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Your Invitation to a Celebration of JDS Innovation

One of the things PEJE learned from poring over 141 Challenge Award applications—Yes: 141!—is that there’s a considerable amount of innovation in the Jewish day school world. Schools are pushing themselves like never before to rethink their approach to development, admissions, and advocacy, with a clear eye on long-term financial sustainability.

Reading all the great work you’ve done, we thought, “Why aren’t schools doing more to make this public?” And then we realized: We can help publicize your efforts!

We want to work with you to create an online celebration of your innovation. This is a chance not just to get the word out to your online kehillah, but to step out in front of the entire field and show what great work you’ve done. To get you started, here are several ideas:

  1. Shoot a quick video, with your smartphone, of the happy person/people who drove your innovation project. Then email it to PEJE (ken@peje.org) and we’ll share it with the entire field, via social media. (BTW: When we do post your stuff on the PEJE FB page, please encourage your community to visit and comment and in general show a lot of love.)
  2. And/Or … shoot a video of your school community lighting the menorah. Your innovations have brightened the Jewish day school field—let the light shine out!
  3. Write a blog post telling your Board, parents, and donors what you’ve been up to—and why. This will be a chance for you to go into the details of what made your project so great.  You’ve already put so much work into writing those award applications. Why not refashion them into a blog post! Psst: If we like what you’ve written, we may cross-post it on the PEJE Blog.
  4. Transform your post into an email blast. Not everyone in your world will be checking Facebook, so it’s a very good idea to, say, repurpose your blog post and send it off to the many in-boxes in your JDS community.
  5. For the Twitter-users out there: Post a series of celebratory tweets using the hashtag #jdsinnovation. I can see this leading to some interesting conversations! We see this as a way for all you innovators to meet each other: we’d love for you folks to compare notes and see what else we can learn.
  6. Innovation Celebration at NAJDS. Quite a few Challenge Award applicants will be attending the North American Jewish Day School conference, in Atlanta, next month. Please RSVP at Facebook page.  We can’t wait to make our first offline Challenge Award introductions.

Wait: Do you have an innovative idea about getting the word out? If so, what are you waiting for? Let’s hear about it in the Comments section!

20 thoughts on “Your Invitation to a Celebration of JDS Innovation

  1. Dan Cohen

    Wow – this is a terrific list. what i love about this is that nothing sounds like an inappropriate end-zone dance. nothing here will get a team might get flagged for excessive celebration.

    each of these is discrete, practical, targeted, and completely do-able. they embody the old football adage – if you get to the endzone…act like you’ve been there before.

    congrats to all the winners, and all the 120+ entries. we’re all in this together.

  2. Bil Zarch

    PEJE, the only words LGA can say is “Todah Rabbah!” Thank you for acknowledging the hard work that our entire community did to look at how to raise annual fund dollars. LGA tapped into social networking to close out our campaign and gained a lot of new donors.

    I look forward to seeing the other very creative ideas that this cohort came up with. Jewish day schools are at an exciting crossroads. Motivating and incentivizing us was a brilliant way of seeing new ideas prosper.

    Thank you PEJE!

  3. Aaron Steinberg

    We are honored to have been chosen as one of the winners of this $25,000 award. Thank you to PEJE for pushing us to innovate, evaluate and elaborate.

    We are planning on sharing this with our community, and plan on sending out an email to the community sharing our success (we don’t currently have a school blog to post on).

    I think the next question is: “How do we make sure this innovation is spread and shared among schools?” We would love to summarize what we did in a simple and concise way, while also not “[getting] flagged for excessive celebration.”

    My gut is telling me that we need two separate messages to go out. One more internal message to celebrate our school’s innovation and the fact that we won this award, and a separate external message to share how we did it so others can have the opportunity to glean from us.

    Is there going to be a formal process for the distribution of these ideas?

    -Aaron Steinberg
    SAR Academy & SAR High School
    Riverdale, NY

  4. Derek Gale

    Why not share examples of innovation across platforms–here in the comments section, on Facebook, on Twitter, etc.?

    Here’s one: In November, we (Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago) launched a new admissions-oriented microsite where prospective families can see a slideshow that summarizes who we are and what we do at the school, as well as find answers to frequently asked questions.

    To drive people to the site, we produced a mini-viewbook that refers to it, we shared it with our school community in our weekly email newsletter, we linked to it from our http://www.bzaeds.org site, we posted about it on Facebook and Twitter, etc. Please check out http://www.morethanaschool.org and let us know what you think!

    Many thanks to American Hebrew Academy for sharing their thoughts on the microsite concept–ours was modeled after http://www.highschoolmeansmore.org

  5. Joanne Helperin

    We couldn’t be prouder. We’re going to post a News story on our web site, and that story will be featured in “News,” “Support YULA,” and “Alumni” sections for both YULA Boys and YULA Girls Schools – it will be tweeted simultaneously. It will be highlighted in our upcoming email newsletters (which link back to the web site), and sent directly in an subject-specific email blast to all relevant constituents. Video will happen, though may not be ready by tomorrow (pretty tight deadline, PEJE!) I’ve already started working it into the invitation for our upcoming Annual Campaign dinner as well as all future marketing materials. Thanks, PEJE for the opportunity to contribute and learn from other JDS!

