Mental Health Summit 2024

Engage in high-level learning and collaboration around mental health challenges and opportunities in Jewish day schools and yeshivas. This year’s theme is “In The Moment: Navigating Difficult Times With Dignity, Empathy, and Growth.” Over the course of two days of interactive learning and discussion, you will gain skills, perspectives, and approaches to navigating difficult times in your school.

Mental Health Summit 2023

An interactive series of four workshops will enhance your understanding of the confluence of students’ social emotional and neurodiverse learning needs and will allow teams of learning specialists, school counselors, and administrators to learn to access and direct behaviors, and collaborate and communicate more effectively, ensuring that all members of the school community can thrive.

Paul is Prizmah’s founding Chief Executive Officer. Learn more about Paul here.

A Tu Bishvat Message From Our CEO

Tu Bishvat, amidst the kabbalistic traditions, delightful children’s songs, and dried fruit, has an important halachic role. To properly observe the biblically ordained laws of orlah (avoiding eating the fruit of a tree younger than three years old), we need to keep track of the age of trees. Enter the rabbinically decreed New Year for the trees, a date dedicated to tracking and marking time.

As we celebrate this day, we marvel at and rejoice in the growth and transformation of trees, which move from seeds and saplings to bearing fruit ever so quickly. Trees themselves mark the passage the time, each ring a sign of another year past. On Tu Bishvat itself, we track and celebrate growth.

A few weeks ago, my family in England had an unexpected brush with celebrity. My mother, a German refugee who survived the Holocaust as a hidden child in Nazi-occupied France, was photographed with my niece by the Duchess of Cambridge. Their photograph will be part of an upcoming exhibit of portraits commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The Duchess published the moving portrait of my mother, together with photos of the two of them meeting at Kensington Palace, on her Instagram feed. After their initial meeting, my mother and Kate were again pictured together when the Duke and Duchess were guests of honor at the Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration event in London. Their voices and presence create headlines every day, and successfully shone a brighter light on the importance of this anniversary. Kate described my mother, together with a second survivor she photographed, as “two of the most life-affirming people that I have had the privilege to meet.” She described the purpose of the portraits as ensuring that “[their] memories will be kept alive as they pass the baton to the next generation.”

I keep thinking about the portrait she took and what it represents. The staging and lighting of the photograph were designed very specifically by the Duchess to capture this unique moment. A survivor of World War II with her 11-year old granddaughter, light streaming in from the hopeful east, wartime artifacts (my mother’s German identity card, marked with a “J” for Jude-Jew) shared across the generations. The photograph is very much a moment in time, a moment that marks time, bridging the past with the future. The image captures the gaze of a young girl learning through the shared experience of her grandmother, committed to re-telling that story in order to learn its lessons.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks articulated a crucial lesson he learned from Holocaust survivors, when he said: “To mend the past, first you have to secure the future.”  The photograph of my mother does this, aesthetically and generationally. Our shared work in Jewish day schools also does this every day, child by child, family by family, community by community. By securing our Jewish future through vibrant and sustainable schools, in some ways we heal the tragedies of our collective past.

So this Tu Bishvat, while I still chuckle at the thought of my mother rubbing shoulders with royalty, I appreciate how the day’s focus on trees and marking time can catalyze a deeper appreciation for the relationship between past and future. And I give thanks, both for the trees which beautify our world, and the hundreds of Jewish day schools in which tens of thousands of Jewish futures are growing to fruition.




Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Paul is Prizmah’s founding Chief Executive Officer. Learn more about Paul here.

The Power of Network

As early as my second week at Prizmah, I saw first-hand the power of our Network of Jewish day schools. While getting to know a school leader, I was asked a question that reached to the core of the character of their school, and honestly was beyond my scope of knowledge. “I’ll get back to you on that,” I replied, thinking that our Prizmah team of experienced day school professionals would pull out just the right answer. But, when I shared the question with my Prizmah colleagues, instead of a “textbook” solution, their response was a list of five other schools who had recently grappled with the identical question. These peers provided that leader with better answers (gained through experience) than a single “expert” might offer. That is an example of the Network at work, and the knowledge of the field in action. There is no textbook, but there are plenty of solutions.

Being part of a Network means contributing and accessing the everyday “real-world” expertise that builds stronger schools, and a supportive, vibrant field.

In the past year, day school professionals and lay leaders have connected, shared, learned, created, and driven impact through the Prizmah Network at an astounding rate.  1100 field leaders, from over 230 schools, joined us at the March, 2019 Prizmah Conference and collectively Dared to Dream; 163 schools participated in a Prizmah Reshet group (which had 200 new members this year); 1305 resources were launched in our new digital Knowledge Center and have been accessed by thousands of page views.

