Joseph Telushkin recounts that when President Dwight Eisenhower met with Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, the American president said: “It is very hard to be the president of 170 million people.” Ben-Gurion responded: “It’s harder to be the prime minister of 2 million prime ministers.”
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Leadership is not a job title; it’s a character trait that day schools seek to cultivate in each student and extend to all stakeholders. Starting with Jewish perspectives on leadership, this issue investigates ways to support the leadership of the head of school, recommends leadership qualities to develop among students, and gives guidance for developing leadership in faculty and board members.
The headship can be a very challenging and highly rewarding position. In recent years, schools as well as other non-profit and commercial organizations have found it increasingly difficult to recruit senior leaders. The headship is in a state of crisis, largely precipitated by a number of seminal factors:
There are several theories of leadership and change found in the popular and scholarly literature. Milken Community High School in Los Angeles faces the dilemma of trips and experiential learning just like any other day school in America. What trips are justified? What trips serve to extend the mission of the school? What happens to those who remain behind? How are such trips scheduled and what is the impact of that scheduling? This year, we have made a real attempt to answer these questions through advanced planning, creative problem solving, and changes in leadership paradigms.
At Jewish weddings and happy occasions, watch the group psychology of the circle dance. There are some people who need to be at the center…Some shuffle about in the middle, happy to be part of the fun with no need to attract attention. Others hover at the margins and will not join. They just want to watch. And on every dance floor there is a person in the circle who looks around the room identifying those on the margins, outstretches his or her arm, and invites person after person to be part of the circle. That’s the leader. (Erica Brown,Inspired Jewish Leadership)
This column features books, articles, and websites, recommended by our authors and people from the RAVSAK network, pertaining to the theme of the current issue of HaYidion for readers who want to investigate the topic in greater depth.
We see leadership every day. As Head of School at Wornick Jewish Day School, I see it in Tamra who is a 3rd grade buddy in Tefillah for Reed, a kindergartner, as she runs her finger along the lines in her siddur for Reed to follow along. I see it when Ben helps his classmate into the office for an ice pack for his knee after his friend fell in recess. I see leadership in the mother who asks us to publicize the request for bone marrow of another mother, who doesn’t even belong to our school community. I see leadership in our young second grade teacher who stays late each night, preparing lessons for the next day. Leadership is responsibility and hard work, which bring tremendous satisfaction and from time to time, when we are lucky, results.
The Latin verb “ducare,” root of the word “educate,” means “to lead.” Leadership is thus at the heart of the educational process. The present issue of HaYidion addresses the topic of leadership from many different perspectives.
For nearly two decades, my life has revolved around educational institutions. I’ve been an educator, a consultant working with independent schools and private colleges and universities, and a member of the boards of several nonprofit educational programs. Currently, I teach board members how to help grow philanthropic sustainability through our course “Purposeful Boards, Powerful Fundraising” at The Fund Raising School at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
I had been a Jewish educator for over twenty five years, thrilled and satisfied to be in the classroom as a middle school teacher. Journeying along an incredible path in Jewish education, my life was transformed five short years ago, when the principal of my school (Greenfield Day School in Miami) offered me the opportunity to participate in Project SuLaM, a program presented by RAVSAK and sponsored by AVI CHAI. It was a professional development program that was specifically directed to general studies school leadership looking for a rich and meaningful Jewish experience. I took that opportunity and nothing since has been the same in my life. It takes insightful leadership to recognize the potential of those working closely with you. As a result of this, I quickly learned that when the road to learning is shared, an inspired and committed community can develop.
Writing an article entitled “Nurturing Women’s Leadership in Day Schools” is a bit more complicated than it might seem. While many of the top leaders in Jewish education today are happy to discuss the issue, a number of women declined to have their names included in this piece and only spoke “off the record.” Even in 2009, when gender issues seem like a thing of the past, talking about women’s issues—in any area of Jewish professional life—still doesn’t feel safe to some people. Women fear complaining aloud; nobody wants to be labeled a “troublemaker.”
When I entered high school in 1963 I decided to follow in my sister’s footsteps and joined our local chapter of United Synagogue Youth (USY). I’m not sure what I expected. From a distance, I had observed USYers at some of their activities. They appeared to enjoy the experience. I was particularly impressed with all the ruach.
Q: What do all the following topics have in common: Darfur, energy independence, gay marriage, poverty, Israel, healthcare?
A: They are all issues on which pluralistic day school students attending recent Panim el Panim seminars chose to lobby.
Interacting with teens is an indescribably rewarding experience. Teens are at that unique time in their lives when they are on the verge of independence. They are as intelligent as adults, often quite mature, and usually extremely enthusiastic. One of the greatest opportunities we can offer teens is that of empowering themselves. When providing teens with leadership roles, it is imperative to give them room to be creative, to make mistakes, and even to give them the “freedom to fail.” Given the chance, teens can reach unparalleled heights; if nothing else, their mistakes help build character.
A generation consisting of what are arguably the most well educated Jews in American history is flooding the marketplace of ideas with new strategies for building Jewish community in the 21st century. The broad and sustained investment in Jewish education over the past several decades is reaping high-yield benefits for the Jewish community in the form of a cadre of Jewishly literate, socially-minded, creative entrepreneurs—both lay and professional. They are some of the key leaders of the Jewish “Innovation Ecosystem,” a growing sector of dynamic new organizations that is changing the face of American Judaism.
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