The Authentic Face – part I

Buzz Words

Buzzwords come and go. We could dismiss them as passing fashions or recognize that they reflect societal concerns. Last week at two different professional conferences I attended, the word that dominated all conversations was: authenticity.

In today’s politically charged climate, the thirst for authenticity is not surprising. As Purim and its themes of masks, unmasking and Jewish identity and survival approach, I invite you to consider how authenticity applies to your school.

That might seem strange. After all – how could you not be authentic if you are a Jewish school? Isn’t honesty a core value? Sure, but… from a messaging perspective, you might be surprised.

Let me “share.” During the past month I’ve spent too much time perusing “Jewish women’s” Facebook sites. The wildly divergent responses to posts inquiring about schools committed to specific priorities in specific areas shocked me. (Of course, as a person who has been labeled yeshivish, modern-machmir, and left wing orthodox on the same day, I know that labels are in the mind of the labeller.) Yet, it seems clear that, in an effort to be all things to all people, many schools are not getting a clear, authentic message out.

Click here to read The Authentic Face – part II

To learn more about compelling video marketing tools or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Authentic Face – part II

Unmasked, Authentic Face

So – what should a school do? Be transparent! Explain your priorities. How? Well, I know of two single sex-schools that proclaim their Zionism proudly. One prides itself on the floats that students spend months creating for the Salute to Israel parade; the other excuses students who cut school, with parental permission, to attend the parade. To use Facebook vernacular: what’s up with that? School number two does not want its boys to socialize on Fifth Avenue with the girls from school number one (or any girls from any school). That core value surpasses attending the parade. Both schools should have marketing messages that make their priorities clear. One pluralistic school I worked for professes its inclusive welcoming of all families. Yet, it schedules mandatory family activities on Shabbat – granting shomrei Shabbat students who don’t live in walking distance of the school a pass. Authentically welcoming?

Your messages must be honest. It is not disingenuous to highlight certain priorities to specific parents and stakeholders. Of course, you need to address each parent’s concerns. In terms of unmasking, one constituent may need to see your eyes, another your mouth and a third – your ears (or your Ivrit b’Ivirt, STEM, and learning disabilities program). But, ultimately everyone must see your whole unmasked, authentic face.

Explore Purim! 

A few links to Purim Resources.

Lookstein Center

JTeach, (You may need to register.)

Jewish Agency

Click here to read The Authentic Face – part I

To learn more about compelling video marketing tools or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Masks We Wear – part I

Mishenichnas Adar! Even though we celebrate Purim in Adar II, we’ve certainly had Purim and simcha on our minds for some time. Other than all the fun and calories, Purim makes me think of two themes: overcoming obstacles and masks/hiding.

Sometimes, the obstacle we face is actually the mask we wear. Certainly, we all know the importance of “putting on a good face.” But when the school day, or term, is over – it’s important to shed the mask and look in the mirror. If the public image you portray is not in keeping with the school you run, it may be time to make some changes.

Some schools profess to be pluralistic, but they really aren’t. One school I worked with wanted to be both a mesivta and a college prep program but their college advisor didn’t know the deadlines for the SAT. Others proclaim that parents are their partners but don’t really know that more than half the parent body not only feels disenfranchised but publicizes this discontent to present and potential parents.

Click here to read The Masks We Wear – part II

Should your masks need a re-haul or just some tweaking, please reach out to me. Feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Masks We Wear – part II

Purim Resources: Many wonderful Purim resources are available to you at no cost.

As always, the Lookstein Center provides remarkably
in-depth Purim resources.

Gateways is a Jewish Education site which features several Purim resources specifically designed for children with special needs and educational challenges.

The Jewish Agency for Israel offers a comprehensive menu of resources including activities, history and geography, feminist perspectives, a summary of specific Purim customs practiced in different countries, and innovative educational activities.

The National Library of Israel’s Purim resource pack contains historical gems from the time of the British mandate – Purim celebrations, pageants, discounted railway tickets to encourage attendance at holiday festivities, and a somber cancellation of a Purim party due to the Warsaw Uprising. It also features personal insights from a collection of letters home from Jerusalem and activity suggestions.

Click here to read The Masks We Wear – part I

Should your masks need a re-haul or just some tweaking, please reach out to me. Feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Got Questions? – part I

Do you have a question?

I’ll bet you do! After all, on Pesach, we are mandated to re-experience the Exodus. For educators, that demands innovative, creative pedagogy guaranteed to evoke questions. With older children, we elicit and explore deep questions about the Exodus narrative, the hagaddah liturgy, and the lasting lessons both can teach us. With younger children, we use costumes, props, and dramatic reenactment.

Got matza? Got wine? Got gefilte fish?
My sedarim – which always featured locusts, blood-like water, and ma-nishtana puppets along with meaningful divrei torah – have become a bit less intense, but much more fun, since we’ve started parting the Nile (a blue, ocean-themed, shower curtain hung up in my dining room archway), welcomed Eliyahu (my good-natured, costumed nephew), and discovered wiggly, green jello frogs perched on our plates. These recent additions evoke not only squeals of delight but also a myriad of questions from the more recent additions to our family!