Online, at in-person gatherings, through emerging partnerships with federations and national leaders in education, Prizmah’s focus on Network points us in a strong direction to support individual schools and the day school field.

We just celebrated Shavuot, acknowledging the enormous gift—matan—of Torah. When we call the holiday “z’man matan Torateinu” or “time of the giving of our Torah,” we are actually celebrating a collective experience, as Torah is referred to in the plural possessive. Rashi teaches that both the Written Law and the Oral Law were transmitted to Moshe at Sinai. While the Written Law—Torah she’bichtav--speaks in one Divine voice, the Oral Law--Torah she’be-al peh, including the Mishnah, the Talmud, Midrashim--contains multiple voices across generations. There is an inherent intricate network of diverse voices and opinions offering insight, advice, and instruction.

The Oral Law provides a model for understanding our world and addressing the challenges we inevitably encounter. When we gain access to the experience of others, when we draw on past examples to inform present action, when we debate—even loudly—about our differences, we strengthen our ability to deliver on our mission. The Prizmah Network is predicated on just such a philosophy.

For our Network to fulfill its potential demands that we create space for the myriad voices to be raised, that we construct pathways for connection among practitioners, and that we encourage portals and access to other providers of expertise.

“Do what we do best and connect to the rest” was a kind of informal mantra we used in talking about Prizmah right from launch. Convening the Network means sometimes being in the center and sometimes stepping aside so that people can connect directly.  Oftentimes it means connecting to experts, providers or resources throughout the Network. Primarily, being the Network convener means making it easy to both access and provide knowledge for each other.

In the coming months, we will be concentrating our efforts on strengthening the Prizmah Network with the voices of even more day school leaders and practitioners. School leaders will be receiving information shortly about renewing or establishing their Network affiliation, while others in the field can engage by sharing resources, asking questions, and supporting the day school field. Together, we can ensure that the day school field has a living network that supports and creates tangible impact for individuals, schools, and communities, all working toward a vibrant Jewish future.

Rabbi Dr. Maury Grebenau led two different Jewish day schools as a principal for 10 years. He currently co-leads the Administration Support Program at JNTP, providing support and professional development for administrators in Jewish day schools. Maury has written many articles on educational leadership and current school-related issues including teen health and school technology use. His articles have been published in Kappan, Principal Leadership and HaYidion, among others.

Producer vs. Consumer: A Lens for Setting Educational Goals

While looking into various graduate school options, I learned a lot about the difference between PhD and EdD programs, including the difference between a producer and a consumer when it comes to educational goals. EdD programs, while requiring real research towards a dissertation, have an overarching goal of graduates who are consumers of research. To that end, they focus on properly reading, analyzing, questioning, and understanding educational research. PhD programs, on the other hand, focus on creating producers of research, and for this reason there is considerably more time spent on setting up a good study and properly conducting original research. This distinction has stuck with me, and I believe it is a good lens to help us examine educational outcomes in much younger students.

As a teacher, administrator, and now coach/consultant, I have spent more than 20 years working with Jewish high school students, teachers, and curriculum. By looking at our approach to educational goals on a high school level, we can readily see the power of using the producer lens to drive more sophisticated teaching and learning. When it comes to teaching English, we readily accept that there is a need for students to be producers, rather than just consumers. We expect them to write their own analysis and thoughts, not just read the analysis and thoughts of others. We include a goal that they are able to verbally express themselves, and not just understand the spoken word.

A recent meta-study found that when 6-12 grade students are taught writing strategies, it improves not only their writing skills but also their reading skills. This demonstrates an important outcome of the producer lens. Making sure students can produce good writing means they also improve at consumption: reading.

This powerful lens, that seems relatively obvious when we approach English, vanishes when we look at other areas of study. Why not broaden this lens?


An oft-repeated complaint about Jewish day school is that, despite many years of language instruction, students still can’t speak Hebrew. If we use the producer vs. consumer lenses, we can ask what the educational goals of Hebrew are in our schools. Is the purpose for students to be good consumers of Hebrew, able to understand and read? Or (as our disappointment seems to indicate) do we expect students to be producers of Hebrew, writing original essays and expressing themselves verbally in Hebrew?

Our oldest daughter switched schools after second grade, and I saw this distinction in action. In her kindergarten, she was fully immersed in Hebrew, with one of the teachers only speaking Hebrew with the children. This continued in first and second grades, where she had a significant portion of the day in Hebrew class; not only did the teacher speak only in Hebrew, but the students were also expected to be able to express themselves in Hebrew. During those years, our daughter was a confident Hebrew speaker, even though she still had a very limited vocabulary. She would approach native Israeli kids her age and converse with them as a producer of Hebrew.

