In the Issue: Catalyzing Resources

“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them; they’re not just lying around on the surface.”
Ken Robinson

This issue tells the story of the diligence and ingenuity that Jewish day schools employ to catalyze resources in support of their students. The term “resources” are often equated with funds, money. Of course, financial resources are essential for running anything, but they are only one part of the larger tapestry that comprises the potential and actual resources of a school. And financial resources cannot be raised, saved, summoned, spent—“catalyzed”—outside of the totality of capital, especially human and social, that makes of a school a living organism.

The first meaning of “resource“ in the dictionary is “support.” A school’s resources are all of the things that support the school’s educational mission. The word’s etymology offers a different metaphor: “resource” derives from the Latin resurgere, to rise again, resurgent. Resources are the suppliers of life-giving energy that enable schools to stay fresh, relevant, to continue to renew themselves in service of their students. The root word “source” has the meaning of “well” or origin of a body of water; in Judaism, a “well” is a metaphor for knowledge and inspiration, for Torah in its largest sense. Appropriately, then, the Hebrew word for resource, mashav, derives from the same word used to draw water from a well. In the words of the popular song, Ve-shavtem mayyim be-sasson mimayyenei ha-yeshu’a, You shall draw water joyously from the wells of redemption.

When the authors in this issue talk about “catalyzing” a school’s resources, they have in mind two different ways of supporting and raising their schools. The first is to bring new resources into the school, resources that exist outside of the school: financial, intellectual, educational, artistic and many other forms of resources. The second is to work with the resources that already exist in the school and to make greater use of them. A school’s resources are not infinite, but they are fungible, renewable; the more that we look for them, the more resources we find. They include:

  • The resources we have around us, our students, families, faculty, staff and administrators
  • The physical site, the buildings and grounds, rooms, lights, paint, utilities
  • Symbolic resources: use of walls, dress, flags, language, etc.
  • Social and emotional resources that we all harbor
  • The community as a resource: how do we use each other, team up to become stronger, to assess our work, to learn and grow

As the articles here demonstrate, the notion of “catalyzing resources” can point to methods that are concrete, successful and reproducible, but at heart it points to magical properties. The term “catalyze,” which derives from chemistry, suggests a magical process: if only we had the right formula or the philosopher’s stone to solve every challenge that day schools face. There is something magical as well in the use of the word “resources” to connote the collective force field of a school—the dynamism, ferment, development over time... Schools connect so many people—“stakeholders” who have a stake in the school’s success, in the children’s development. Think of this issue as a laboratory of ways to mobilize stakeholders and combine elements of a day school to produce new results.

The first section explores ways that schools tap into resources from the circles of communities in which they are embedded. Ahlstrom and Pollin recount the stirring story of the Jewish community’s support for their schools’ resurgence in the wake of devastating hurricanes. Laufer, Starr and Weiser share their experiences in making the most of their schools’ relationships with host synagogues. Two articles describe ways that federations can catalyze resources for schools across the community: Grauer, Held and Petersen on Toronto’s collective fundraising campaign, Rogozen and Winn on Los Angeles’ extensive program in professional development. Across the ocean, dozens of schools in the United Kingdom are joining forces for reasons of economy and development, as explained by Capper and Jowett, while Litwack and Rosenberg discuss ways that US day schools can tap into government support. The next articles describe specific partnerships that have supported day school learning and growth: hospitals and homeless shelters (Kinman-Ford); senior living facility (Keces); camps (Gerstl); university (Peters and Quient).

Our spread from schools showcases lasting resources that students created for their schools. The next section is devoted to methods that day schools have found to maximize resources within the school. Marcus provides a comprehensive primer on school rentals. Christensen describes a method to increase enrollment and revenue. The next two explore innovative symbiotic relationships within the same space: an Orthodox school and a non-denominational shul (Segal); a day school and school with extra learning support (Cashman and Scheinberg). Margrett presents a new platform for sharing lessons in Jewish studies. Leibowitz suggests a way for administrators to support teachers most effectively, and Levine offers considerations for teachers who share the same classroom space.

May the new year bring to your school and all your stakeholders the material and spiritual resources you need to thrive and grow, from strength to strength.

Elliott Rabin
Catalyzing Resources