Schechter Network and United Synagogue Announce $2 Million in Grants

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SCHECHTER NETWORK AND UNITED SYNAGOGUE
ANNOUNCE $2 MILLION IN GRANTS

Funds Will Go Toward Strengthening Schechter Schools

Leadership Transition Announced

NEW YORK, JULY 1, 2013 – Signaling a bright future for Conservative day school education, the Schechter Day School Network and United Synagogue have just been awarded nearly $2 million in grants that will allow the day school network to dramatically enhance its ability to strengthen North America’s 43 Schechter schools.

The grants include nearly $1.7 million in funding from the Avi Chai Foundation for capacity building and programming, and a substantial challenge grant from an anonymous foundation.

“These grants are transformative, enabling us to provide an unprecedented level of service to our Schechter schools,” said Dr. Steven C. Lorch, president of the Schechter Network board. “They will generate extraordinary momentum for our programs, the immediate beneficiaries of which will be our schools, the gifted educators who teach in and lead them, and their students.”

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism will remain for the immediate future the institutional home of the Schechter Network, which is pursuing separate incorporation as a not-for-profit organization. USCJ has pledged continued financial support for Schechter and advocacy for day school education as part of its Learning Department’s multi-pronged program initiatives.

Following its 2011 strategic plan, United Synagogue worked with an array of Conservative leaders and education experts to create a new vision for Conservative Jewish learning.  This new “learning paradigm” called in part for the Schechter Network to become more independent and to expand its fundraising capacity in order to strengthen schools, increase enrollment, and establish new Schechter schools.

“These grants indicate growing support for Schechter, and for United Synagogue’s vision for Jewish education,” said Rabbi Jim Rogozen, Chief Learning Officer at USCJ.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue, added, “We are delighted that our work in helping to build a more independent Schechter Network and to bolster its fundraising capacity has been validated as the right direction for Conservative Jewish day schools. We look forward to offering ongoing support and collaboration.”

Rabbi Wernick credited the director of the Schechter Network, Dr. Elaine Shizgal Cohen, for her tremendous leadership in shepherding the network through the complex planning process that allowed it to reach this milestone. The process was funded by a grant from the Avi Chai Foundation which, said Cohen, “enabled us to create a strategic and business plan for better serving our schools and for enhancing the Schechter Network’s financial strength and stability. The results were very much worth waiting for.”

Earlier this year, Cohen announced that she would retire at the end of June 2014 after many years serving as the Schechter Network’s solo professional staff. An outstanding educator, Cohen spearheaded numerous initiatives, including the rebranding project “Engage the World,” the Mekor Hayyim grant on Judaism and the Environment, and the Summer Institute for Rabbinics teachers in partnership with Mechon Hadar. She served on the leadership team of the North American Jewish Day School Conference since its inception.

The Schechter Network has appointed Dr. Jon Mitzmacher as its new executive director. Mitzmacher is a nationally recognized expert in the field of 21st-century learning, and his school, the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, a Schechter Network school, has done pioneering work in the field. Mitzmacher will be taking on full-time responsibility for leading the Network as soon as he finishes his term at his current school.

“Dr. Mitzmacher is exactly the right leader for the Schechter Network at this pivotal moment,” said Lorch, the network president. “He is an innovator, a visionary, and an inspirational educator.”

“Jon has proven himself to be a visionary 21st century Jewish educational leader and we are thrilled that he will take the helm of the Schechter Network,” added Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, who chaired the search committee.

“I am honored and excited to assume leadership of this network whose past is so filled with accomplishment and whose future shines so brightly,” said Mitzmacher. “I look forward to assembling a powerhouse team with whom we will deliver on the promise of a strategic plan that promises to so significantly enhance services to our schools.”

In addition to their work with other USCJ education programs, Cohen and Rogozen’s presence in the Learning Department will ensure a smooth transition for a new leadership team that will include, in addition to the executive director, a development professional, education programming professionals, and field consultants.

About the Schechter Day School Network
The Schechter Day School Network advances educational excellence and collaboration among Jewish day schools that share its dual commitment to tradition and modernity. The Network serves the needs of its community of schools for connection, innovative Jewish programs, professional development, and advocacy.

About United Synagogue
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is a community of more than 600 North American kehillot – sacred communities — committed to a dynamic Judaism that is learned and passionate, authentic and pluralistic, joyful and accessible, egalitarian or traditional.

Our congregations create the conditions for a powerful and vibrant Jewish life, empowering Jews in North America to seek the presence of God, to seek meaning and purpose in Torah and mitzvot, to fully engage with Israel, and to be inspired by Judaism to improve the world and the Jewish people.  USCJ serves over 200,000 households in North America, representing more than one million people. More information is available at www.uscj.org.

Photos from Israel Trips 2013

Study Finds Advantages for Students in Faith-Based Schools

Religious schools have higher academic performance, meta-analysisnarrower achievement gaps, and better behavioral outcomes than traditional public schools and public charter schools, according to findings from a meta-analysis of 90 studies on the effects of schools conducted by William Jeynes, senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ, and a professor at California State University, Long Beach.

Jeynes calls religious schools “the best hope for American education” and says the nation should “rethink its strategy of espousing charter schools and overlooking the benefits of faith-based education.”

Find out more in the May issue of Outlook.

SDSN Executive Summary for NAJDSC

The 43 schools in 17 states and two Canadian provinces that comprise the Schechter Day School Network (SDSN) share a rich history, core commitments, and key attributes that are central to the Network, its members, and the Jewish people.  Below is a brief summary of key sections of the nearly completed SDSN strategic plan.  We thank Schechter school leaders for your input and feedback throughout the process.

Click here to read more

NAJDSC Vendor Marketplace

“The vendors at the Jewish Day School Conference made a significant investment to attend the conference and display their products in the Marketplace. Please consider giving them business from your school for services and materials that you will be ordering. Click on the link to this page on the conference website,  http://www.jewishdayschoolconference.org/vendor-marketplace to see the listing of the 50 vendors who were on-site in Washington and who are eager to engage with you about your school’s needs.”

Marketplace Vendors

An Open Letter on Gun Legislation

An open letter to the President and Members of Congress:
December 20, 2012

We, the undersigned, are rabbis, educators and community leaders at Jewish day schools across the United States. Collectively, we are connected to 30 schools, enrolling more than 7,500 students.

We are moved to write to you by the heartbreaking tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday. As far as we know, that tragedy was the work of a deranged young man whose sickness blinded him to the moral and ethical implications of his actions. But whatever his motives, the killer’s rampage was only possible because we as a society have made it so easy for people like him to obtain military-style guns and ammunition legally, cheaply and easily.

Many commentators have called this a political failure, which it may be, but we believe it is, first and foremost, a moral failure. The Torah teaches us that when we live in a community, we must actively work to prevent harm to others. Deuteronomy 22:8 tells us that if we build a new house, we must build a railing on the roof, lest someone fall off and get hurt – literally, “so that you will not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it.” The Talmud extends this notion to other dangerous things within our control, such as violent dogs, which must be kept on a chain lest they hurt someone (Bava Kamma 15b, 79b; Choshen Mishpat 409:3). Guns are no exception; indeed, the Talmud tells us that we must make every effort to ensure that we do not put dangerous weapons into the hands of would-be criminals (Avodah Zarah 15b). Continue reading »