HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the CEO: Standing Together While Apart

by Paul Bernstein Issue: Time

Schools are virtual time machines, and Jewish day schools are a model possessing the most sophisticated settings. In one classroom we immerse our students in the past, train them in ancient languages like Aramaic, and introduce them to legal texts from the Roman period, while in the next one over, students are coding robots to solve 21st century problems. Jewish day school students, on a regular basis, visit each era of the past and find lessons, values and wisdom.

Even more than portals to the past, Jewish day schools are truly the key to a sustainable Jewish future. Our teachers are dedicated to delivering an educational experience that prepares children today for whatever tomorrow holds for them. Investors and board members support Jewish day schools to ensure the continuity of a vibrant Jewish life. Communities recognize that strong schools determine how well they will thrive as hubs of Jewish life for generations to come.

We are now living through a crisis that challenges us in the most profound ways. In the early months of COVID-19, Jewish day schools and yeshivas have demonstrated extraordinary leadership; throughout the transition; their students have continued to enjoy extraordinary learning adapted to their needs and the altered circumstances. Our schools transitioned almost overnight to dynamic, online teaching, then unceasingly worked to improve the quality of learning and provided intense, meaningful communal experiences for students, staff and families.

Jewish day schools continue to provide the best education they can, thanks to the quality, creativity and tenacity of leaders, faculty and all their professional and lay teams. They also profoundly value and leverage the kehillah (community) of their fellow schools. Every day at Prizmah we see schools sharing their learning, crowdsourcing ideas, and supporting each other, at a time they need it most.

Prizmah, the network connecting hundreds of diverse Jewish day schools and yeshivas, is doubling down on our commitment to serve schools and communities for a long and healthy future. As we live through, and, God willing, emerge from this crisis, we will shape Prizmah’s work, with our partners in schools, to empower the North American day school field.

Prizmah’s strategic focus areas equip us to support schools even in the face of crisis and drive the changes that will yield a successful future. We will continue to strengthen the Prizmah Network to support our community, to be ready for whatever the needs of students, staff and families in the months and years ahead. Truly, when we learn together, grow together and create together, schools thrive.

Deepening Talent: Equipping the lay leaders and professionals who steer Jewish day schools to adapt to the challenges ahead depends on continuing support and training, in programs such as YOU Lead, coaching, leadership search and other services. We create opportunities to address the key issues each of them face as a leader in his or her particular circumstance. Long-term success hinges on preparing the next generation of talent.

Catalyzing Resources: Boosting the financial vitality of schools is now even more crucial in an increasingly challenging economic environment. From work to access emergency funds, to innovative ways to maintain and enhance enrollment, and creative approaches to alternative tuition models and fundraising, Prizmah will work with schools and communities to protect and fortify our schools in the face of the immediate and longer term financial challenges.

Educational Innovation: If schools are virtual time machines, then educators are designers, mechanics, navigators, and tour guides. Their ability to adapt curriculum and pedagogy to changing circumstances and to create the rich, engaging learning environments is needed now, more than ever. Prizmah encourages schools to adapt models of educational innovation through customized professional development, learning labs, Reshet groups, and Prizmah collaboratives.

We know that investment in a Jewish day school education is among the most impactful choices a family and community can make. The return on that investment is profound, both in terms of the individuals whose lives are touched by day schools and the communities whose leadership is shaped by the products of day school education. This investment is critical for the long-term success of the Jewish world. As we look ahead toward a brighter future, Prizmah stands strongly with schools, positioning the field to propel their students forward, with vision and wisdom.

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Time

This issue looks at ways that school stakeholders experiment to use their time more effectively or in service of particular goals. Time is considered one of the “commonplaces” of education, something assumed to be as unchanging as the classroom walls and the sports field. There are the daily schedule, weekly schedules, and annual calendars; calendars for development, admissions, sports, assemblies, and more. And then COVID-19 burst into our lives, ripping up all of those calendars, throwing our best-laid plans out the window and challenging us to recreate them as best we can, in the eye of an ongoing storm.

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