From Jeopardy to Hausner Day School, new head of school brings alchemy

In his career, Jewish educator David Zimand has taught in schools in the Midwest and along the East Coast. Now he adds the West Coast to his résumé. Zimand, 51, has been named head of school of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto. This July, he replaces Julie Smith, who has served as head of school there for nine years.

David Zimand

Zimand comes to Hausner after 12 years in Washington, D.C., serving most recently as assistant head of school for Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capitol. He previously taught at the National Cathedral School for Girls, also in Washington, D.C. In Chicago, he taught at Northwestern University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The St. Louis native said that Hausner made an indelible impression on him when he toured the campus a few months ago.

“I got the sense that in the Bay Area there is a very committed Jewish community, one that thinks creatively about engaging families and children,” Zimand said. “The opportunity to be part of those conversations in the larger Jewish community was very appealing to me.”

Zimand is a product of Jewish day schools and the son of Jewish educators. Though he has taught in both Jewish and non-Jewish settings, he says the Jewish day school is uniquely poised to do things other schools cannot.

“When you combine Hebrew instruction and text-based interpretations of Judaic studies in a curriculum that takes into account the whole child and blend that with ritual and traditional practice, there’s a kind of alchemy other schools cannot match.”

In a letter to parents last month, Hausner board president Tali Ronen said, “David impressed [us] with what he described as his deep and abiding commitments to the mission of community schools like [Hausner] … we have developed an appreciation for his personal warmth, his deep thinking, his passion for Jewish education, and his collaborative approach to leadership.”

Zimand is married and has two teenage daughters. He was also a “Jeopardy” contestant last year, coming in second and the only player to correctly guess the Final Jeopardy answer (author Pearl Buck).

“I won $14,200,” he said. “And because I had winnings I’ve already had experience paying California taxes.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.