Gavi Elkind

Gavi has spent nearly a decade of her career working for the vitality of Jewish day schools, and is deeply committed to the future of the field. She is thrilled to support the growth and development of day school leaders as part of the Deepening Talent team at Prizmah. She is a proud Jewish day school alumna, and a graduate of the DeLeT (Day School Leadership Through Teaching) program at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to joining the Prizmah team, Gavi worked in enrollment management, fundraising, and community engagement for schools and nonprofit organizations in San Francisco and Boston. Most recently, she served as the Assistant Head of School and Director of Admissions at JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School. She holds a BA from Wesleyan University and a Certificate in Jewish Day School Teaching from HUC-JIR.

Ilisa believes that inspired, informed, and supported Jewish day school leaders are the key to healthy schools. As the Senior Vice President, Engagement at Prizmah, Ilisa works to help sustain and advance Jewish day school leadership through coaching and through serving as the director of YOU Lead, Prizmah’s signature leadership development program. Ilisa is a former head of school, an alumna of Cohort 4 of DSLTI (Day School Leadership Training Institute), and a sought after leadership coach with over 18 years of experience in Jewish education. She is a graduate of Barnard College of Columbia University and holds a master’s in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Ilisa earned her certificate of nonprofit board consulting from BoardSource and consults regularly with schools on governance. She is certified in The Leadership Circle Profile™ and earned a certificate in leadership coaching from Georgetown University. Ilisa is also an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) and member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Ilisa is deeply committed to developing strong lay-head partnerships and creating conditions in schools where leaders can thrive.

YOU Lead at 10 Years: Shaping a Field of Adaptive and Empowered Leaders

Ten years ago, Yeshiva University School Partnership launched YU Lead, a leadership development program for Jewish day school educational leaders. The program was a response to two connected needs that the YUSP experienced in the field: the necessity for school leaders to demonstrate adaptive leadership skills to meet the ever-changing needs of 21st century Orthodox day schools, and the absence of formal pathways to leadership for emerging and existing leaders. YU Lead aimed to increase the capacity of leaders to successfully lead in Jewish day schools, strengthen the pipeline and retention of qualified leaders, and build connections among professionals in the field. The program was designed to inspire a transformation in the professional path to Jewish educational leadership, from incidental and haphazard to deliberate and meaningful. 

YU Lead launched in 2012 as the first educational leadership program of its kind in the field. With the input of day school leaders, program leadership incorporated best practices of learning and teaching into the pedagogy, structure and curriculum. The first cohort learned through online asynchronous and synchronous classes, alongside in-person experiences. In order to meet the needs of leaders at different career stages, participants were divided into cohorts with professionals who shared similar positions. The nine-month curriculum comprised a survey course of leadership in day schools, and thought leaders from the field taught units on topics ranging from time management to hiring to Israel advocacy. The program offered participants professional networking opportunities, relevant learning experiences and valuable leadership training.

From YU Lead to YOU Lead

Thanks to the vision and wisdom of its founders, the program today shares much in common with the first iteration of YU Lead, and it continues to evolve and thrive. When Prizmah formed in 2016, the program transitioned from YU Lead to YOU Lead. While the structure of the program has remained largely the same, key elements - particularly in the areas of curriculum, cohort and coaching - have shifted in alignment both with the needs of Jewish day schools, and with research in the broader leadership field. As YOU Lead develops, a commitment to reflective practice on the part of the participants and program administrators remains at its core. This dedication to constant reflection and adaptive practice amid complexity contributes to the continued success of the program in supporting the professional growth of flexible, ethical and resilient Jewish day school leaders.