In her schools since, there is a focus on consuming Hebrew (reading and understanding dialogue, comprehending Hebrew paragraphs, etc.), and although her understanding of Hebrew is reasonable, as she graduates high school, she struggles to speak Hebrew at all.


At first glance, math is not an area where students can fairly be able to produce. Can we really expect students to come up with original math proofs or theories? We usually have goals of making students good consumers of math, able to solve problems similar to the ones we have already demonstrated. The one high school course (with the exception of calculus that not all students take) where we do have a goal of students as producers is geometry, where students construct proofs. However, many schools and curricula seek to minimize (or even excise) this aspect of geometry, since students struggle with it. The producer lens encourages us to consider how to prepare students for this type of thinking more effectively so that they embrace production by the time they get to high school geometry, rather than avoiding it.

Production is far more natural in the areas of science and technology. PBL (problem-based learning) is an example of an approach that utilizes the production lens, allowing students to learn content while trying to create something to improve a situation or solve a problem. For example, one of my children had a STEM unit in high school where she needed to come up with a new device that would address an unmet social or medical need in the world. Students needed to create a prototype within a specific budget, learn rudimentary soldering to put the prototype together and enough coding to program the device to function properly. This approach both raised the expectations for students and helped them appreciate the relevance of STEM, even for those who had less natural interest in these subjects.


History is another area that would benefit from the producer lens. In my experience, at best, we tend to settle for students who graduate high school as intelligent consumers, detecting bias in perspectives and analyzing original documents in an informed way. This level of consumption is nothing to take for granted. But how would a producer lens change these goals?

Even the production we currently see in history classes is often “look this up and then tell us about it.” Would using a producer lens have us striving to give students more skills to analyze documentation on their own and produce clear position pieces of their own? Perhaps we would deploy more assignments and assessments similar to the Document Based Questions (DBQs) that are frequently part of the AP History exams. DBQs ask students to analyze historical documents and explain a part of history using their own knowledge coupled with their in-the-moment analysis of these supporting documents. Broadening the producer approach to non-AP classes, and even middle school, would be a way to apply this lens in enhancing educational outcomes.


When it comes to teaching Judaics, I believe this lens is helpful as well. We are frequently underwhelmed by the level of comfort and ability our children display in navigating Jewish texts. In many Modern Orthodox schools, we rely on a year or two in Israel to get at least some students closer to proficiency. Let’s reexamine our goals through a producer lens.

Do we want our children to be able to understand a dvar Torah or be able to create and deliver a dvar Torah? If we want our children to be able to create, then structuring lower school parshah instruction as an experience of listening to the parshah explained each year and then demonstrating knowledge by relaying that information at home or answering questions will not build towards accomplishing that goal. More broadly, don’t we want our children to feel connected to Torah and create their own meaning? Don’t we want them to be producers, rather than just consumers, in the area of meaning-making? Perhaps students could identify what is meaningful to them in the text and then make connections.

In addition to the meta-level of connecting to Torah and the meso level of a skill like giving a dvar Torah, we can also use this lens for the micro level of a specific textual skill. For example, in teaching Chumash, we want students to understand Rashi’s questions. What might production look like here? Perhaps students could be taught to create their own questions about the text and then analyze the strengths and weaknesses of possible explanations.

There are high school Chumash classes where this is happening, and I wonder if the lens of producer can be used in earlier years of Chumash as well. An objection may be that getting them to be consumers is hard enough; but perhaps, as we see in English, if we had a goal of producer, it would change our pedagogy, not only making this new goal attainable but creating more meaningful connection and meaning-making along the way.

The producer lens is a powerful way to set educational goals that raise the quality of student outcomes. Each of these curricular areas (and more) would benefit from more discussion and analysis to discover what we’d like our students to be able to produce when they complete their K-12 schooling. Using the producer lens to envision the portrait of a graduate will strengthen the skills of such a graduate as well as their ownership of their learning. The producer lens will also enhance our approach to the scope and sequence of developing these skills and abilities as we envision the scaffolding, instructional tasks, and assessments needed at each grade level to accomplish these goals.

Paul is Prizmah’s founding Chief Executive Officer. Learn more about Paul here.

As Jewish Day Schools Grow, We Need to Build the Educator Pipeline Now More Than Ever

Jewish Day Schools

At Prizmah’s Head of School Retreat earlier this spring, consistent with all we have heard since the pandemic, school leaders unanimously voiced their most pressing need: “More teachers,” we heard from schools across North America, of all sizes and all religious affiliations.


Why Now?

While the need for talented educators is not new, today’s post-pandemic, post-October 7 climate has made the challenge even more urgent. Veterans of the day school community tell me that they have seen our field professionalize over the last 20+ years; the result is a growing recognition of the quality that a day school education provides.

