By ALAN SMASON
It’s not often that a press release announcing a new position for a top Federation affiliate executive comes from his father, but that’s exactly what happened earlier this week. The original email from Mark Mintz, president of Tulane Hillel bearing official letterhead, trumpeted the recent unanimous appointment of Ron Gubitz as executive director, effective June 29. The email was forwarded and signed by Jeff Gubitz, an obviously very proud papa.
Like his son, Jeff Gubitz, the former Israel and External Affairs manager for the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, is also a graduate of Indiana University. Both have had or are enjoying careers as educators (Jeff is currently a special education teacher in Jefferson Parish). Additionally, both father and son have made metropolitan New Orleans their homes.
Ron Gubitz, who takes over from Rabbi Yonah Schiller, believes his teaching skills and ability to ingratiate with students will give him a decided advantage as he begins to take over the highly successful Tulane Hillel programs.
The younger Gubitz began his teaching career straight out of college with Teach for America. From 2002-2006, he was a corps member, teaching high school students English and other courses at a high school in St. Louis, MO. As it turns out he loved it so much that he elected to become an administrator with Teach for America and did so for an additional four academic years.
In 2010, following his marriage by one week, the educator became a high school principal at the ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy on Constance and Eighth Streets. He and his wife set up a residence and became affiliated with Touro Synagogue.
After working for the school as its top administrator, Gubitz was recruited by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to implement coaching and mentoring, helping schools to integrate the arts into their academic regimes. It was through his association with both Teach for America and the Kennedy Center’s Turnaround Arts that he ended up speaking to the White House and meeting with the Obamas.
As if raising a family and traveling two weeks out of every month for Turnaround Arts speaking to principals and non-profit executives weren’t enough over the last three years, Gubitz also co-founded an online teaching resource called Whetstone Education. He serves as a board member and is the founder of Hip Hop Congress, a nonprofit dedicated to utilizing hip hop in low-performing schools to empower young artists and individuals.
It was early in March that he heard about the position at Hillel becoming available. His sister, a rabbi living in Boston, had heard about it and immediately contacted him about submitting an application. So did two of his close friends. They all thought he would be perfect for the job.
“The more I learned about the organization and what Yonah and the team had built, the more I wanted this job,” he told the CCJN in an exclusive phone interview. As he continued further into the interview process, he became ever more committed. “I knew each time I was meeting with someone that I wanted this role.”
With the phenomenal success at Tulane of Rabbi Schiller, who was named as one of the top 50 Jewish influencers in the nation by the Jewish Forward, Gubitz knows he does not have to re-invent the wheel.
“Frankly the success they’ve had could have been intimidating to someone coming in,” he confided. “On one level, I’m really thinking how do I come in and listen and analyze and understand what is going really well, which is a lot of things.”
He said he might examine several things to determine if they might to change them or shift them, but primarily his first year will involve a great deal of analysis and consideration for what the team has already put into place.
Gubitz is also very impressed with the open and inclusive environment Schiller and his team set up at Tulane in order to build relationships.
He feels that his new job at Hillel will largely be to prepare students spiritually and personally to prepare them for their next stage of life. “I want us at Hillel to continue to serve and provide and develop the students who we get to work with in all of those areas so that they’re ready to move after they graduate into the world and do the great things that we know they are going to do.”
A couple of years back, he visited the Goldie and Morris Mintz Center for Jewish Life on Broadway, the new facility on Broadway, which he will now call his office. “I’m looking forward to getting back there,” he continued. “I know it’s an incredible thing. We should be really grateful to the Mintz family and to everybody who supported it.”
Gubitz concluded by saying he anticipates a smooth transition as Tulane University prepares to greet its first students on campus on August 19 since the coronavirus pandemic emptied the Uptown campus in March.