  6. Kevin Martone

    I’m looking forward to learning about all the innovative ideas from the various Challenge Award winners. This is a great list of ways for the winners to promote their success. In particular, organizations should remember to repurpose their content – the short video they put up on the PEJE Facebook Page can be the highlight of a short blog post, which can be the highlight of the next eNewsletter. Good stories and good content are the key – once you have that good information, share it widely.

    Schools may also consider slightly modifying their blog post to send out to local newspapers (online and off) as a press release. Don’t forget traditional channels to get the word out!


  7. Marisa Brown

    We are excited for the Honorable Mention. Thank you! I think one of the many ways we are innovators is our use of blogs and social media across the school. Our teachers have really embraced the technology available to them and are discovering new and interesting ways to share the classroom experience with our parents. This is supported by emails home with links, highlights in social media and parent conversations across the school. Not only are the kids and teachers excited about it, but the parents are getting a taste of the daily greatness of our classes which, until now, has really been just for students, teachers, and administrators.

    Innovation like this helps drive interest and pride in the school and assists in providing very positive word of mouth “advertising” for us. We all know that’s the most important marketing of all.

    Congratulations to all the winners and honorable mentions and everyone else who worked to submit a grant application. And big thanks to PEJE for providing a fabulous way for schools to look internally and recognize all the wonderful things evolving in our schools. I look forward to sharing in our successes and moving us all forward, together.

  8. Ken Gordon Post author


    Thanks so much for your football-themed comment. (I know you still haven’t gotten over the fact that a JDS grad created Tweboing.com: http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_19359216.) Your point about “excessive celebration” is a good one–though I must say, all the Challenge Award content I’ve seen on the PEJE FB page shows admirable self-restraint: http://www.facebook.com/PartnershipForExcellenceInJewishEducation?v=wall

    When you’ve got some OHDS Challenge Award video, send it on over.

    Ken Gordon, Social Media Manager, PEJE

  9. Ken Gordon Post author


    Thanks for taking the time to publically say Todah Robah! Better yet, thanks for putting your students to work and getting THEM to say so; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivo9_xaAT34

    LGA provides a good model here, Friends: use your video cameras, film your students, and post the results on social media. It’s *superb* way to keep your kehlliah connected.


  10. Ken Gordon Post author


    1. This is the distribution process: Schools will send me the sharable Challenge Award content they produce. (My email: ken@peje.org.) We will review and distribute according to the proper channel (FB, Twitter, PEJE Blog, etc.). As you can tell from the PEJE FB page, we’ve already got some great stuff, and we plan to keep adding to it.


    2. We are working on various piece of our own Challenge Award content. Warning: We may be contacting you–and the various other Challenge Award people–for more information. There are still many more tales to tell.


    –Ken G.

  11. Ken Gordon Post author

    Derek: Thanks for sharing your mini-viewbook with us (I dig the two prominent links that say “I’m ready to apply for admission” and “I’m ready to apply for financial aid.”) It’s a terrific idea, and I’m pleased to see you cite AHA as your source. As you know, a good social citizen is always pleased to source ideas. Classy move. –K.

  12. Ken Gordon Post author

    Hi, Joanne: I just got off the phone with you–and was psyched to hear that you’re in the throes of producing a video about your Challenge Award project.

    BTW, Friends: Joanne’s a great role model here: If you want to talk about your content with us at PEJE HQ, please do. (My email is, as always, ken@peje.org.)

    Note: I understand that with winter break it may be a difficult to produce content right this second. If so, that’s OK. We’re going to be talking about the Challenge Awards for some time. Work on it, and get it to us as soon as you can.

    In the meantime, Joanne, I’ll watch my inbox for a draft of your video script.

    Chag Sameach,


  13. Ken Gordon Post author


    You are SO right when you say PJA’s school-wide use of blogs and social media “helps drive interest and pride in the school and assists in providing very positive word of mouth ‘advertising’ for us. We all know that’s the most important marketing of all.”

    You are doing cool things on the PAJ FB page: http://www.facebook.com/PJAProud?ref=ts

    Again: Congrats! and let’s keep the conversation going…


  14. Rabbi Shmuel Jablon

    At Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia, we are always busy doing new things–and we love to share with the world. If you visit http://www.torahacademyonline.org you’ll find a curriculum center filled with curricula for every subject we teach. And thanks to Ken at PEJE for providing me with a Flip-Camera, we’ve now taken to YouTube to share some of the T.A. excitement with our Kehilla- and beyond. If you visit our You Tube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/TorahAcademyPhilly you’ll find two Channuka videos we produced. I’m also particularly proud of my “No Office Day” videos- another PEJE idea. I spend the whole day with students and teachers, which allow me see in “real time” how we reach new heights every day. Then I share a video diary with the world. It’s always exciting to share…and I’m happy to continue doing so with all who are interested.

    Channuka Sameach to all!

  15. Ken Gordon Post author

    You’re doing a great job with the Flip Cam, Rabbi Jablon. Any chance you’re going to shoot a video about TA’s Challenge Award Honorable Mention? I suspect that your community would like to hear about your Challenge Award project. I know I would. Chag Urim Sameach! –K.

  16. Ken Gordon Post author

    Thrilled to see that you’re thinking about creating a long-term conversation about Weber’s Challenge Award win. Please let me know how things evolve, Rebecca.


    Ken G.


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