In the Issue: Collaboration
Two are better off than one, for they have greater wages from their labor. … A threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Kohelet 4:9, 12)
Welcome to the first Prizmah edition of HaYidion! When Theodor Herzl laid out his dream for a Jewish state in then-Palestine, he called it Altneuland, Old-New Land. On a much more modest scale, this issue represents an old-new HaYidion. For those of our readers who have been following HaYidion for years, you’ll notice many new features and columns (discussed below). For others who are reading HaYidion for the first time, congratulations on joining the community of day school professionals and lay leaders who read these pages regularly, seeking guidance and inspiration on essential and exciting developments impacting our field. Brukhim ha-ba’im!
Collaboration is a natural theme to begin this new issue of HaYidion, under the auspices of Prizmah. The merger of the five organizations has unleashed creative energies, surprising synergies, and the sense of tremendous promise in the ways that we can collaborate with each other and the thousands of day school stakeholders. As I type these lines, I sit in an office with 11 of my colleagues, lodged in a start-up suite called WeWork—not surprisingly, the invention of folks from the Start-Up Nation. We are joined by 23 other colleagues spread from Florida to Canada. At our web meetings, the far-flung participants light up the screen like the stones on the High Priest’s breastplate. Believing in the importance of in-person collaboration, we recently held a two-day staff retreat where we got to know each other better and discuss ways to advance our work. Our retreat was a version of the day school conference to be held in Chicago in February, where we hope that you will have the opportunity to recharge your batteries and deepen your connections with colleagues from throughout the field.
HaYidion itself is of course a collaboration, representing the remarkable generosity of dozens of day school stakeholders and other contributors who are willing to share their knowledge, experiences, initiatives and insights for the benefit of the larger field of Jewish education. Lesser known is the collaboration of our thought partners from the field who serve on HaYidion’s editorial board. The Prizmah staff have all pitched in in numerous ways, some visible in this issue, many others behind the scenes with advice, ideas, expertise and good fellowship. Acharon acharon chaviv, I am blessed to share the work of editing with my trusted partner and friend Barbara Davis. Barbara is the retired head of school of the Syracuse Jewish Day School; she is the author of many books —simultaneously!— and can fix an English sentence better than a winner on MasterChef can improve a mediocre dinner. She has taught me the true joy of professional collaboration, with no difference whether we agree or not on a writer’s position or period.
Articles in this issue demonstrate an eagerness to embrace new educational paradigms, to rethink the foundations of day school education and revamp programs in ways large and larger, to dream big and do the patient work to follow through. The writers here evince several principles in action: a willingness to take risks; acknowledging and defying challenges; thinking holistically/globally; and connecting or smashing silos. Authors in the first section take different approaches to solving day school challenges within a larger system of connectivity. Matsa and Hammerman describe how leading funders in Chicago and Metrowest, New Jersey, have created the infrastructure of collaboration to strengthen all the local day schools at once, while Fishman shows a funder doing the same at the national level. Goren and Malkus promote the role of research in addressing systemic issues. Buckman envisions day schools collaborating within an ecosystem of Jewish establishments to provide a rounded Jewish education. And Kania and Kramer lead off of the issue with a vision of how major stakeholders from different sectors can collaborate to address the most intractable challenges.
The next series of articles considers the role of day school leadership in fostering collaboration. Gill reveals a case where lay leaders needed to disregard accepted best practices in their relationship with professionals in order to reset the course of the school. Grebenau recounts the process of ushering a change toward collaborative school culture, and Lindner explores the psychological challenges that leaders confront in changing to a collaborative style. Articles by Hoffman and Rothblum and by Kalikow suggest ways for day school and synagogue leaders to collaborate for mutual benefit, both in recruitment and programming.
A group of short articles included in each issue gives schools an opportunity to present programs and initiatives connected to the theme. Here, eight schools showcase innovative collaborations in which their students are engaged. The final section provides a lens on teacher collaboration. Powell proposes that faculty space can play a pivotal role in enabling collaboration. The issue of cross-curricular collaboration, between Judaic and general studies, is explored for its pedagogical value (Tapper and Weiss) and its institutional value (Feldman). Wall and Golbert offer ways that schools can implant habits of teacher collaboration, and Zakai and Appelbaum draw lessons from a project that brought together day school Israel educators.
Finally, I’d like to draw attention to a host of new features in this Prizmah issue. Our designer has crafted a new look and feel, not a radical departure from past issues but one that takes account of Prizmah’s brand and enhances the sense of new beginnings and innovation. We’re pleased to introduce readers to the voice and vision of our CEO, Paul Bernstein. Be sure to read his words with the delightful cadence of his British accent in your ear! Our board chair, Kathy Manning, starts off our board column with a stirring combination of organizational vision and personal story. This issue inaugurates several new features: Innovation Alley, describing a school that is radically innovative and reflecting on what day schools might learn; Commentary, reactions by day school leaders to a notable quotation related to the issue theme, inspired by the traditional Jewish practice; The Advice Booth, with a Prizmah staffer answering a salient question concerning day school practice; and On My Nightstand, a collection of short book reviews and recommendations from Prizmah staff.
We wish our readers a shanah tovah umetukah—a sweet new year to Jewish day schools everywhere.