Profiles in Leadership

Elissa Kaplan, President, Board of Trustees, Academies at GBDS, Oakland, New Jersey

As Ben Franklin said, “In the face of adversity, comes opportunity,” and that’s exactly how our board has risen to the new challenges during the pandemic. Historically, our board has focused on fundraising efforts, but this year they pivoted to a support role for the school. There was magic on our board as they unified seamlessly with the school leadership, teachers and staff to further our one goal of in-person learning.


Michael, a father of three, juggles no before or aftercare, no busing and a full-time work schedule that makes my head spin. Still, he was eager for the board to focus on supporting and thanking the teachers for their commitment. He suggested that the teachers and staff could use a Shabbat with no cooking. He both fundraised and underwrote challah, dinner, sides and dessert for our staff. Even when the details were planned, he was overly concerned about ensuring that the security guards who work opposite schedules were provided meals. Down to every detail, Michael wanted everyone at the school to feel the same deep level of gratitude that they very much deserve.


Shiri, an author and mother of five (two of whom are GBDS graduates), stepped up to chair a committee to evaluate and rework the school’s mission statement. She worked tirelessly meeting after meeting, coordinating and debating down to individual words to ensure that the statement accurately reflected the school’s neshamah, until the committee got it just right.


Melissa, a full-time physician and mother of four students at the school, used her professional background to learn about and then advise the teachers on Covid-19 precautions. Over Zoom, she chaired the medical committee that closely advised on every aspect of the pandemic affecting the school. During that time, she saw that there was a vaccine gap; teachers who wanted the vaccine had to be in class during the hours that the vaccine scheduling was available. She arranged vaccine appointments for more than a dozen teachers within weeks.


If ever there was a year to support and shower our hardworking, resilient, strong teachers with love, this was it. And I am grateful to have been a part of it.

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HaYidion Leading Together
Leading Together
Spring 2021