We have been delighted as we prepare for the start of the school year to welcome many schools as members of Prizmah. Our goal is to maximize participation among schools as members. As we reach out to achieve this, I have been reflecting on what it actually means to join something or to sign up to be part of something bigger. Day schools across North America engage in this kind of thinking all the time, and especially at this time of year when attention turns to the first day of school. What does it mean when schools welcome new families? We invite new students, teachers, and board members to be part of our community, and we are really asking them to embark on a new relationship. How does it feel to be asked to join a community, to be invited to make an investment in an organization that promises benefits?
The Jewish value of hachnassat orchim/welcoming guests offers a model from which we might learn more about how to manage both the “joining” and the “welcoming” processes. We know from the example of Avraham inviting guests to his open-sided tent that it is a mitzvah to welcome a stranger. Etiquette aside, there are a lot of conventions we follow and good instincts when it comes to opening up our home, hosting a meal, or even housing relatives for a long weekend. Schools are attuned to this, too, when they create first-day rituals for new kindergarteners and returning families and students. Whether through special decorations, an assembly, or even something as simple as a warm smile to a new face, we are pretty good at welcoming.
On the other hand, it can be harder to navigate the process of “joining.” Embarking on a journey—whether for pleasure, business, or out of necessity—means leaving what is familiar in the service of a higher goal. Accepting the role of “guest” or even “member” means making oneself vulnerable along the way, acknowledging that one is in need of assistance or support. When we extend an invitation and ask someone to leave the comforts of their home for a different environment, we understand that even the invitation itself can be disruptive. When we accept the invitation and join, we leave ourselves open to the possibility that the experience will change us, and we also acknowledge that we have an opportunity—some would say an obligation—to bring something of ourselves to the table.
As a member organization, Prizmah is only as strong as the involvement of our schools. This means encouraging participation and a sense of strong engagement, perhaps even ownership, of our work. That is why membership matters to us. You who are Heads of School, board members, senior professionals, donors, teachers, and parents are what make Prizmah relevant. As a learning organization in a field where learning is prioritized above all, we depend on you entering our tent, so to speak, and sharing as well as taking.
This year, Prizmah revamped the way we structure membership, knowing that one size does not fit all in the day school field. We are aware that the decision to “join something bigger” can require careful consideration, both from a financial and values-based perspective. It is our firm belief that when day schools of all shapes and sizes come together, the field itself is strengthened, and new possibilities emerge for individual schools, leaders, and ultimately, students. Prizmah is committed to providing its members with knowledge, experiences, and resources that will transform day school education. With that in mind, we invite you to join us, and we look forward to a lasting relationship.