The Yeshiva of Central Queens is thrilled to announce that Rabbi Stephen Knapp has been appointed the inaugural Principal of YCQ’s Junior High School, effective July 2023. This is a newly created position that will elevate the Junior High School (JHS) to even greater heights.

Rabbi Knapp is a well-respected and distinguished Jewish educator with decades of teaching and administrative experience. For the past six years, he has served as the Principal of Grades 1-8 at the Hillel Yeshiva in Deal, New Jersey. Under his leadership, Hillel achieved unprecedented growth in academic initiatives, student engagement, culture, and student registration.

“I am honored and excited to join the leadership team of YCQ, an iconic institution in our community, known for its rigorous academic program, rich Torah education, and warm and supportive culture,” remarked Rabbi Knapp. “I have already had the pleasure to visit the Yeshiva on multiple occasions, and I have observed firsthand the kindness, the energy, and the diversity of YCQ. These are special qualities that I hold dear and aspire to in both my personal and professional life,” he added.

Rabbi Knapp possesses an unparalleled passion for Jewish education, and particularly has significant experience educating students in Grades 6-8. He previously served as the Assistant Principal of Middle School and Assistant Principal of Judaic Studies at Westchester Day School, and Middle School Principal at North Shore Hebrew Academy.

He recognizes that these years are a critical juncture in one’s life and is excited to facilitate the growth and development of YCQ’s Junior High School students. He is looking forward to helping guide students as they develop their personalities, aspirations, and strengths, inside and outside of the classroom.

Mrs. Natalie Rakhminov, YCQ parent, trustee, and member of the Search Committee, was extremely impressed with Rabbi Knapp. She specifically noted how beneficial it is that he has worked in yeshivos that have diverse student bodies similar to YCQ. “I wish him much hatzlachah and hope to continue working with him to make the Yeshiva an even better place for the future generation,” she said.

Since its inception, YCQ has always provided its students with the highest quality of education, in both Limudei Kodesh and General studies, with the goal of creating b’nei and b’nos Torah that will change the world. Rabbi Knapp is the perfect candidate to lead this mission for the Junior High School.

Rabbi Knapp described how he strives to show students “how the Torah speaks to us today in our lives,” through Tanach, Torah SheB’al Peh, and Halachah, and believes that a general studies program should be simultaneously rigorous and creative. “Each student should feel like an individual and have his or her strengths tapped into and encouraged and channeled,” he stated.

“Rabbi Knapp is deeply committed to tapping the potential of each student, developing a love of learning, and a love of Yiddishkeit,” noted Rabbi Mark Landsman, Principal of YCQ. “Not only is Rabbi Knapp an extraordinary educator, he is an ideal role model for our community,” he added.

Rabbi Shaul J. Kassin, Rosh Yeshivah of Hillel Yeshiva, shared a similar sentiment. “As principal, Rabbi Knapp was able to set the tone for the entire school, a tone of sterling midos, because that’s the way he carried himself. One of Rabbi Knapp’s greatest strengths is that his personality springs forth beautiful character,” he said.

Informal education experience is also one of the many skills Rabbi Knapp wields in his toolkit. He served as the Director of Chinuch at Camp Nesher, and most recently served as an educator on the United States delegation to the Maccabiah Games in Israel. He also credits his experience with NCSY for leading him towards a path of Jewish education. He recognizes that education is not limited to the four walls of the classroom and will work to enhance the already strong atmosphere of positive Jewish experience throughout YCQ.

The appointment of Rabbi Knapp continues to build upon the momentum of other significant developments in the Junior High School at YCQ of late. In the past few months, students have demonstrated significant academic and character growth, alongside unparalleled ruach.

The team that has accomplished fostering this environment has been led by Rabbi Mark Landsman (Principal) and Mrs. Melissa Cohen (K-8 General Studies Associate Principal). Mrs. Esther Lowinger (Interim JHS General Studies Assistant Principal), who has taken on new responsibilities this year, as well as Rabbi Moshe Hamel (Interim JHS Judaic Studies Assistant Principal) have been critical partners in the recent academic success of the JHS.

Morah Mashie Kopelowitz (Judaic Studies Instructional Leader K-8) and Dr. Emily Witty (Director, ELA Curriculum and Professional Development, K-8) have also been instrumental in taking YCQ’s curricula, in both Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol, to the next level. With their decades-worth of combined experience and extensive knowledge of the latest research, they work closely with one another to align the goals of both departments.

They have introduced new programs and philosophies in reading and writing in English and Ivrit, and other Judaic subjects. They have established more accurate assessments that provide meaningful data that they analyze to best serve the needs of every student. Dr. Witty and Morah Kopelowitz deliver model lessons and meet regularly with teachers to provide guidance and support.

Mr. Jacob Grossman, the inaugural Director of JHS Student Life and Activities, has organized a variety of trips, events, and new initiatives, and has built strong relationships with many students. His work has brought a new level of positive energy to the student body.

Rabbi Knapp’s presence in YCQ will be a homecoming for his family. Rabbi Knapp’s father-in-law, Dr. Raphael Levine, was a student in the very first graduating class of the Yeshiva, and Mrs. Marcia Levine, the grandmother of Rabbi Knapp’s wife, was a longtime English Language Arts teacher in YCQ’s JHS.

The YCQ community looks forward to formally welcoming Rabbi Knapp in the coming months and is confident that he will inaugurate the position with tremendous success.