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

What Story Does Your School Tell About Its Jewish Purpose?

Posted by: Deborah Fishman

April 23, 2015

This past Monday, Dr. Jack Wertheimer hosted a webinar entitled: “What story does your school tell about its Jewish purpose?” This topic is one of the important themes of the case study series which Dr. Wertheimer directed, “How Schools Enact Their Jewish Missions,” available here on the AVI CHAI website. Presenting during the webinar were two day school leaders whose schools’ approaches to this topic were documented in the series — Nicole Nash of Hannah Senesh Community Day School and Tully Harcsztark of SAR High School. They each discussed personal experiences as well as perceptions of the opportunities and challenges relating to how their schools — a Community and a Modern Orthodox school, respectively — convey their Jewish purposes to parents and other constituencies.
Each spoke about their schools’ internal work to define and communicate their schools’ Jewish mission. Tully described the process of distilling core values into a mission statement and then the challenges of how to concretize those values. Nicole spoke about viewing everything from the admissions process and classroom activities like tefillah to school programs and a weekend playspace open to the entire community as opportunities for families to intentionally experience the Jewish mission come alive. Then, in the Q&A, they addressed questions related to how dynamic they view their Jewish purposes to be — whether they think this purpose could change over time, and how they respond when there is pushback from different constituencies or when a controversy arises in the school. For instance, Tully raised the situation at his school when some female students wished to put on tefillin during women’s tefillah, and Nicole spoke to how she has developed an approach to current events in Israel in a diverse community.
To watch the recorded webinar, please visit: https://avichai.org/story-webinar

For more about Tully and Nicole’s schools, you may also read the case studies documenting them:

Join us next week for a second webinar with Dr. Wertheimer on another topic in the case studies series:
“What key values and commitments motivate your school’s leadership team?”
Wednesday, April 29th, 1-2pm EST
Sign up here

Additionally, Senior Program Officer Rachel Mohl Abrahams will lead a webinar:
“State of the Field of Jewish Day School Online/Blended Learning”
Monday, May 4th, 1-2pmEST
Sign up here

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