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This post begins in the ladies’ room.

Sorry, but it does.

We’re talking about a bathroom in Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, in Livingston, New Jersey. The date: July 2012. The setting: PEJE’s 2012 Summer Development Intensive workshop.

We open with a close up of Jill Goldenberg, PEJE’s Strategy Manager for Growing Endowment and Legacy Revenue, who stands in the ladies’ room, listening. Hard. In that JDS-based no-man’s land, our red-headed Strategy Manager overhears, of all things… one attendee talking to another about how much she digs PEJE and our conferences.

As a Jewish education professional the coaching and support that we get from PEJE is unbelievable…

Cut to: Amanda Shechter, who happens to be the Director of Admissions and Outreach at Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley, finishing up her thoughtful improvised PEJE spiel.

Widen to: Goldenberg approaching Shechter and advising her to go to Kushner’s library, where PEJE had set up an impromptu video shoot for a Summer Intensive pitch slam. Shechter’s assignment: Recreate her PEJE speech before the camera.

Now, I embed this video not to toot our own organizational horn but to cite Goldenberg’s quick thinking as something for all JDS people to emulate. Here’s how:

Keep your ears open. If your school is doing its job, your parents and students will talk. They will gush. The exhilaration of getting an excellent Jewish education is something they will not be quiet about (these are, after all, Jews we’re talking about; we are not a reticent people).

Fast Times at JDS. You don’t need to accost people when they are ensconced in the bathroom, but you are not free from the obligation to follow up when you hear a good story. If someone says something meaningful within earshot, introduce yourself and invite them to capture the moment. The fact is, when you hear a good, useful story, you need to grab it—ASAP. When you’re dealing with non-actors, day school people whose job isn’t to appear relaxed before the camera, who aren’t big on memorizing lines, it’s best to ask for performance as near in time to an organic and useful utterance as possible. Speed can help, when it comes to authenticity, and keeping it real is the coin of the realm in online video content.

Camera ready. Now of course, you probably won’t have a professional on hand, as we did at the conference, to light and shoot the scene with professional precision… nonetheless, you have options.

  • Many schools have a prosumer-level video camera on hand, and perhaps a communications person who knows how to use it.
  • You, or someone on staff, has gotta have an iPhone.
  • With a smartphone and a Facebook account, you can capture and share the story with your community.

Be an editor, or get one. For you would-be cinéastes: you can do some editing with little or no cost. Online video need not be broadcast quality, and if you have access to a Mac, you have access to iMovie software. If you don’t, YouTube has some pretty easy-to-use editing tools that can help smooth things out. You should certainly talk to the kids in the school A/V. Most of all, you should sign up for the next iteration of AVI CHAI’s Jewish Day School Video Academy: there’s plenty good stuff to learn there (and an opportunity to get some free video consultation).

The point is: Everyone can engage in a little JDS guerilla filmmaking. What’s most important is that you recognize when someone’s saying something great about your school, and having a Goldbergian presence of mind to get the shot.

Fade to black.

No, not “Fade to black”: Get to work!