HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Vision in Development

by Ray Levi Issue: The Educated Jew

Jewish community day schools are relatively new entrants onto the educational scene. Our unique mission to teach and support a range of approaches to the practice of Judaism provide an opportunity to define our niche. But, as Seymour Fox z”l frequently reminded me, mission is not sufficient. “What is your vision of the ideal graduates of your school?” he would ask. At the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School, we wrestled with this question in the traditional way when our Board of Trustees reviewed our mission statement, electing to add a vision statement describing our students, and interestingly, the characteristics of a teaching faculty that facilitates children’s achievement.

But it was a request from our Development Committee that has inspired our most recent dialogue. The Committee was building a Case Statement for our Annual Fund campaign and sought a definition of what we do best—and our aspirations—in order to build donor confidence in HMJDS and understanding of how gifts would be directed.

Initially, we explored Jim Collins’s (Good to Great) “hedgehog concept.” What is it we do best? Our Educational Leadership and Administrative Teams as well as our Board’s Executive Committee considered this question. Our discussions were informed by the results of our Peer Yardstick Parent Survey, which provided information about what we are doing well and what parents believe should be of importance. Ultimately, we chose three foci: Judaism, Academics, and Community. While the attention to Judaism might distinguish us from many schools, these areas would not be particularly distinctive unless a well stated vision of our graduates could be crafted.

Relentlessly pushed by our Development Committee to offer a concise statement, we engaged our Educational Leadership and Administrative Teams, our full Board, and Team Leaders and Department Chairs. Though the process involved quite a number of people, our use of such structured protocols as Chalk Walks and Consultancies allowed us to use time efficiently, with editing work overseen by our Development Committee Chair, Board President, and me.

Our Case Statement begins with this vision:

  • Judaism: Offer the textual knowledge base, ritual experience and Hebrew fluency necessary to empower HMJDS graduates to be ambassadors in shaping a meaningful and engaging future for our local Jewish community, world Jewry, and the State of Israel.
  • Academics: Provide a learning experience that develops the necessary analytical, research and communication skills that allow HMJDS students to become leaders and creative problem solvers into the 21st century.
  • Community: Build a strong, inclusive and accessible school community that models values of mutual support so that HMJDS graduates are champions of community diversity and have the commitment and tools to care for others.

Our Annual Fund ambassadors have built on this vision, using the Case Statement document to tell the HMJDS story. We have described accomplishments in each of the three identified areas. Ambassadors describe ways in which contributions will immediately impact our vision through listings of short-term plans. And as we think about endowment possibilities, descriptions of larger, long-term initiatives help potential donors see where we’re headed, linking current projects to strategic planning for our future.

Beyond the value in our development planning, I hope you would agree, this vision statement has far greater application for our families, for those interested in HMJDS, and perhaps most importantly, for our educational staff as we refine and develop new programs. It has given clarity of focus to virtually all communications with our community. ♦

Dr. Ray Levi is Head of School at the Amos and Celia Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School. He can be reached at rlevi@HeilicherJDS.org.

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The Educated Jew

The authors here are engaged in an argument leshem Shamayim, for the sake of Heaven, over the question of what should a Jewish day school produce. Some emphasize cultural knowledge: Hebrew fluency, tefillah mastery, literacy of core texts in the Jewish library. Others view middot as central: ethics, commitment, curiosity, caring; while yet others choose social action as the goal.

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