From Pride in the Past to Excitement for the Future
RAVSAK, like Jewish community day schools themselves, has been an exciting if imperfect experiment—an attempt to define and actualize surprisingly complex ideas like “excellence,” “community” and “pluralism” in ways that ultimately enrich the lives of students, support serious Jewish teaching and learning, and strengthen the Jewish community. We have focused on the challenges that face schools that operate independent of a single Jewish perspective, and have made a mission out of helping them tune divergent voices into nuanced harmonies. We have built programs that support leaders and leadership, teachers and teaching, students and study, each with Jewish learning at center stage. We have offered thought leadership and advanced field building. Like all good experimenters, we have been energized by curiosity and have tried to learn from both success and failure.
RAVSAK has been both vehicle and venue for the further development of the ideals of Jewish pluralism. We have been, like the schools we have proudly served, a laboratory for Jewish life in which diversity is understood as an asset and sacred study a constant unifier. We have tried over the years in word and deed to demonstrate that the Jewish community is at its best when it blends the American credo of e pluribus unum with the Jewish value of klal Yisrael into a passionate need to “do Jewish” and to do it together with Jews of all stripes. Almost 20 years ago Marc wrote that the thing that he found most challenging yet most invigorating about Jewish education is how to engage with all sorts of Jews in non-hierarchical and non-coercive ways; now two decades later, we both remain convinced that the key to success lies in mastering this challenge.
As we look back, we take great pride in many things we at RAVSAK have done. We have grown from a small, loosely connected grassroots initiative into an international network of schools and school leaders. From our earliest conferences to the vibrancy of our online Reshet RAVSAK, we have been honored to help connect and network so many people dedicated to Jewish education. We have developed programs that prioritized and promoted serious Jewish learning while simultaneously advancing personal growth, professional growth, and leadership development. Project Sulam for us will always be a standout not only for its reach and impact, but for the deep relationships that began there. Of course, programs like Re/Presenting the Jewish Past and Sulam 2.0 have greatly advanced the field, and the early impact of HoSPEP is simply tremendous.
The growth of this publication, HaYidion, from a mimeographed newsletter into the field-read it has become today, is something that gives us a great sense of satisfaction. So, too, do we take special pride in our move into direct student programs. Wherever we go, we meet people who tell us how much Moot Beit Din, JCAT, Artists’ Beit Midrash and the Hebrew Poetry Contest have meant to them or to their children. It has been a thrill and an honor to be a part of all of these important endeavors, and we are pleased to know that many of these programs will continue into the future.
While we are unquestionably, and we hope understandably, sad to say goodbye to “RAVSAK” qua RAVSAK, at the same time we are deeply satisfied that the value of unity that we have advanced will carry forward into NewOrg. We believe that there is an honest and earnest commitment to serving different kinds of Jewish day schools, al pi darko (each according to its path), and that by providing supports and services from under one roof, we can do so with greater efficiencies and lasting, positive impact. To date, we have heard many say that NewOrg feels exciting because we are bringing together schools despite their differences; we look forward to hearing that the excitement stems from our being together because of our differences.
Our heartfelt thanks to our colleagues at RAVSAK, to all of those who have sat on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors, to our donors, to our member schools, and most of all, to our wonderful families. May we all continue to go me-chayil el-chayil.