HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

From the Editor

by Barbara Davis Issue: Mission & Vision

A man came up to me at a party recently and said, “Well, there are at least two families in this community who want their tuition back from the day school.” Taken aback, I asked, “Why?” “Their sons married non-Jewish girls,” he replied and walked away.

A 1993 essay by Mordechai Rimor and Elihu Katz published by the Guttman Institute in Israel set the stage for this exchange: “Jewish day schools,” they wrote, “are the best vehicle for implementing Jewish involvement and are the only type of Jewish education that stands against the very rapidly growing rate of intermarriage.”

It is very clear to all of us working in the field of Jewish education that matrimonial selection is not the standard against which we seek to be measured; it is nowhere listed in our mission, vision or values statements, nor do we offer money-back guarantees against intermarriage. But what is the mission of a Jewish community day school in the 21st century? What is our true purpose, our reason for being?

In an article entitled “Sex, Lies and Mission Statements,” Cristopher Bart reported that the mission statement was the most popular management tool deployed in recent years by nine out of ten of the world’s leading corporations. However, he notes that while “most commentaries on mission statements imply that superior performance results follow shortly after inception, little evidence exists that proves their true value.”

The foci of this issue of HaYidion are mission and vision. What are our ethics, culture and goals as supporters and sustainers of Jewish education? How do we justify our existence in this new century when, as Rabbi Daniel Lehmann, our conference keynote speaker and lead author, says, “Much of the thought and language that animates contemporary Jewish day schools does not sufficiently capture the imagination of 21st century North American Jews”? How do we make ourselves meaningful and relevant when the very underpinnings of our way of life are being called into question?

This issue of HaYidion is unique. Rabbi Lehmann’s essay, “Beyond Continuity, Identity and Literacy: Making a Compelling Case for Jewish Day Schools to 21st Century American Jews,” forms the basis for a series of brilliant responses that both reinforce and challenge his assertions. Some of our most renowned thought leaders share their expertise and wisdom in thoughtful, thought-provoking and compelling essays that challenge us to reimagine our very core. We tackle the issues on a spectrum from the conceptual to the pragmatic perspectives, from the views of the Rebbe to the concerns of a head of school facing a challenge to the established order. We believe that you will find this issue fascinating, relevant and uplifting and we welcome you to join us in this existential conversation.¿

Dr. Barbara Davis is the secretary of RAVSAK’s Board of Directors, executive editor of HaYidion and retired head of school at the
Syracuse Hebrew Day School in Dewitt, New York.

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Mission & Vision

The key to a school's success is the articulation of a strong mission and vision statement and an administration and board that stick to these ideals. Mission and vision differentiate a school from its peers and proclaims the unique value proposition that the school offers. Reconsider the purpose and mission of Jewish day school education from a variety of perspectives. Then, gain advice for composing a mission statement and discover the range of uses that such a statement can serve.

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