Ours is a people business: The day school field rises and falls with the supply of talented educators, combined with our ability to enable every teacher to build and sustain an enriching, impactful career. Teachers and school leaders account for nearly 60% of a school’s impact on student achievement, far greater, according to Malcolm Gladwell, than class-size or other effects.

At a time when day school enrollment is trending upward, there is no more urgent need for our schools, and we at Prizmah believe that substantial investment in strengthening the educator pipeline over a sustained period, directed towards schools, communities and across North American in parallel, can address that need.

A Snapshot of What We Know

Day schools and yeshivas are part of a larger ecosystem where knowledge and trends related to the educator pipeline provide context and relevance. Drawing on data from day schools themselves as well as the world of general education, independent schools, Jewish professionals, and Jewish education more broadly, we know so much about why and how to make a difference.

One of the biggest selling points of a career in education is “the promise of meaningful work,” and more than 85% of independent school teachers felt satisfied with their ability to have an impact on students. This is especially true at Jewish day schools; teachers choose to work in our schools out of personal passion and identification with mission. A 2022 McKinsey report found that 31% of those who had recently quit their job reported a lack of “meaningful” work, suggesting an opportunity if we can harness the desire for meaning through our schools.

Jewish Day Schools
Jewish Day Schools
Jewish Day Schools

And yet, even some of the unique rewards of a Jewish day school environment may fade in the face of the challenges, and even some of the most idealistic of teachers pursue other careers in the Jewish community. Thirty-five percent of Jewish day school and yeshiva teachers have recently considered leaving the field because of the difficulties of their jobs, according to a community study conducted by Prizmah.

The challenges affecting the Jewish educator pipeline are evident in the wider education sector: the National Education Association reported in February 2022 that there were 335,000 fewer public school educators than before the pandemic. And, it is not only a matter of volume: Since the 1970s, the percentage of students from the top ten percent of high school achievement testing entering the teaching profession has been halved.

Financial matters are incredibly important, and perhaps in many cases the sole factor, that motivates great educators towards teaching. The average starting salary for a full-time teacher at a Jewish day school is $47,000; the overall average salary for full-time day school teachers is $65,000. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a master’s degree in the US earn a median salary just under $82,000. The Economic Policy Institute found that teachers’ salaries across schools were about 24% less than salaries of other college graduates.

Jewish Day Schools
Jewish Day Schools
Jewish Day Schools

Our knowledge is powerfully enhanced by the treasure trove of existing research from The Collaborative for Applied Studies in Jewish Education (CASJE) on career trajectories of Jewish educators. CASJE data indicate that in the US alone, day schools employ almost 10,000 full-time educators. According to JPro, day schools are by far the largest employers of full-time faculty and staff among the major Jewish communal networks in the US and Canada.

In 2022-2023, through Prizmah’s school data collection, conducted in partnership with the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), we found that Jewish day schools reported 13% staff attrition, in line with teacher turnover in the US which grew to 14% post-pandemic, according to the Rand Corporation.

We are tracking dangerously below the curve if we want to ensure we have sufficient excellent educators for our students today and in the future, and the impact is obvious.

The Playbook

Given the overwhelming amount of data and connected anecdotal evidence for the need to address the educator pipeline, Prizmah’s goal in partnering with the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC) to establish the JDS Educator Pipeline Working Group was to leverage the wisdom of the field and generate practical solutions to address these needs. Their recommendations are ambitious, and the playbook, as its name implies, is designed to reimagine the pipeline of Jewish day school educators.

Our working group addressed the range of complex needs, from early pipeline through the arc of the career of an educator. The intention was not to generate a “silver bullet” that we might falsely expect to solve a range of issues. Instead, we are presented with a rich and practical playbook of ideas that can be implemented from the individual school to the communal level.

Over the past twenty or so years, educational, training, and mentoring opportunities to incentivize careers in Jewish day school education have proliferated and been reinvented. We have tried many approaches and learned much along the way, yet we still find that some of our best-trained professionals are leaving our schools. With enrollment on the upswing and the promise of Jewish day schools never more highly valued, we need to make sure that teaching in a day school is the best professional opportunity for our top students and educators.

I am optimistic. Jewish day schools remain the Jewish people’s winningest investment for a vibrant and continuous Jewish future. Let’s make our payoff the biggest imaginable.


With special thanks to the Mayberg Foundation, Melissa Kushner and Jeremy Kaplan, and Evelyn and Dr. Shmuel Katz.

We are thankful for the wisdom and commitment of the working group, appreciative of our partnership with JEIC, and extend our gratitude to the Mayberg Foundation, Melissa Kushner and Jeremy Kaplan, and Evelyn and Dr. Shmuel Katz for making these resources possible.