Alumni Profile: Joey Small ’05YC ’09BR ’13A
When he began his academic career at Yeshiva University’s Yeshiva College, Joey Small (’05YC ’09BR ’13A) knew he was in the right place to further the values he’d grown up with in Los Angeles, California—a life dedicated to Jewish living and learning, deeply rooted in both spiritual and worldly knowledge and a commitment to the State of Israel.
“Many of my close friends attended secular universities and after I would visit them for Shabbat or a Jewish holiday, I always returned to YU with a renewed sense of appreciation,” he said. For Small, things just felt right at YU: “I felt like my internal Jewish compass was aligned with the structure and environment that YU provided. The camaraderie and sense of achdut [unity] I felt lighting Chanukah candles with dozens of fellow students, or enjoying a Purim seudah at a Rosh Yeshiva’s home, or celebrating Yom Haatzmaut with hundreds of other students who shared my passion for Israel, or gathering together for a tehillim rally on behalf of Jews in Israel or somewhere else on the globe—all of it made me feel like I was at home with my extended family.”
What Small didn’t realize at the time was that one day, he’d be taking those YU values back to California as the University’s West Coast Regional Director.
As an undergraduate, Small was a Biology major in the pre-med track. He also spent four years on the men’s volleyball team, eventually becoming captain. He credits these extremely demanding, time-intensive areas of focus for preparing him to succeed after graduation. “I think that the work ethic I had to develop at YU as a pre-med student athlete prepared me for the 15 hour work days I would encounter later in life,” said Small. “I learned that I did not have to compromise on either side of the curriculum that I had been studying. I also really valued the opportunity to participate on an NCAA team and to represent the Jewish people through our team’s conduct and behavior on the court—I was especially proud when we had a home game and we played Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva, after the American anthem.”
After graduation, an opportunity to become a teacher and student activities coordinator at Small’s high school alma mater, YULA High School, changed his career plans from medicine to Jewish education. He returned to YU to launch a new teacher fellowship program at its newly-formed Institute for University School Partnership, earning his master’s degrees in the process from both the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. “I loved my time working at the YU School Partnership and developed close relationships with many yeshiva and day school teachers and administrators from across the country,” said Small.
At the same time, he and his wife, Dana, served on the educational staff of the Manhattan Jewish Experience. In 2011, Small also became an associate professor at the City College of New York, teaching a course on Jewish mysticism —the topic he had focused on in his studies at Revel.
In 2012, the Smalls headed west again as Joey became the director of institutional advancement at YULA Boys High School, overseeing the school’s development, admissions, marketing and alumni efforts—and earning his MBA at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. Now, Small is back at YU as its Western Region Director, leading the University’s development efforts on the West Coast, helping a variety of University departments coordinate their efforts with schools and shuls in the area. He will also work to make sure alumni stay connected and that the Greater L.A. Jewish Community is aware of YU and its important place in the American Jewish Community.
“When I was on my way to Los Angeles three years ago, President Joel told me I’d be back at YU —and I am glad that I am,” said Small. “As someone who grew up in Los Angeles, I am very excited to have the opportunity to bring regional YU programs to the West Coast and to add value to the Los Angeles community through an increased YU presence.”
Now raising a family of his own—Small has two young sons, Noam, 5, and Ezra, 3—Small is especially aware of the role YU plays in instilling and ensuring the continuation of the Jewish values that have been so important to him all his life. In his role as Western Region Director, he is determined to bring the best of YU to every aspect of Jewish living out west: “I need to do my part to ensure that my child’s teachers continue to be trained by the best in Jewish education at the Azrieli Graduate School and receive ongoing professional development through the YU School Partnership,” he said. “I value having a shul rabbi that shares my outlook on building a strong Modern Orthodox Jewish community, which is something that the rabbinical students at RIETS are trained to do. I also value having my community’s lay leaders network with other communities through networking conferences, like those run by the Center for the Jewish Future.”
For now, Small can’t wait to roll up his sleeves and get to work. “There are many West Coast donors and philanthropists who already understand the importance of YU’s mission; I’m excited to work with these partners to build a stronger community as well as connect with new donors who value Jewish education and Jewish continuity,” he said. “I want to listen and learn from the dreams of our partners and future partners, drawing on the incredible talent and resources of YU to help bring those dreams to fruition.”