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Sustainable Stories

Day school sustainability is an existential argument.

Either schools tell their story in a manner that convinces their extended community to fund them, or they fear going out of business.

Which means that sustainability is also a narrative act. It’s about knowing the full meaning of one’s words, of the direction in which they will move an audience when one deploys them.

The people who tell day school stories are numerous: administrators, admission officers, communications professionals, development people, teachers, parents and students and alumni ambassadors, you name it—but the problem is that almost none of them are trained in the narrative arts.

So PEJE asked some smart people to show us the best ways to use our words. We commissioned a series of essays on JDS, by people who are professionally articulate. Novelists. Essayists. Journalists. Professors. We call this series, which launched on November 5, 2013, Sustainable Stories.

These fine essays will make you think hard about day schools, as well as the way you speak and write about them.

  • We begin with a terrific piece by Erica Brownwhom The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg called “One of the leading Jewish thinkers in America today”—in which the author argues that Jewish day schools must learn to define the word “excellence” and then live up to that definition.
  •  National Jewish Book Award-winner Jonathan Krasner brings his keen historical understanding to the essential topic of communal obligation and Jewish day school.
  • The essay by solar energy entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz, “Billions from Jerusalem: New Financing for Jewish Day School Education,” is one of the most innovative proposals we’ve seen regarding the affordability crisis. Read on, and learn how Yossi plans for Israel to help families afford the increasingly expensive investment of JDS. Be sure to check out the “Billions from Jerusalem” webinar, featuring Yosef Abramowitz, PEJE’s Amy Katz, Alan Hoffman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Gil Preuss of CJP—Greater Boston’s Jewish Federation.
  • Just in time for Purim, Joel Chasnoff sends up our Sustainable Stories  with a wicked bit of JDS parody — a whole new comedic genre in itself! What would happen if, just once, you received a day school communication that begged you to stop writing tuition checks and start exposing your kids to the character-building force of, say, anti-Semitism? Click here, and learn.
  • What can contemporary research on leadership say about what it takes to lead Jewish day schools? Joshua D. Margolis, the James Dinan and Elizabeth Miller Professor of Business Administration in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School and Faculty Chair of the school’s Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning, has plenty to say here.
  • Click here to read field leader Jonathan Cannon’s experience-informed response to Margolis’ “Leading from the Gyroscope.” And then join the conversation.