From the CEO: Levers and Catalysts
It is a long time since I formally studied science, and I continue to be fascinated by how terms from basic physics and chemistry are appropriated for metaphoric use in our daily life. Over the past year, we have been in discussion with many day school stakeholders to help create Prizmah’s strategic plan, which will be rolled out in the coming months. In that process, we have employed terms like “lever” and “catalyst” to articulate how to maximize Prizmah’s role. One definition of a lever is “a mechanical device that moves something that seems intractable.” A catalyst is “a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.” Powerful metaphors indeed for Jewish day schools, the Jewish “change agent.”
As we learn in high school physics, one of the core principles or “immutable laws” is that matter can be neither created nor destroyed, but it can be moved or transformed. We can use tools to nudge atoms and we can trigger chemical reactions, but the core elements remain in a kind of constant state of existence. This idea also comes to mind, somewhat paradoxically, during the High Holiday piyyut when we speak of ourselves as the raw material in the hands of God the creator, at whose will we are shaped or formed. The very tangible metaphor of “medium” in the hands of an “artist” evokes a sense of choice, design and flexibility (on the part of the artist more than the medium, of course). God can remold us, and perhaps by extension we can also transform ourselves, which is one of the highest aspirations of Yom Kippur and the season of repentance.
When we talk about school transformation or change in a field, we employ these physical and artistic metaphors as a way of acknowledging our awareness of the inherent limitations every school faces—finite resources, for one—and also the enormous potential creative power each school possesses to change the lives of so many students. In the year ahead, Prizmah will continue to act as a lever and replicate the enormous power of catalysts. We remain committed to serving you in ways that are relevant and valuable. We are here to meet your needs, to provide the tools you use to deepen the potential of your school and, by extension, each student you serve.
This fall, we will convene the Day School Investor Summit, bringing together philanthropic change agents, dreamers and investors. Attendees will connect personally and gain exposure to multiple strategies and new models to maximize the impact of their philanthropic investments. The summit will provide resources and solutions from experts and peers in philanthropy, marketing and communications, as well as fresh inspiration for investing strategically in local and national day school initiatives. From this catalyzing event, a powerful North American network of donors and influencers will emerge, containing within it the power, passion and determination that can transform the future of day schools.
Similarly, the March 2019 Prizmah Conference, whose theme is “Dare to Dream,” invites day school leaders and professionals to step outside the day-to-day pressures of work and step inside their day school dreams. Participants will reconnect with the motivations that inspired their passions for day school education. Through peer-to-peer encounters and expert-led sessions, participants will be empowered to catalyze their own learning experience. The conference enables us to lever-age the vast potential of the field so that schools can make transformative impact.
Everything Prizmah does starts from the point of view of the school. What opportunities will help schools fulfill their dreams for their students? In this issue of HaYidion, we focus on ways schools access and make efficient use of precious resources. While the pool of resources cannot be considered infinite, we do believe that, with appropriate levers and catalysts, such as expertise, best practices, partnerships and collaboration across community institutions, there are ample opportunities to make progress in areas that had previously seemed intractable and to increase rates of change in dramatic ways. We are excited to celebrate these transformations with you, and we wish you a most dynamic start to the school and Jewish year.