HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


by Editor Issue: Teaching Tanakh

Presented here is a sample of the responses to Michael Berger’s article “Developing a Theory of Jewish Day School Leadership” on pages 24-26 of the spring issue. The article generated a robust discussion with many contributors; to see all of the responses, go to ravsak.org/hayidion/avichai.

Susie Tanchel, Watertown, MA

Berger’s vision not only has the potential to guide us in our own work, but it also offers us the opportunity to clarify our own vision. I would suggest adding a more explicit statement of the need for a clear vision of teaching and learning. As the core instructional leader, a head needs to have an educational philosophy that she can articulate and use to inspire others. Moreover, I think a head’s “Jewish lens” should stem from a working knowledge of Jewish texts and/or Jewish history and comfort with Jewish tradition and living. Finally, in the same way as learning and reflection are essential stances that a leader takes in an organization, I would add curiosity and active listening to the list of indispensable tools.

Mark Stolovitsky, Dallas, TX

This framework is excellent because it integrates that which we have learned from the independent school world and the specific niche that is Jewish day school. But I do not think that many lay leaders understand the factors that make up educational leadership or Jewish educational leadership. This year, I saw this borne out in two very different situations. The first dealt with a compensation committee whose business members kept floating ideas from the private sector only to be met with how educators’ motivations were different. The second came when we were hiring a new K-8 principal: the lay leaders on our Head Advisory Committee told me that hearing and seeing educators interview other educators was an experience that they would not have understood had they not witnessed the interaction.

Nora Anderson, Greenwich, CT

I would like to suggest an additional quality for a successful Jewish day school leader: the ability to effectively confront conflict. In order to do so, a leader must possess a clear vision of the policies and actions that are negotiable and non-negotiable within their institution. These policies need to be clearly communicated to all constituencies, not left for interpretation and upheld if violated. It is the trust and transparency built with the different constituencies that create an environment where disagreements do not lead to disrespect. The ability to confront issues constructively and uphold the integrity of our institutions, whether with a parent, faculty or community member, is a clear indication of an effective leader.

Jill Kessler, Phoenix, AZ

I wish I would have had some of this information when I began in leadership 22 years ago. One point I would add is Establishing School Culture. The head and the leadership team set the tone for the school community. What is the feel of the school? In visiting great schools, there is always a feeling which emanates from the leadership, teachers, students and involved parents. It transcends traditional markers of success—it is all about the people. This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes adherence to the mission of the school and the leadership team to bring everyone together.&daims;

Take part in the conversation! HaYidion welcomes letters to the editor; send your thoughts to Hayidion@ravsak.org.

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Teaching Tanakh

Tanakh (the Jewish Bible, Prophets and Writings) is the cornerstone of Jewish tradition; but how do we take our most ancient text and make it come alive for contemporary Jews? Read how educators deploy an array of methodologies and pedagogies to unlock the treasures of the Tanakh for today’s students.

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