Unless you spend time in the same place as others, it can be challenging to create meaningful connections with them. Proximity matters in relationship building. When a school segments subsets of its population in areas of the building that are distant from peers, the students may not have the opportunities needed to develop strong friendships and grow from beneficial interactions with one another.
The same is true for stakeholders in the Jewish day school ecosystem.
When JEIC first conceived of the Innovators Retreat, the idea was to complete our granting cycle with a variety of perspectives informing the discussion about the school-based pilot projects we funded. What evolved was an understanding of how essential it is for people to be together to explore what excellence means in day school education and how everyone’s individual vision can inspire or guide others’.
Today, we host the Innovators Retreat based on the premise that social geography matters in the Jewish day ecosystem. Students benefit when we put stakeholders with different perspectives together in the same space to engage in deep, philosophical conversations and to share profound experiences related to our mutual priority – the radical improvement of Jewish day school education.
The focus of our time together is sacred – just like the limudei kodesh/holy subjects taught in day schools. The interactions at the Innovators Retreat are not about soliciting funds, jockeying for new positions, comparing test scores, etc. The emphasis is on our common desire to reignite students’ passion for Jewish learning and improve the way Jewish values, literacy, practice and belief are transferred to the next generation.
The idea of coming together to rejuvenate our commitment to one mission is not a revolutionary concept in Jewish tradition. In ancient times, the shalosh regalim/three pilgrimage festivals brought Jews to Jerusalem -- from near and far -- so they could reaffirm together their commitment to G-d and the Jewish community at large. Like those historical holidays, we also build a castle in time in order to focus together on our direction stemming from our ancient wisdom.
JEIC is creating a subtle form of a social revolution in the day school movement. We are cultivating a new type of energy and community of people grounded in the pursuit of day school excellence -- no matter affiliation, role, geography or time in the field. We are slowly breaking down the barriers that make shalom bayit/familial harmony in order to build up B’nai Yisrael/the Jewish people.