—a program of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education—made a huge impact on Levine as she transitioned from guidance counselor to principal and then eight years ago to head of school. “I have attended most programs available for heads of school, and DSLTI really stands out for what it provided to me in terms of our cohort and the excellent mentors,” she said. “Being on the JTS campus for two summers was incredible.”
Levine shared that DSLTI created an incredible opportunity for her professionally and personally through the unique intersection and blending of rich spiritual content led by inspiring rabbis coupled with outstanding pragmatic learning opportunities.
From DSLTI guest speaker Rae Ringel, Levine learned a lesson that informs her leadership and the role she sees for her school in the broader Jewish community. “Rae framed that a head of school’s work should be seen through the lens of purpose,” she recalls. “We were trained to ask ‘for the purpose of what?’ when thinking about our decisions, making sure we always keep the end in mind.”
“The purpose of Donna Klein Jewish Academy is pivotal for our community as the leading community Jewish day school in Palm Beach County,” Levine explained. “Families come here from all denominations and from around the world. For many families, the school is their primary connection to Jewish life.”
She sees her work at DKJA as the fulfillment of her personal and professional passion and purpose that perfectly aligns with the preventive approach she recognized early in her career. “We know that what happens at DKJA will make a difference not just in our South Florida community but in the global Jewish community for generations to come.”