HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the Desk of Arnee Winshall, RAVSAK Chair

by Arnee Winshall Issue: Ethics
The focus of this issue led to me to re-read a 2006 column written for Sh’ma by Dr. Bruce Powell, one of RAVSAK’s board members and head of school at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, California (see page 22 in this issue). Bruce talks about the importance of “culture and context” vs. “pedagogy and curriculum.” The work of the RAVSAK board operates in the realm of culture and context. As I hope is true for the boards of our schools, we work in three realms: fiduciary, strategic, and generative. But there is another element that cuts across these realms—that is, how we operate as a role model; how we walk the walk and talk the talk.

I believe that Bruce captured the importance of this when he wrote, “The ethical examples of … teachers, administrators, parents, and friends create a seamless context and culture for ethical thinking and behavior.”

As we focus on strengthening and expanding RAVSAK’s capacity as an organization, what does it mean for us to think and behave ethically? For me, it means to keep in mind that our reason for being is to serve our schools, to raise the profile of Jewish day school education and ultimately to ensure that the staff, students and families and friends of our schools reap the benefits.

We are cognizant that the questions we ask and the decisions we make reflect our view of what is important to the future of Jewish community day schools, and what we value as an organization. And since we are an organization that exists to serve you, our schools, it is important that our values reflect your values and stem from an understanding of what is in the best interest of the day school field.

As we engage in the next phase of RAVSAK’s business planning and attempt to envision what RAVSAK’s needs will be in the future, we must strive to understand the following: What umbrella structures and what competencies will serve day schools going forward? What role can RAVSAK play to impact the culture of philanthropy such that our day schools and support structures for serious Jewish education will grow and thrive? How does RAVSAK collaborate with other Jewish educational organizations and philanthropic partners, along with academic expertise, to ensure that we are a conduit to make the aspirational possible? How do we maintain focus on the future while we attend to the present?

In our effort to respond to the initiatives and insights of the field, we are seeking answers to the following questions:

How does RAVSAK create value for the Jewish educational community?

Are there areas that RAVSAK should not be focused on today, or areas that RAVSAK should not pursue in the future?

Looking to the future, where should RAVSAK’S focus be pointed?

These are the questions that often keep me up at night—not tossing and turning, but gazing at the stars and imagining the possibilities the future holds and thinking about the questions that will in fact impact the vision and make these possibilities a reality.♦

Arnee Winshall is 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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Ethics

Jewish law and practice mandate a society based on strict ethical standards and principles, tempered with great sensitivity to the complexity of real-life situations. This creation of the mentsch that emerges from these ethical practices resonates with many day school families. Jewish ethics offers day school leaders and students tools and approaches to confront daily challenges and dilemmas and guide decision making. 

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