A lovely side benefit of working at PEJE is that I can take public transportation in to the office. With anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes a day I’m not driving, I go through two to four books each month (thankfully, my commute passes the Boston Public Library). My current read is a new biography of the great 19th century British Jew, Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero.
So it’s quite the coincidence that as I’m reading about the foremost Jewish philanthropist of 150 years ago, Jacob Berkman at JTA published a list of the foremost of our own time: the Jewish philanthropists who have accepted Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s “Giving Pledge.” The pledge, for those who haven’t heard of it, is that the participants will donate half of their fortunes during their lifetimes.
As Berkman points out, some—but not all—of these philanthropists do have a history of contributing to Jewish causes (no windmill-building in Jerusalem, though). Fewer still have a history of funding Jewish education.
The PEJE Assembly for Advancing the Jewish Day School Field will have a large focus on the funding of Jewish education, within the context of increasing affordability and institutional sustainability. The Assembly will also pave the way towards widening the circle of day school supporters through the hard work of day school, federation, central agency, and foundational leaders.
As the last couple years have shown, expanding their donor bases as broadly as possible—going beyond mega-donors—is a necessary component of Jewish day schools’ achieving institutional sustainability. The Assembly will feature a range of sessions on the matter. One of the Institutes before the Assembly officially begins is “Designing an Alumni Program to Leverage Loyalty and Connection”; alumni relations will be the focus of sessions during the Assembly proper as well. Day school graduates represent the results of the system, and their (our) value in recruitment, governance, advocacy, and development efforts is crucial.
Other related sessions during the Assembly focus on bringing unaffiliated community members into your board and donor circle; building relationships among community organizations to maximize funding; and an entire day (Tuesday) of marketing the unique value of day school education to families, donors, and the wider Jewish community.