HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

On My Nightstand: Brief reviews of books that Prizmah staff are reading

by Ilisa Cappell, Odelia Epstein, Daniel Infeld, Sara Loffman Issue: Educational Innovation Prizmah

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business

By Patrick Lencioni

If you could do one thing this year that would dramatically improve your school, what would it be? Lencioni asserts that focusing on organizational health is the key. Lencioni, well known for his clear and simple style of writing, untangles the complexities of leadership and offers concrete ideas and practical steps to shift the way we work as he tackles our fundamental assumptions about what matters most.

Perhaps most challenging is Lencioni’s belief that the tools and resources needed to shift to becoming a healthy organization lie within the staff of the organization itself. What might we shift in our practice if we believed it were within our reach to make changes that could fundamentally shift our schools? What if our avoidance of uncomfortable conversations, our desire to solely immerse ourselves in data and strategic planning, prevents us from dealing with what matters most? While culture can be challenging to measure, the absence of a healthy culture can make all the difference in why some companies succeed and others fail.

This is essential reading for any school lay or professional leader and for our Jewish communities as a whole.

Ilisa Cappell


Storytelling with Data

By Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

Bad, incoherent, hard-to-read graphs are everywhere. Most people aren’t trained statisticians or skilled at telling stories with the data they have. Anyone who creates graphs to report on data could learn something from this book. Nussbaumer Knaflic provides step-by-step insight into great data visualization practices that will enhance your visualization, enliven the story of the data and improve the message you are trying to convey.

The book gives clear advice on how to create effective visuals by showing examples of typical graphs that we encounter and then unpacking how they could improve. Here are the three major takeaways: think about what you want your audience to know and do with the data before designing the graph; minimize clutter—less is more with graphs; focus your audience’s attention by using color intentionally.

Odelia Epstein


The Jewish Cookbook

By Leah Koenig

I savor the community we build in the kitchen and around the table. My cookbook shelf, and my cooking repertoire, is filled with Jewish food. Gil Marks, Joan Nathan and Yotam Ottolenghi grace my shelf and have been my rebbes in the kitchen; do I really need another Jewish cookbook? With this book, the answer is a resounding yes.

Koenig reminds us that Jewish cuisine is more than just matzah balls and potato kugel. I’m particularly excited to try the dozens of recipes that will push my culinary boundaries beyond my own Ashkenazi heritage, and those that show that Jewish food has been shaped by the cultures and flavors of our millennia of Diaspora: Persian jeweled rice, sweet potato-pecan kugel inspired by the flavors of the American South, and especially gulab jamun—rosewater fritters from India’s Bene Israel community.

Koenig’s extensively researched and meticulously tested recipes will ensure your success, whether you’re trying something new or looking to recreate a classic. And the beautiful photography and thoughtful design invite in both the experienced cook and the kitchen dabbler. I’m looking forward to a table graced by these wonderful recipes for years to come.

Daniel Infeld


Somebody Else’s Children: The Courts, the Kids, and the Struggle to Save America’s Troubled Families

By Jill Wolfson and John Hubner

This nonfiction thriller written by two journalists, one a former probation officer, walks you through the lives of children, teens, young adults, new parents and families impacted by the child welfare system, from court hearings to custody placement. The book expounds upon individuals’ experiences, while also highlighting the negativity, confusion and fascination that is typical of American family courts. Some of the people have lived a lifetime in the system, experiencing a gamut of shelters, courts and foster homes and a roller coaster of frustration, sadness, betrayal and sometimes reunification. However, for others, the system has served as a stepping stone for opportunity and change.

The world described in this book may seem far from the experiences of most people in our schools and communities, although it is a common feature for many in our society. Too often, we take for granted the resources provided to ensure perpetuation of education, love and support. While this book can be heavy at times, its description of the many people working to support these children reinforced my sense of commitment to our community and country.

Sara Loffman

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Educational Innovation

The articles in this issue represent the balance between the old and the new, sacred and profane embodied in Jewish history. The issue tells the story of the drive for innovation in modern education that has gained strength in recent decades. It features efforts to learn from, adopt and adapt innovative programs and pedagogies from the larger educational universe, even as authors advise caution, patience and planning around such changes.

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