In some ways the appointment of Dr. Jeffrey (“Jeff”) Davis as the new head of school at Tarbut V’Torah represents a chance for the longtime educator to come home. In other ways it is the next logical step in a career that emphasizes a desire for creating both academic excellence and Jewish continuity.
Born and raised in San Jose, Dr. Davis moved to Palm Springs and then Orange County. He has fond memories of summers spent as a lifeguard in Newport Beach. He began his teaching career in Orange County as well, first as a social science teacher at Niguel Hills Junior High School and then as vice principal and director of student activities at San Clemente High School, before becoming principal at Coronado High School in San Diego.
With a background in public schools, a secular education and a secure position at a school that won many awards (Coronado High School was named one of the best public schools in America and was honored as a blue ribbon school under his leadership.), Dr. Davis was recruited to become the principal of the upper school at the San Diego Jewish Academy. He originally turned it down, but he was motivated by “great personal ambition.” Then something really clicked.
Dr. Davis, who holds a B.A. from California State University, Chico, and an M.S. and Ed.D. from Pepperdine University, “began in earnest” to learn about Judaism. He joined a synagogue, took classes and went to the Shalom Hartman Institute for further studies. “I decided this was what I was supposed to be doing, and my personal ambition was for the institution,” he said.
During his tenure at the San Diego Jewish Academy, Dr. Davis began to connect more closely with Israel. He became friends with the director of the academy’s sister school in Har Negev on the Gaza border. Dr. Davis and his wife led a bicycle trip across Israel to raise money for the school in Har Negev, raising $100,000.
“My father talked about how his father had bought land in Israel,” he added. “My friend’s sister works for the bureau of land management, so I was able to discover that the land is near Tiberias and to find the original paperwork from 1948. It’s a quarter acre with a view of the Kinneret. Someday, I want to build a bed and breakfast on it. Meanwhile, I took stones from it to put on my father’s grave to establish a connection.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Davis understood another kind of connection as a result of his experiences in Israel. “There is no better way to build a bond with Israel than to have kids go there in their teens,” he said.”
After serving at the San Diego Jewish Academy for 13 years, Dr. Davis decided that he was “ready to be a head of school.” He wanted to find a pluralistic Jewish community day school “with an excellent academic program steeped in Jewish values.” With his passion for Jewish continuity, he wanted to be “connecting kids to Judaism in a meaningful way,” including the trip TVT students take to Israel and Poland at the end of their junior year.
Dr. Davis said it was “nice to have my personal passion 100 percent in sync with the school, so that it often doesn’t feel like work.” He sensed that TVT was a perfect fit for his philosophy.
According to Sharon Berman, chair of the TVT board of directors, “Dr. Davis strongly believes in the ethics, values and education within a pluralistic Jewish day school environment and has spearheaded a number of efforts that demonstrate the value he places in tikkun olam. He is a champion of Jewish Day School education. He has been described as a superstar having the utmost respect and admiration from not only his students and the parent body, but from the faculty, staff and community as well.”
Dr. Davis believes that his personal beliefs and the mission of the school tie in well. He wants to continue to provide an excellent academic program that prepares students for college while maintaining the emphasis on and connection to Jewish values. He believes that TVT’s greatest strength is that it combines a rigorous, top-notch college prep program with a meaningful, pluralistic Judaic program.
“We want to keep being the very best at all the things we do,” he concluded. “The future will be exciting as we strive together to have TVT reach the next level of excellence. I look forward to this with great anticipation.”
About Dr. Jeffrey Davis,
Tarbut V’Torah Head of
B.A., California State University, Chico
M.S., Pepperdine University
Ed.D., Pepperdine University
School at the San Diego Jewish Academy
of Student Activities,
Teacher, Niguel Hills Junior High School
For more information, contact Tarbut V’Torah
at (949) 509-9500.