Resources for a Conversation: Building Day Schools

Let’s talk about day schools.


In some ways, Jewish day schools are more challenged than ever before: They face governance weaknesses, leadership absences, and, of course, a tuition “crisis.” The issues are not insignificant.


And yet, we see remarkable innovations.  Such innovations can be focused on the quality of the student’s learning and experience, like makerspaces and arts opportunities, true chances for students to explore Judaism and their individual sense of self through creative expression. OOr, one school has taken an "R&D" approach, using the frame of design thinking, to revamp the structure of the student experience. Some schools are intertwining Jewish and secular instruction, with classes conducted in English and in Hebrew, and co-teachers fluent in both languages. In many places, technological tools help one set of Hebrew resources—activities, books, and songs—follow students from home to school and back again. In total, learning is creative, interesting, and personal.


These innovations speak to the capacities of the schools to do their work. The field is recruiting nonprofit entrepreneurs to serve as heads of school, with entrepreneurs now leading some of the richest Jewish educational environments in North America. Parent ambassadors are well-trained and recruit proudly, and room parents build community for students and families outside of the classroom, even beyond the elementary years. Heads of school serve as spiritual leaders for their families: They lead holiday services, baby namings, and weddings for alumni.


Day schools serve as anchors of Jewish communities. Although not the only anchors, they are imperative to the cultural vitality and texture of Jewish life. The ideas they represent and their students can serve as the vanguard of Jewish community. These schools require significant attention and we have to figure out how to help them not just survive but also thrive, engaging as many families as possible.


Beginning with a a half-day conference following the GA (program here; register here), continuing with a published landscape analysis of trends and opportunities, and via the web in coming months, we’ll be talking about day schools, usually working with our partners at Prizmah. It won’t be easy; in some cases, there aren’t easy answers. But we don’t do this work, of course, because it’s easy. We do it because it matters. And day schools matter.


An Overview

The Future of Jewish Day Schools

(Jewish day schools offer a sense of purpose, history, and place to North American Jews today.)


Jewish Day Schools and Their Future Place in American Jewish Life

(Providing purpose, meaning, and substance in day school education enhances student’s connection to their personal and communal Judaism.)


Beyond Continuity, Identity And Literacy: Making A Compelling Case For Jewish Day Schools To 21st Century American Jews

(Approaching Jewish education to meet the needs of Jews today.)


About Teachers

Day Schools Produce Jewish Leaders When Teachers Thrive

(When teachers study their own teaching, their teaching gets better.)


How to Attract, Prepare and Keep Good Day School Teachers

(Teacher retention is strengthened by continuous learning in subject matter and effective teaching strategies.)


About Student Experiences

Blended Online Learning

(True blended learning—not adding games or computer activities, but genuinely situating educational projects online—yields a cost-savings while also allowing for a student-led experience. This video of the Moriah School in Englewood, New Jersey, demonstrates the investment of the AVI CHAI and Kohelet foundations in supporting schools to integrate blended online learning into their approach.)

From Convincing to Understanding: Developing Dispositions of Torah Study

(Learning in hevruta helps to build Torah study skills and knowledge and helps students learn to be in relationship with others—and, it’s fun.)


B%u2019Yadenu: It%u2019s in Our Hands to Create Inclusive Day Schools

(Inclusion in day schools requires images of what’s possible, time in the classroom to make it happen, and teacher support.)


Hebrew for What?: Hebrew at the Heart of Jewish Day Schools

(Teaching Hebrew effectively asks for deeper investment: in teachers, as we help them understand how to teach Hebrew as a second language, in identification of realistic outcomes, in support for schools’ emphasis on Hebrew.)


Highlights of Lamplighters Yeshivah

(This yeshivah, which blends hasidut with Montessori principles and behavioral science related to learning, focuses on helping individual students become their best selves. Videos showcase their educational methods.)


About Leadership

The Head of School and Emotional Intelligence: A Leadership Challenge

(The head of school needs to have deep and flexible emotional intelligence to navigate a number of challenging relationships and help all school stakeholders continue their deep attachment with the school.)


What Is Effective Educational Leadership in Jewish Day Schools and How Can It Be Nurtured and Sustained?

(A successful head of school needs to have and be able to convey an educational vision, to facilitate teachers’ professional growth, and to be a leader for community stakeholders external to the school.)


At the Dawn of 2015, How Fares Jewish Day School Governance? Better and Better

(Training for Board chairs and other Board leaders has resulted in strengthened Board practices, including more expansive financial planning for the school and more positive head of school-Board relationships.)


Developing a Theory of Jewish Day School Leadership

(The Avi Chai Foundation reflects on their years of experience investing in day school leadership and offers nine suggested areas for effective leadership.) 


Asking the Tough Questions: A Challenge to Jewish Day Schools

(Excellence in day school education today requires brave leaders who receive the best training possible in a cohort setting.)


About Revenue

Empowered Jewish Giving: Hannah Senesh Community Day School Pioneers Jewish Day School Giving Circle

(Engaging parents in a giving circle can lead to parents with a stronger relationship with the school and to greater engagement in revenue generation and allocation.)


About Enrollment

Discover Jewish Day Schools

(Chicago’s website markets day school education and supports parents in finding the right school for their families.)