The second day of the Prizmah Conference in Atlanta, GA included a unique opportunity to use design thinking to crack “The Questions that Matter Most,” a dinner celebrating the field, and a rousing performance by the Distant Cousins. Throughout the day, there were also sessions offered that allowed an exploration of trends and ideas in the field that affect all areas of Jewish day schools. In accordance with the conference theme, “Dare to Dream,” here are some dreams from this second day of the conference.
- We will make the case for Jewish day schools using evidence and research.
In a session on “What makes for a great Jewish day school?” Dr. Alex Pomson and Dr. Jack Wertheimer discussed their research underway at nine Jewish day schools to explore three questions: 1) How is Jewish day school today a different “animal” today than 20 years ago? 2) How are day schools going about trying to address their challenges? 3) How do day schools understand what the educated Jew of the 21st century needs? The session discussed how the emerging research could be used to inform how day school leaders and other stakeholders make the case for Jewish day school in their communities.
- Israel will be infused throughout Jewish day school life.
“Israel lives within and through us; therefore, learning about Israel is most effective when woven throughout a learner’s experiences.” Dr. Lesley Litman from The iCenter talked about the work of iNfuse, a program that helps Jewish day schools explores questions such as: What does an Israel infused (in and through the learning) educational setting look like? How do we go about creating an Israel-infused environment? The conclusion was that Israel should be a living place – beyond “flags and falafel,” closer to “a shared language.”
- Jewish day schools will thrive through creative financial strategies.
At “Alternative revenue sources: yes, you can,” Dan Perla of Prizmah facilitated a conversation about bold new ideas that might help schools stabilize finances. The San Diego Jewish Academy has experimented with monetizing day school spaces, catering, and international exchange students, among other creative ideas. We also heard about an idea for a communal tuition fund that pays tuition and allows parents to pay it back interest-free based on income over time, using life insurance as collateral.
- The Jewish day school field will be strong and vibrant, and continue to realize all its dreams.
On the occasion of AVI CHAI’s last North American Jewish Day School Conference before our sunset, we were very moved by five toasts from field leaders: Rabbi Ari Segal, Cheryl Finkel, Nina Bruder, Jonathan Cannon, and Rabbi Marc Baker. May the field continue to realize its dreams.