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North American Jewish Day School Conference 2012 a Major Success

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Over 700 professional and lay leaders from Jewish day schools from across the spectrum of practice came together for the third annual North American Jewish Day School Conference (NAJDSC) between January 15-17, 2012, in Atlanta, GA.

Jointly planned by RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network, the Institute for University-School Partnership at Yeshiva University, the Schechter Day School Network, PARDeS: The Progressive Association of Reform Day Schools, and PEJE, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, the conference brought together over 300 schools and professional organizations.

This year the conference focused on “Current Landscapes—Changing Horizons.” The program featured two keynote speeches, four mini-keynotes, a special tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and nearly 60 sessions and workshops. Each organization also convened its schools for intensive sessions focused on particular issues affecting their own schools and communities.  New this year were the ELI Talks, a TED-talk like format featuring dynamic, innovative speakers discussing the shared ideals and commitments of the Jewish people.  Dr. Steven Lorch, Head of School of the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, was particularly engaged by the mini-keynote sessions focused on technology integration, which “more than lived up to my expectations, and were geared exactly to my needs.”  Rabbi Marc Baker, Head of School of Gann Academy in Massachusetts, attended as both a participant and a presenter.  He “found the opportunity to present my ideas and to learn with my colleagues at NAJDS rewarding and rejuvenating. It was a joy to spend these few days during the school year reconnecting with other professionals who are so dedicated to their schools and their own professional growth.”

Other sessions addressed topics such as 21st century skills, the Jewish day school value proposition, re-imagining and sustaining day schools, and innovations in Jewish education. Equally important was the networking time that allowed participants to meet and hold in-depth discussions with other practitioners, funders, and education professionals.  Dr. Joshua Levisohn, Headmaster of the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, MD, found the conference to be “nothing short of inspiring. It affords all of us the unique opportunity to hear directly from each other, to share ideas, receive feedback, solve challenges, and perhaps most importantly, think creatively about the future of Jewish education in a 21st century environment.”

Local day school leaders were also impressed by the conference and the opportunity to convene with other professionals.  Praising his colleagues as “diverse, passionate, creative, committed, open-minded, professional, and visionary,” Rabbi Micah Lapidus, Director of Judaic Studies at Davis Academy in Atlanta is “proud to be a part of a consortium that brings Jewish educators together from so many different types of schools and organizations. I think the North American Jewish Day School Conference is a model for the entire Jewish world. Truly klal Yisrael is strengthened and enriched when we have opportunities like these to come together.” 

The North American Jewish Day School Leadership Conference is supported by the AVI CHAI Foundation, The Covenant Foundation, ERB, the Kohelet Foundation, Measuring Success and several anonymous funders.

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