PEJE strengthens the sustainability and affordability
of Jewish day schools by stimulating advocacy, growing the
capacities of schools in revenue enhancement
and galvanizing the community ecosystem.
Planting the Seeds of Our Future: A Look Back at Some Deeply Rooted Ideas
By Amy Katz
The text below is a version of the opening remarks PEJE’s Executive Director, Amy Katz, delivered in Los Angeles—where PEJE just launched a second cohort of schools in our flagship endowment-building program, Generations, co-sponsored by The AVI CHAI Foundation.
In 1854, launching the first issue of his regular monthly publication, Jesuhrun, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch expressed the following thoughts:
If ever a cause required the quality of profound insight, the eloquence of deep-felt conviction and the impetus of ardent zeal… it would most certainly be that of education—Jewish education. “Create schools! Improve the schools you already have!”… [F]or the sake of our own future, we will not rest until we can honestly respond to the call for more and better schools with answering assurance: “We have the schools now, and they are truly good, truly Jewish schools!”… Can there be any hope for our future as long as we must behold the sad decline of institutions at which the seeds of our future are sown… ? More than any other institution, the school must have the full support of the community… [T]he most vital problems of a Jewish school and be solved only in cooperation with the entire community…
How prescient those words are! That we sit here in 2013 and could say similar thoughts about our own time, our own schools, is remarkable. While PEJE is relatively young, only 16 years old—as compared to these sentences written over 150 years ago—Hirsch’s ideas strongly reflect the beliefs and convictions we hold dear today. In fact, they guide our work in the JDS field. Vibrant day schools that are destinations of choice for students, families, and philanthropic investment: That is what we seek. We also seek communities that value and are committed to the essential role Jewish day schools play in ensuring their future vitality. Communities that act on their obligation to help secure these schools’ sustainability. In 2013, as in 1854, we seek nothing less. That is the mission of PEJE.
Our partners are communities such as New York, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Houston, South Florida, and Los Angeles. These communities model the vision articulated by Rabbi Hirsch. By committing themselves to best practices in development and endowment building, the schools are sowing the seeds for the future of their children, grandchildren, and the future of their community. As a result of their efforts, in 150 years the leaders of our communities will be quoting pages out of our books and saying: “Because of the seeds planted in 2013, we no longer need to raise our voices in advocacy of schools, because we will already be there.”
 Thanks to YU’s Scott Goldberg for drawing my attention to this material.