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

Integrating Visions of Leadership from Harvard and Moses

Posted by: Guest

July 16, 2014

Last week, 12 experienced Jewish day school leaders attended “Leadership: An Evolving Vision,” a program of The Principals’ Center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, with sponsorship from The AVI CHAI Foundation and Crown Family Philanthropies (two schools sent teams of two, with the second sponsored by either the school or a private donor). These Jewish leaders participated alongside school leaders with more than three years of leadership experience from across the country and around the world. They developed their leadership skills through working with Harvard faculty and experts during plenary sessions, facilitated group discussions, and personal reflection designed to produce a customized school improvement agenda. In addition to participating in the program, the sponsored leaders benefitted from group discussion facilitated by Jonathan Cannon, designed to apply the learnings to a Jewish day school context. During structured follow-up in the coming school year, they will be implementing a school improvement project pertaining to their schools’ Jewish mission/vision and incorporating learning from Harvard.
On Shabbat during the program, LEV participant Amy Platt, Director of General Studies at Bialik Hebrew Day School in Toronto, delivered the following dvar Torah. It provides an example of the style of thinking which the program encourages: the integration of leadership insights from the general educational world with those from the Jewish tradition. You also can watch this video (also at right) produced by Bialik Hebrew Day School for an inside look at the vision and mission of her school.
Who Shall Go Out Before Them and Who Shall Go In Before Them
There are a lot of numbers in this parsha and I like data – I could have made this into a math lesson about four and five-digit addition and subtraction, multi-step problem solving, data management and graphing – but I think we have heard enough about how to process data, so instead I have chosen to make connections to other aspects of school leadership that we have learned about this week at Harvard.
On Thursday, James Honen spoke about predecessors and successors.  He said that you receive the work of your predecessor and you give your work to your successor.  He challenged us to think about what we are building that we can pass forward. I would like to challenge us to do the same – through the lens of a Jewish source.
In this week’s parsha, Moses is instructed to choose a successor: someone who will inherit the work he has done and be a leader for the next generation of Israelites.  God describes to Moses the behaviors of the next leader of the people before telling him to appoint Joshua as his successor.
I think we can learn a lot about a possible set of behavioral norms a school leader can model with their faculty by reflecting on what God says to Moses about the expected behaviors his successor should display.
“Set a man over the congregation, who shall go out before them and who shall go in before them, who shall lead them out and who shall bring them in; so that the congregation of God be not as sheep that have no shepherd.”
The language who shall go out before them and who shall go in before them suggests to me the dual face of the leadership challenge.  We must go out before them – the faculty – and act as a charismatic spokesperson for the organizational vision.  However, we must also go in before them, and join them where they are: integrate ourselves into the faculty and be an active member of their cultural community.
The language who shall lead them out and who shall bring them in defines our mission as leaders of faculty at Jewish day schools.  We must lead them out, make them better, and help them see the wonders of 21st century learning that is available for them to use with our students in our classrooms.  We must bring them, the faculty in, and help them feel connected to our vision and an integral part of our mission.
Here is another way to look at bring them in that I see closely connected to the Jewish missions of day schools.  As school leaders, we have an opportunity not only to influence the Jewish experiences and life of the students in our schools, but of the teachers as well. We have the opportunity to “bring them in,” just as Joshua was deemed to be able to do.  Through good faculty development and meaningful Jewish experiences in our schools, we can guide our Jewish faculty towards increased understanding and commitment to Jewish literacy, religious purposefulness and peoplehood.
My Jewish identity and Jewish commitment have been strengthened by my experience as a faculty member in the day school world, and this opportunity is something I am striving to create for my faculty at Bialik.
As Moses’s successor, Joshua was tasked with a tremendous amount of responsibility and had the opportunity for a tremendous amount of influence.  We too are the successors of the Jewish day school world and The AVI CHAI Foundation’s mission.  This comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility and an opportunity for influence that has the potential to literally shift the direction of Jewish engagement and commitment for the next generation of North American Jews.  I hope (with purpose and urgency) that our week together, the learning, the networking and the collegial friendships we have made add to our ever growing toolbox of strategies and tactics that can help each of us make a significant difference to Jewish education and the future of the Jewish world.

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