HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the Desk of Arnee Winshall, RAVSAK Chair

by Arnee Winshall Issue: Strengthening Community
Shalom Chaverim, As we enter the High Holiday period—ימים נוראים—what better topic for RAVSAK, The Jewish COMMUNITY Day School Network, than that of “strengthening community.” Many of us will spend hours and days together in our synagogues, spiritual communities, and homes reflecting, praying, learning, catching up with friends and being with family. This is one of the times when we most appreciate being part of a community, a Jewish community, and when, if we are not connected to one, we most miss it.

The board of RAVSAK has been particularly focused on some of the key elements that strengthen and build community: a sense of common purpose and commitment to a joint enterprise. Recently we had the privilege of coming together for a retreat in which we identified our priorities: the development of the board itself and ensuring that the organization, RAVSAK, has the guidance and resources to maximize its potential and its impact.

We spent two days together, with most of us physically in the same room and some of us joining via the miracle of technology, not only attending to the business at hand but also using the opportunity to learn together and to socialize, in order to get to know each other and the staff of RAVSAK better. Each time we meet on the phone or in person, it gives us a chance to develop and strengthen our board culture.

As the national board of an organization dedicated to strengthening the Jewish core of day schools and advancing pluralist education, we face certain challenges. We live in different parts of North America. We meet in person only two times a year; otherwise, our relationships are built mostly over the phone. We come from many different backgrounds, have had different experiences and embody different Jewish practices, and we bring complementary strengths and expertise to the table. And yet, in less than one year, we have worked to build an intentional board culture that is guided and focused on RAVSAK’s mission and reflective of RAVSAK’s values. As a board, we are focused on accountability characterized by commitment, independent thinking, trust, candor, diligence and rigor. The culture that has emerged is one of active listening, of openness, of respect, and of kindness.

It is no accident that the Jewish people call themselves לארשי םע—“the people of Israel”—rather than לארשי תד, “the religion of Israel.” A sense of peoplehood has long been the defining characteristic of the Jews. On the everyday level, this focus on peoplehood is translated into an emphasis on the community as the primary organizing structure of Jewish life. Wherever Jews have lived, they have built synagogues and schools, established communal organizations, and created systems of communal governance.

All of you who are reading this issue of HaYidion, and in particular the member schools of RAVSAK, are critical contributors to this organizing structure. As RAVSAK board members, we are privileged to serve as part of the system of communal governance, supporting RAVSAK in fiduciary, strategic and generative capacities. Like you, we are dedicated to building the field of Jewish day school education and, in so doing, to strengthen our communities, and serve our client, the Jewish future.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of RAVSAK, I wish you a Happy New Year and an easy fast.

,לשנה טובה וגמר חתימה טובה

Arnee ♦

Arnee Winshall is the Chair of RAVSAK’s Board of Directors, and Founding Chair of JCDS, Boston's Jewish Community Day School. Arnee can be reached at arnee@ravsak.org.

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Strengthening Community

What do we mean when we call our schools a “community”? How does the Jewish diversity that typifies community day schools coalesce into its own community? What happens when the various communities that exist both outside and within the school come into conflict? Discover ways of understanding and strengthening the community of your school and its position within the larger surrounding communities.