Rabbi Tully Harcsztark - 2017 Award Recipient
Guided by the leadership of Founding Principal Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, SAR High School in Riverdale, New York has become a national model of Jewish education. At SAR, the integration of general and Judaic Studies reflects Harcsztark’s ideal of education as a “fusion of horizons.” Each activity at SAR, from Israeli dancing to discussions of Midrash mixed with literary theory to exuberant pick up games of field hockey and soccer are imbued with a climate of deep respect where students, faculty and staff are invited to engage in open and honest intellectual exploration.
“My parents raised me to live on the border of where tradition and modernity meet. Commitment to Jewish texts and practice can be enriched, they taught me, by openness to the world and to the range of its ideas and cultures. Teaching and learning at SAR has been modeled around this idea. I am deeply committed to helping shape a Modern Orthodoxy that is dedicated to Jewish texts while remaining open to the world; where the integration of these two forces makes Judaism stronger than it would otherwise be; where we are proud of our particularism yet resist insularity; where there is a spirit of respect for the many voices that make up our community. I believe this to be a most noble mission.”
Rabbi Tully Harcsztark is the founding Principal of SAR High School. In that role, he developed the school’s vision and mission and led the design of the original building, which utilized an open educational learning environment. His concept of the “Grand Conversation,” an interdisciplinary notion that Torah shapes our view of the world and the world that we live in guides our understanding of Torah, has been a cornerstone of SAR High School since its inception. In his role, he manages the budget, hires and oversees staff, leads the administrative team, and guides the professional and educational culture of the school.
Rabbi Harcsztark grew the staff at SAR High School from eight to 110 members and increased enrollment from 60 to 525 students. He has developed robust programming for the school, such as the Fine Arts program and a Beit Midrash Fellows program, in which college graduates study Torah with small groups of high school students. Last year, Rabbi Harcsztark opened The Belda Kaufman Lindenbaum Machon Siach, a faculty research center that strives to transform the school into a “thinking institution” and to expand that notion in cooperation with other schools. Machon Siach works to cultivate a field of educational scholarship around issues central to Jewish education, curriculum, and culture. It is focused on integrating deep knowledge and understanding of Jewish texts and practice with the opportunities and challenges afforded by Western culture.
Previously, Rabbi Harcsztark was the Associate Principal of Judaic Studies at SAR Academy, a position he held from 1993 to 2001. In this capacity, he oversaw the first through eighth grade Judaic Studies curriculum, hired and managed staff, oversaw the elementary grades Tefillah program, and taught two Tanakh classes each year. During his tenure, Rabbi Harcsztark placed an emphasis on teacher development and growth, creating a collaborative environment across grades through team meetings and the introduction of a co-teaching model in the lower grades.
From 1994 to 1998, Rabbi Harcsztark served as the Rabbi of Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, NJ. As Rabbi, he delivered Shabbat sermons and classes, taught a weekly children’s Mishna class, and developed a robust youth program. Under his leadership, family membership grew from 35 to 120. Before joining Congregation Keter Torah, Rabbi Harcsztark was a member of the Judaic Studies faculty at The Frisch School, where he was a full-time Talmud and Tanakh teacher and an admissions officer from 1988 to 1993.
In 2000, Rabbi Harcsztark co-founded the Davar Institute, an intellectual community offering lectures, programs, and events in a Modern Orthodox context. At Davar, he also served as Lead Scholar-in-Residence and Co-Director of Programming. Rabbi Harcsztark has authored numerous articles on topics such as American and Jewish law, Modern Orthodox education, feminism and the role of women in Modern Orthodoxy, and Zionism.
Rabbi Harcsztark graduated with a B.A. in Computer Programming from Yeshiva University in 1987 and received Rabbinic Ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1989. In 1993, he completed an M.A. in Medieval Jewish History from the Bernard Revel Graduate School at Yeshiva University.
From His Letters of Nomination and Support
“Tully is the rare educator whose integrity, curiosity, and steadfast commitment to halachic learning, ritual, and practice allowed him to chart the way for the creation of SAR High School. An unusual combination of intellectual brilliance and managerial competence, Tully understood that SAR High School needed to chart its own ideological and educational course. Before launching the school, Tully took a full year to travel around the country and explore a variety of educational models, talking with academics, educators, and senior administrators across the educational spectrum. Only when he was satisfied with his research and felt he had fully developed a vision that was sound and important did he move forward with enthusiasm and grit. Since that time, there has been no initiative in the school that has not borne his imprint.”
Dr. Gail Bendheim
SAR Academy and SAR High School
“Rabbi Tully Harcsztark is a superb textual scholar, one who is constantly looking to the world outside of text for applications to his students and Jewish education. He embraces the world of secular knowledge and sees the intentional meeting of contemporary culture and Orthodox Judaism as imperative and full of astounding potential. When facing a contemporary issue, Tully does not turn only to his scholarship. He truly sees and hears the individuals behind the question. To Tully, SAR High School is home to 600 very individual human beings, of infinite value, strongly bonded to each other by their differences. He creates a climate of mutual respect, encouraging each person to live out the fullest expression of his or her uniqueness.”
Co-Founder and Board Member
International Beit Din
Founder and First President
Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance
“Rabbi Harcsztark and the faculty and administration at SAR demonstrated a tremendous respect for students, constantly engaging with us as partners to whom they were accountable. When a group of students explained that the way some subjects were ‘tracked’ was not working well for them, he listened carefully and changed the organizational structure. Rabbi Harcsztark is a brilliant thinker with a wealth of knowledge and a mastery of Jewish sources. He is well equipped to tackle theological and educational challenges. However, what is truly remarkable is his ability to hear every individual and consider his or her needs. He is deliberate, soft-spoken, and approachable in his interactions. Despite his intellectual strengths, Rabbi Harcsztark welcomes others into the process, inviting them to think and formulate for themselves, pushing by example rather than by force.
SAR High School