Ethical challenges confront each and every one of us in our daily lives. How honest should we be with our co-workers? To whom do we owe our greatest loyalty? How do we balance between our responsibility to family, community, profession, and self? The famous Mishnaic debate between the Houses of Hillel and Shamai about how to sing the praises of an unattractive bride (Kallah Rabbati 9:1) captures just one slice of the honesty conundrum and reminds us that grappling with ethics is an ancient enterprise and is very much a Jewish preoccupation.
Many view these kinds of challenges as obstacles to be overcome; others, however, see them as opportunities for schools to grow and find their most deeply held values. Much like a real-life Kohlbergian values-clarification exercise, the process of dealing with the challenges sometimes matters as much, if not even more than, the actual results. The process can help examine questions such as: Whose interests does the school place at the core? Who is involved in addressing the problem? What criteria are established for determining the most appropriate course of action? These questions touch the heart of the school’s identity, and it is questions like these to which we devote this issue of Jewish Educational Leadership.
We open our Research section with a study by Jeffrey Glanz on school leaders’ perception of ethical issues. We continue with Lior Misrachi’s report on a system-wide ethical challenge in Jewish day schools in Australia. At the core of the question of ethics is translating those ethics into practice. We turned to two groups of educational leaders and presented them with a series of dilemmas, and share with you a symposium based on their responses to those dilemmas.
Continuing our Applications section we hear from a number of former school leaders, who share with us insights based on their rich experiences: Devora Steinmetz, founder of the Beit Rabban school in Manhattan; Paul Shaviv, who devoted the bulk of his professional career to Community High School of Toronto; and Menahem Meier, founder and long-time principal of the Frisch School in Paramus, NJ.
As this edition of the journal was going to press, we received a fascinating Master's thesis exploring the differences between the way ethical challenges are handled by religious and secular schools in Israel. There was not enough time to even get an abstract in English, but the paper can be accessed on the journal site.
Levi Cooper’s From the Classics explores a fascinating case revolving around the ethics of anonymous authorship. Finally, our Perspective on Jewish Education column features Deborah Court, an insightful educator and former principal who now studies educational communities in Israel.