AVI CHAI concluded its general grant making on December 31, 2019.

A Frontier too Vast to Journey Alone

Posted by: Susan Kardos

April 29, 2011

A Frontier too Vast to Journey Alone
-Susan Kardos
It’s really a simple—and I believe an indisputable—proposition:  the Jewish education enterprise is complex and intense, and true and lasting successes in the enterprise require the combined efforts of those engaged in it.
The truth is our field is filled with skilled and committed professionals housed at organizations that are simply too small and under-resourced to offer comprehensive solutions, even in their focal areas.  I maintain that this point holds even for our field’s largest and best resourced organizations.
In the day school field, which I know best, it’s true whether we’re talking about teacher training, curriculum development, technology integration, special education, innovation, operations or leadership (to name a few areas).  There are exceptional efforts in these areas, to be sure.  But field-wide transformational improvement has been elusive.  I imagine that the situation is much the same beyond the day school field, in summer camps, on college campuses, in complementary school settings, on Israel trips, in adult education, in young adult outreach, and in early childhood.
There are new examples emerging of the kind of collaboration that is necessary.  One example is a joint position paper written by the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education Induction Partnership and the Jewish New Teachers Project (JNTP) and presented publicly at the North American Jewish Day School Conference in LA this past February.  The position paper was, in effect, the combined efforts of two organizations both focused on new teacher effectiveness and retention.  JNTP specializes in its very serious approach to, and set of sophisticated tools for, mentor teacher development, and the Induction Partnership focuses on comprehensive new teacher induction as a lever for whole school improvement.  It is yet to be seen what will come next, but the possibility of collaborative efforts from these two powerful organizations could be very exciting.
The story is much the same in the funding sphere.  Collaborative efforts (despite the same sorts of challenges faced by collaborating operating organizations) have the best chances of offering the kinds of comprehensive solutions we need.  I am inspired to follow the development of The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund (read their blog), a collaborative effort among the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation to fund projects that used “new media tools…to empower Jews to interact with, share, build, and explore Jewish life.”   I have begun my own very collaborative relationship with Jim Joseph on a project that we hope will accelerate the building of an evidence base upon which Jewish education decisions are made.  Other AVI CHAI/Jim Joseph collaborative efforts are in full swing.
We would love to hear about the promise and perils of such collaborative work whether you are direct service educational organization like a school, yeshiva, synagogue, Hillel (etc.); and intermediary organization servicing schools, teachers, or communities (etc.); or a foundation, large or small.  Please share your stories of and opinion about collaboration.
Susan Kardos is the Senior Director of Strategy and Education Planning at the AVI CHAI Foundation.  Follow her on Twitter @susankardos.

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