In the last decade, the curriculum of YOU Lead has shifted in order to prepare participants for the immense and varied challenges of educational leadership. The Learning Leadership Landscape Study, which Rosov Consulting completed in 2017 on behalf of Prizmah with the support of The AVI CHAI Foundation, revealed compelling data about day school leadership development. The study found that capacities - what leaders can do - are important, but insufficient for exceptional communal leadership, while dispositions - how a leader approaches the world - are essential. The study outlined four leadership dispositions - intellectual, emotional, ethical and practical - and asserted that leadership development programs can support participants in cultivating these dispositions through explicit commitments. This research inspired adjustments to the YOU Lead curriculum and content. The program refined its goals by committing to helping aspiring and existing leaders develop the necessary capacities and dispositions for Jewish day school leadership. The curriculum shifted away from a survey course towards a more focused and explicit approach to nurturing leadership dispositions, through modules such as Adaptive Leadership, Giving Effective Feedback, and Difficult Conversations.

YOU Lead alumnus Jason David reflected on the curriculum:

“YOU Lead helps participants learn how to lead effectively and develop practical and relevant leadership skills. The program is driven by thoughtful experiences and reflective practices. I have learned many strategies, best practices and skills. Even more so, I have learned a lot about myself and how I can become a better leader in my field.”

As David suggests, the curriculum supports participants in building relevant knowledge that will expand their skill set and deepen their understanding of key dispositions required for leadership in complex school environments.


In addition to the curriculum, the cohort experience plays a critical role in nurturing participants’ growth as resilient educational leaders. The original cohort model of the program has endured, and YOU Lead now offers three cohorts for participants: one for teacher leaders, for mid-level managers, and for senior administrators. Each cohort is paired with two mentors who build a tight-knit community among their groups by convening monthly dilemmas of practice conversations.

Dita Cooper, YOU Lead alumna, reflected on her cohort experience:

“The conversations that I had with my incredible cohort members impacted my decisions as an educational leader and my vision for the future of Jewish day schools.”

The cohort experience provides participants with a structured environment to practice important dispositions such as empathy and self-awareness, process how the dispositions manifest in actual leadership dilemmas and discuss complex challenges in real-time with trusted colleagues.


The program’s evolving approach to coaching reflects its commitment to supporting the development of reflective, adaptive and engaged Jewish day school leaders. As the program evolved, it recognized the importance of providing participants with individualized coaching with experts in the field. 
Coaching continues to be a critical and distinguishing feature of the YOU Lead experience. Through bimonthly sessions, participants cultivate reflection and self-awareness and take ownership of their growth.

YOU Lead alumnus David Fain was deeply impacted by his coaching experience in the program:

“A leader needs a coach, someone to support the leader’s growth and to be a sounding board for all issues and topics. A good coach makes all the difference in not only processing specific situations but enabling the leader to really lead. Leadership at its core is about the identity and growth of the leader, and a good coach provides the support and feedback to allow a leader to handle the challenges of leadership and constantly be working on him - or herself.”

Through Covid and Beyond

The pandemic underscored the dire need for flexible and reflective Jewish day school leaders. When in-person gatherings were eliminated in 2020, the YOU Lead team considered halting the program for a year. Instead, believing in the program’s critical importance for individuals and the field, they pivoted to a fully virtual model and focused on helping educational leaders develop the dispositions required to face the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. 
The program recruited a full cohort and provided invaluable support and guidance to the group of leaders throughout an immensely challenging year.
The impact of YOU Lead on the Jewish day school field thus far has been profound, and the program is poised to continue its tremendous contributions in the next decade. Since 2012, more than 200 leaders have participated in the program. Over 95% of alumni have remained in the field, and more than 60 YOU Lead alumni have taken on an advanced professional role since participating in the program. Nearly 40% of women who are heads of Orthodox day schools are YOU Lead alumnae. 
In the 2022-2023 school year, program administrators will continue investing in alumni engagement and programming. In addition, Prizmah plans for a return to in-person gatherings for the YOU Lead cohort and a celebration of YOU Leaders past and present at the January 2023 Prizmah Conference in Denver.

Do you know an inspiring educational leader in the field? YOU Lead is now accepting nominations for the 2022-2023 cohort. We look forward to recruiting a full cohort of exceptional day school leaders.