Reflecting on the Moving the Needle Conference

January 22, 2014

Source: PEJE Blog 


Yesterday was the end of the three-day Ravsak/Pardes Jewish Day School Leadership Conference in Los Angeles which I attended. In fact, I actually stayed on a bit longer speaking with Ken Gordon of PEJE and JEDLAB fame engaging in a very thoughtful conversation about Jewish education, its present state, its future and ways to move the needle (the theme of the conference) in our schools and the field. I could not think of a better way to end the conference as it was the personification of my conference experience.


The conversation was an engaging dialogue of innovative ideas, challenges, diverse thoughts and mutual respect for each other's commitment to Jewish education. This continued even when what is true about Jewish education and life for each other was different. This is what the conference was all about for me, and Ken, abstractly and in reality, was actually a thread that ran through most of my experience there.


Jewish day schools, like the Jewish people, are a beautiful tapestry made up of different colored, sized, and shaped threads. Having a gathering of Jewish educators which does not offer different learning opportunities, approaches, challenges to assumptions and various ways to incubate new ideas would truly be a wasted opportunity. This conference certainly did not waste what was afforded to them. From sessions on design thinking, the Maker Movement, importance of play, changing culture, retaining teachers, Jewish framework for innovation, and empathy for staff going through a change process the conference hit the mark and those were just the sessions I attended. There was a wide breadth of other ones to ensure every aspect of a school, from the teachers to the board, was impacted and challenged to expand their thinking.


I suppose if pressed to suggest one thing that I wish was different at the conference was that it truly was as diverse in attendance as it was in amazing content. Since I began working for the YU School Partnership a few years back, I have attended the North American Jewish Day School Conference which is a partnership between the YU School Partnership, RAVSAK, Schechter Network, PARDES and PEJE. This year RAVSAK/PARDES put on this amazing conference and the YU School Partnership/Schechter Network will be putting on iJED on March 2, 2014 which, from everything I see, will also be amazing. However, what this conference lacked, as will certainly iJED, is the full fabric of the Jewish Day School tapestry.


For these reasons, I am excited that next year, March 8-10th, 2015 in Philadelphia, we will once again have one conference. However, this year I wish we were living as we preach by sharing and saving Jewish community dollars, sharing and cultivating ideas for the greater whole, promoting Jewish educational diversity and celebrating Jewish educators together as a field. Until then, I thank RAVSAK/PARDES for a wonderful conference, wish the YU School Partnership/Schechter Network hatzlacha in March and can’t wait till we reconvene in 2015 in what I felt was the ideal way to celebrate Jewish education; together.


Read more at the PEJE Blog.

Updated: Jan. 29, 2014