From the CEO: The Growth of A Year

Paul Bernstein

Summer is a time for growth, both in nature and in ourselves. As the trees around us grow and change, Prizmah is blooming, too. This time last year, Prizmah did not exist. We were five separate organizations. The idea was merely a seed of inspiration. And now, we are together, operating as a unified pan-North American entity, preparing for summer and working toward an even stronger future for Jewish day school education.

I cannot help but reflect on our progress. This has been a year of connecting and learning. We have hosted virtual coffees and meetings with more than 150 heads of schools and principals, traveled to 16 cities, visited more than 50 schools and talked directly with more than 1,000 school professional and lay leaders. Learning will always be an important part of Prizmah, and your input will continually help us understand what matters and how Prizmah can better serve you.

We broke new ground with the Prizmah Conference: The Power of Story. Bringing together 1,000 of our peers from 215 schools to discuss stories of leadership, education, triumphs and challenges. We heard from leaders, speakers and each other. We played, laughed, ate and, most importantly, learned as we embraced the notion that the future of Jewish day school education is a story for all of us to tell.

We have united disparate programs to become Prizmah programs, strengthening our ability to offer what schools need and to broaden their reach, in leadership, financial vitality, student learning, placement, coaching and professional development.

It has been a year of inspiration. We have seen many examples of schools pushing the boundaries of education, from STE(A)M programs that integrate with Jewish studies programs, to day school partnerships in cutting-edge school movements such as Alt School and recognition as Apple Distinguished Schools. And we’ve seen schools where the soul of Judaism is embodied in the ways that children celebrate holidays, rejoice in the state of Israel, and embrace those in their communities who are less fortunate and need their help.

It was has been a year of coming together. With bomb threats that did not weaken our faith, but instead showed our strength. I am so appreciative of the way schools handled the situation to protect children and staff, and to reassure parents. I am grateful that Prizmah was able to work with experts in security and safety to bring resources to schools and enable school leaders to connect with and learn from each other, offering mutual support, advice and experience.

This past year has built a strong foundation for what we want to achieve in the future. Through our engagement with schools and the experience of Prizmah programs and services, we learned a great deal that will shape Prizmah’s future. Your feedback affirmed Prizmah’s core goals: advancing educational excellence, enhancing financial vitality, and building support for Jewish day schools. It also affirmed how critical the network of day schools that lives in Prizmah can be.

Our focus for next year will be building the network connections and strengthening our work towards the three core goals. A critical component to accomplishing these goals is excellent leadership at every level. Why leadership? Henry Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” We want to influence and inspire great leadership, because Prizmah is not just about delivering results for a year; it’s about supporting and influencing Jewish day school education for years to come.

Prizmah has partnered with The AVI CHAI Foundation to conduct an in-depth analysis of existing leadership programs. Rooted in this research, we plan to invest in our leaders with more programs that support heads of school, teachers, board chairs, senior leadership teams and administrators. We will continue to expand existing leadership programs, such as Head of School Professional Excellence Project (HOSPEP) and YOU Lead. We will look for new opportunities for growth, such as strengthening lay leadership development in partnership with the field leaders at BoardSource, and providing strong coaching support for schools.

At Prizmah we are thinking about not only individual schools and school leaders, but also the communities in which our schools reside and the field that they, together with other education organizations, nonprofits and federations, comprise. What does the day school field need as whole in order to thrive? How can research help us make data-driven decisions for schools and the field? In what ways can Prizmah connect leaders with each other to benefit from the rich diversity that our field brings? What do schools need in order to face the challenges of enrollment, raise the funds necessary to thrive, and recruit the Judaic studies teachers that are so hard to find? How do we help make the case for day schools at every level? These are questions that the professionals at Prizmah are working on every day. We don’t have all the answers, but we continue to seek the input of schools and communities on our shared journey toward a future in which Jewish day school education is the first choice for Jewish families.

Together is how we created Prizmah. And together is how we will lead Prizmah. I invite you to share your ideas on ways we can improve Prizmah and support your school’s success. May you find time this summer for growth and relaxation. I look forward to all that next year brings for all of us at Prizmah.

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