HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the CEO: Inspiring Each Other

by Paul Bernstein Issue: Jewish Inspiration Prizmah

 It is a pleasure to welcome back readers to the second Prizmah edition of HaYidion, published as Prizmah enters the second half of its launch year. What our authors so generously share in these pages adds I hope to the vast universe of Jewish texts, religious and otherwise, that so richly inspire our communities through the generations.

With writings accumulated over the millennia available to us, the question is, How can we most effectively learn and develop ideas that will guide our future? We must continue to read our sources, most of all the Torah itself. But the Talmud (Berakhot 63b) teaches us that “Torah is only acquired in a group” (chavurah). Only? Strong word, indeed. According to Midrash Rabba, Rabbi Chama Bar Chanina said, “Just as a knife can only be sharpened only on the side of another, so the disciple of a sage can only become sharpened by his chaver” (friend).

Educators are constantly seeking to inspire the next generation of Jewish youth to be their best and to lead productive, positive, Jewish lives. Prizmah was founded to help day school educators enhance that experience and help them be more successful in serving children. Yet the role of a school leader, indeed frequently the role of a teacher, can be lonely. If Torah is truly acquired only in a group, how much more can we achieve for young, bright Jewish minds by sharing and learning together among our schools?

As anyone who has learned in a chevruta knows, the richness of experience side-by-side with a fellow learner is beyond parallel. Moreover, often the chevruta meets in the company of other pairs also learning together. The shared experience of many chevrutot in one place brings greater richness to what and how we learn. And the highest level of success in a chevruta is achieved when each participant brings all their energy and commitment into the pair and into the wider community learning.

The Prizmah team, executives and board are deeply committed to enhancing the day school field and making the connections that maximize schools’ learning opportunities. To build the most effective organization serving the day school field, we are learning with your guidance every day. As our board chair, Kathy Manning, describes in her column, we have been visiting and meeting with professional and lay leaders across the field to learn and help guide what Prizmah should become.

However, the Prizmah network will only be as strong as our members make it. The same principle of learning in a group (chavurah), whether pairs or more, guides the opportunity we have in Prizmah to maximize our learning together as educators. By gathering together and learning with each other, fully putting our energy into a shared experience, we will maximize the opportunities to enhance our schools. The more each of us puts in, the more we get out of it.

The recent Prizmah Jewish Day School Conference was the largest opportunity in our calendar for shared learning. There conference featured many excellent teachers and speakers, opportunities to hear about ways in which teaching, learning, school management and funding can be improved. But most of all, the conference facilitated the gathering of chaverim—our friends and learning partners. What we learn and gain from the conference directly related to our choice to be there and each to put our whole selves into the experience among peers.

The learning opportunity continues through the year in each person’s engagement with fellow Jewish educators through Prizmah. This is your organization, the place, both physical and virtual, to engage and learn with chaverim. We are seeking your active engagement, which means we are seeking your leadership. That leadership includes helping us know what you need and what will most enhance your work and the lives of the students you serve.

Bill Gates said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” The route to empowerment is to engage actively with each other, and learn together what will best enhance our children’s education. We are each seeking inspiration and the ability to inspire others. I hope that this HaYidion, like all others, plants a seed for you that will grow into a powerful educational experience. I also invite you to learn together with friends in Prizmah, shaping this organization so it may best enhance the day school field and support your school’s success.

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Jewish Inspiration

Day schools aim to transmit a passion for Judaism to their students. Parents send their children to day school because they want them to cultivate a love of Judaism in all its dimensions. The articles in this issue explore the vital but elusive notion of Jewish inspiration from various angles. How do we define it, measure it, and recognize when we've achieved it? What does a school need to do to become a place that inspires students, faculty and all who work there? In what ways can schools undertake a process of change to improve in their work of inspiring students? And what do students and alumni tell us inspired them? Come to read, learn and be inspired for your work in Jewish education. 

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