HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

From the desk of Rebekah Farber, RAVSAK Chair

by Rebekah Farber Issue: Rising Ed Trends

It is a daunting task but a real privilege to be writing my first column as chair of the Board of Trustees of RAVSAK. With a circulation of nearly 4,000, HaYidion is no small forum in which to express my opinions. It is an honor to have a voice in this superbly crafted professional publication.

As I begin my tenure, my family, friends and colleagues have repeatedly asked me two questions: Why in the world are you taking on this job? and, What is your vision for RAVSAK? Since these have been in the forefront of my discussions even before taking office, I thought I might attempt to answer them here.

Why take this job?

I was asked to be the successor to our illustrious founding chair, Arnee Winshall, a year before I was to begin. We at RAVSAK believe mightily in succession planning as a best practice for ourselves and our constituent schools. I had plenty of time to think about the job, and I did some serious soul-searching. I am at a stage in my life when community service is very much an option, not an obligation. I have spent years serving my community, and part of me felt it was time to work on my own personal goals and turn the helm of leadership over to younger folks or to those who felt more intent on making their mark.

But a nagging feeling stirred in my kishkes: that Jewish community day schools are the last great frontier in which we have the opportunity to have long-term effect on the longevity and continuity of the Jewish people. Because I have seen firsthand the incredible impact a day school education has on young people, I felt strongly that I had a unique opportunity to strengthen this board, this organization, and ultimately this field, and that to pass the job on to someone else would have been duplicitous to my stated cares and concerns.

I decided that I had been brought to this position at RAVSAK through a series of educational and professional positions and it was time now to step up and play this important role. I am grateful to my colleagues, both professional and lay, at the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge, CA, and the New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, CA, for their encouragement and cultivation over the last 14 years.

What is your vision for RAVSAK?

It may seem magniloquent, but I truly believe the work of RAVSAK is holy work. There are few things in life that can have more impact on a people than education. There is no tool with greater social impact, whether it be educating girls in underdeveloped countries or creating access to college in America. At RAVSAK we have the unique task of representing, networking, enriching, and strengthening 130 schools of over 25,000 students. What greater work can there be than to raise up generations of Jewishly literate, academically proficient, and morally sound members of our community? To me there is no work more holy.

To that end, the best possible goal for RAVSAK is to be strong administratively, sound financially and strategic in all our endeavors. My primary goal is to build out our board to be ever more thought generative and financially supportive. We currently have a small but extremely dedicated and hard working board. Just like our professional staff, that board must grow in order to support the business plan to which we have committed. Board growth will be key to our continued success. My further goals are to actively steward collaboration and cooperation with other like-missioned educational institutions. In my previous role on a large foundation board, I learned that, sadly, there are scarce dollars for white, middle class schools (albeit Jewish). We do not have the luxury of duplicative services. Relationship-building will be key to our continued success.

Another of my goals for RAVSAK is to stay focused and mission-driven. It is easy in this nonprofit world of funders, constituents, competitors for philanthropic dollars and those with other vested interests to get pulled off our course and away from our strategic vision. But that vision has been well constructed to strengthen RAVSAK and serve the field of Jewish education. Staying true to our goals will be another key to our continued success.

Lastly, my goal is to build our network of friends. RAVSAK has historically been a “behind the scenes” professional association drawn upon for its expertise by heads of schools and bureaus of education. But RAVSAK is much more than that and it is important to create a constellation of supporters knowledgeable about RAVSAK’s programs, assets and capacity. Only then will we be truly sustainable.

I look forward to the tasks ahead and to the privilege of working with our amazing staff headed by Dr. Marc Kramer and Dr. Idana Goldberg. I also invite your comments and feedback and welcome the opportunity to have open dialogue on any of the above or other topics.

With warmest wishes for a blessed Jewish new year and school year.


Rebekah Farber is chair of RAVSAK’s Board of Directors and co-founder of the New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, California. rebekah.farber@ravsak.org

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Rising Ed Trends

Day schools are reconceiving themselves as laboratories of innovation, adapting creative and entrepreneurial ideas from numerous fields. Survey here exciting trends from open spaces to gaming, Problem Based Learning and STEAM, and discover how day schools are embracing and innovating education.

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