HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

A Letter of Introduction

by James Gurland Issue: Networking

It has to be bashert that I have the honor and privilege to join RAVSAK as its first Director of Institutional Advancement at precisely the same time that the AVI CHAI Foundation makes an extraordinary and historic commitment to enhancing and strengthening Jewish community day school education with a grant of $2,350,000. As the grandchild of a survivor of the horrors of Buchenwald, and first generation American Jew on my mother’s side, Jewish continuity has been at the forefront of my life both personally and professionally. From the time I spent a year in Israel as a fellow on Otzma II to the present, I find myself becoming more passionate about klal Yisrael, by blending it into the fabric of my being, by ensuring that we will have a Jewish future. Thus, there is no better way to achieve that then by working for an organization, whose “client is the Jewish Future.”

As Director of Institutional Advancement for RAVSAK, I envision my role as a “strategic enabler,” to take the roadmap as set forth in the five year business plan and through the power of philanthropy, make it real, or as Theodore Herzl did with his words, “If you will it, it is no dream.” To do so, moreover, in partnership, with the incredible staff of RAVSAK under the visionary leadership of Marc Kramer as well as the Board of Directors, all of whom I am looking forward to working with.

So exactly, how will we do this? I will be the first to tell you, that these are indeed challenging days for those who wish to advance their missions with the help of philanthropy. Yes, we do know that while giving in the US is growing, it will take 10 more years to get back to the level it was in 2007. Yes, we do know that the Jewish community in North America is facing what may be defined as the “Second Great Jewish Contraction.” But one thing is undeniable: in a rapidly changing Jewish world and day school landscape, RAVSAK remains compellingly relevant.

It is the fact that RAVSAK is not only compellingly relevant, but it is in a way that I believe it can succeed philanthropically. The numbers speak for themselves, and were validated by AVI CHAI. Now we need to take it to the next level. During the next few years, we will work to strengthen RAVSAK as an organization that is one of the best places to advocate, promote and support Jewish day school education—thus making it a great venue for philanthropists interested in supporting Jewish day schools and making a significant contribution to the Jewish community.

We will endeavor to create an infrastructure, within the confines of our resources, that will enable philanthropists to have a deep, profound and personal connection to our mission. We will build relationships that allow philanthropists to realize their dreams, fulfill their missions and have an impact that will not only benefit many, but will inspire others to do so as well.

Just as we look to develop the best and brightest through our hallmark programs such as SuLaM, so will we engage philanthropists to collaborate with us on projects of unprecedented influence and innovation.

Just as day school education offers a spiritual enlightenment for our precious children, so can it offer growth and satisfaction for philanthropists who wish to partner with us by not only maintaining its compelling relevance but strengthening it.

As I take the next few weeks to become more familiar with RAVSAK’s team both lay and professional, I welcome the opportunity to network with you, meeting, learning from and most of all listening to you—to hear of your dreams, your visions and how we, in partnership, can strengthen the Jewish future.♦

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A “network” is not a static affiliation; it suggests a brightly flickering web of filaments, ever-changing and forging new links. Networks are also increasingly the mode in which individuals operate daily and through which they receive information and collaborate on projects. Discover ways to conceive of and practice networked learning among school stakeholders, between schools, and reaching far beyond for professional and personal growth.

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