Prizmah exists because of the extraordinary power of Jewish day schools. In all their beautiful diversity, they are uniformly sacred places. Those who work there are engaged in holy service. Every day, in a kindergarten classroom, on the soccer field, in a high school science lab, around a board table, in the carpool line, teachers, students, professionals, parents, and volunteers are all contributing to the very real fulfillment of a lofty vision for a vibrant Jewish future.
While sacred in mission and idealism, day schools are very much grounded in “earthly” day-to-day realities. I am reminded of what we say before Kol Nidre each year, “b’yeshiva shel ma’alah u’v’yeshiva shel matah,” “in the yeshiva above, and in the yeshiva down below.” Those of us who are passionate about day schools know that we must actually appeal to both yeshivot in order to keep our schools vibrant and sustainable. There are lofty ideals as well as extremely tangible needs.
There are times, and the aftermath of the recent devastating hurricanes is only our most recent and obvious example, when the earthly needs can seem to overwhelm the sacred aspirations. Yet we have seen in the past month, over and over, how even in the face of two of the worst natural disasters in recent memory, the identification of needs and efforts to address them reveal the very heart of the sacred role schools play in the lives of their students, families, staff, and broader community.
Specifically, Prizmah is responding to the needs these catastrophes have raised in a number of ways. We are serving as a resource and conduit to enable schools to get what they need from the broader day school community that seeks to support them.
More generally, Prizmah is all about being responsive to how schools express their needs and enabling effective ways to connect their needs with the broader day school community. We believe that empowering the day school field to cultivate methods of self-improvement will have lasting impact on these sacred institutions. This is what the October Leaders to Leaders conference is all about: finding ways to help day school leaders surface their dilemmas and then, with the help of their peers, imagine new ways to address them. I hope you will consider attending or recommending the experience to professionals in your school.
The more time I spend immersed in the day school field, the more deeply impressed I am by just how amazing our schools are. Beyond the obvious, “transactional” aspect of providing education to children, day schools truly create “kehillot kedusha,” communities where holiness dwells. At moments of tragedy and in the much more frequent times of celebration we pray for, day schools occupy the very special realm that is both “yeshiva shel matah,” a sometimes very gritty reality, and “yeshiva shel ma’alah,” a taste of the heavenly court.