However, right now I’m thinking about a different type of questions – ones that your parents yearn to ask. I suggest that this year, in the goal of true partnership and transparency, you invite your parents to question you. But don’t just play lip service to the concept: really open it up! This takes a bit of daring.

Want to learn more? Click here to read Got Questions? – part II.

Please feel free to call me at 516.569.8070 or send me an email to learn more about how to turn your present parents and stakeholders into loyal ambassadors and supporters. I’m also happy to discuss special projects as well as annual retainers. Chag kasher v’sameach!

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Got Questions? – part II

Parents’ questions will yield:

 Enhanced relationships
 Important, actionable data

How you invite these questions depends on your school’s culture. Possibilities include:

 Open school-wide town hall meetings
 Small parlor meetings
 
A physical question box that children decorate or build (in a preschool class or a high school woodworking class)
 
A user-friendly online form

Follow up is key! Of course, you must respond to each query in a personal and timely manner. More important, you need to analyze the queries. The questions may show you areas that need slight tweaking or larger overhauls. Questions may motivate you to open up clearer lines of communications, revamp your Ivrit curriculum, revisit tenure polices, or just pat yourself on the shoulder for an A-plus job. Either way, opening up lines of communications will show parents that you value them. How can this Pesach be different for your parents than any other chag? Let this be the one that is transparent, inviting, and demonstrates that parents are your partners!

Click here to read Got Questions? – part I.

Please feel free to call me at 516.569.8070 or send me an email to learn more about how to turn your present parents and stakeholders into loyal ambassadors and supporters. I’m also happy to discuss special projects as well as annual retainers. Chag kasher v’sameach!

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Treasure of Trees – part I

It’s Time to Celebrate!

While some people I know and love are counting down until Pesach, I’m thinking about birthday parties. Truly, I’m thinking about one in particular – the one that occurs on the 15th of Shevat.

My mom and I share an annual laugh recollecting buxser – that inedible fruit that PTA moms, for some inexplicable reason, distributed to us each Tu b’Shevat. Perhaps they were dentists. Thankfully, my children were presented with sweeter, easier to bite, fruits and even participated in meaningful Tu b’Shevat sedarim. (Turns out that buxser is actually carob – but not those chocolaty chips I sprinkle on my frozen yogurt while pretending virtuously that I am eating a healthy, low-fat treat. Buxser is also noticeably absent from the list of biblical fruits that includes olives, dates, grapes, figs, and pomegranates.

Tu b’Shevat presents many easily implemented opportunities for marketing messages. In fact, this morning, I received a LinkedIn offer for a free poster from Aishdas. I must say that I was quite attracted to its marketing message, “We often complain that we spend so much time on the halachic trees, we lose sight of the forest. Hoping this helps you remember.” Why not take advantage of Tu b’Shevat to publicize how you keep your eye on both the trees and the forest – nurturing children, planting seeds, and reaping lasting, nourishing, wholesome, results?

Reach out to your stakeholders using these themes of planting, sowing, and reaping.

For a comprehensive list of resources, click here to read The Treasure of Trees – part II.

Should you have any questions about implement a Tu b’Shevat plan, marketing, resource development, assessing present materials, crafting compelling stories, utilizing data-driven research to present your case, or about any of my cost-effective day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Treasure of Trees – part II

Resources to Explore

Lookstein Center
The Lookstein Center compiles an extremely comprehensive annual list of resources including creative teaching activities, projects you can recommend to families, and Tu b’Shevat sedarim.

Hazon
Hazon’s shmita project
 expands awareness about the biblical Sabbatical tradition.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF)
JNF details the values represented with shmita.

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)
The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) website provides creative resources about the Jewish approach to the environment.

Click here to read The Treasure of Trees – part I.

Should you have any questions about implement a Tu b’Shevat plan, marketing, resource development, assessing present materials, crafting compelling stories, utilizing data-driven research to present your case, or about any of my cost-effective day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

To Love Your Fellow Jew – part I

Lag b’Omer Memories

My childhood memories of Lag b’Omer are of days filled with plain old-fashioned fun. No classes, a bagged picnic lunch, and games outdoors. And… if my bangs were in my eyes… that was the day to get them trimmed. (Yom Haatzmaut or Rosh Chodesh, in that case, would have been missed opportunities.)

Want to share your favorite memories? Please click here. I would love to share them in my Shavuot issue.

The holiday holds several PR messages– in fact in a past Lag b’Omer issue, I shared 33 ways to promote your message on Lag B’omer.

To Love Your Fellow Jew
This year, however, I want to focus on only one Lag b’Omer message. It is one that can speak to all your constituents loudly and clearly. I admit, it may seem too simple, too sweet, but here it is: (with attribution to Chabad.org).

The Talmud relates that in the weeks between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged amongst the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva,  “because they did not act respectfully towards each other.” These weeks are therefore observed as a period of mourning, with various joyous activities proscribed by law and custom. On Lag b’Omer the deaths ceased. Thus, Lag b’Omer also carries the theme of the imperative to love and respect one’s fellow Jew (Ahavat Israel).

So… how can you use this theme to recruit and retain students? Read on!

Click here to read To Love Your Fellow Jew – part II

Should you have any questions about marketing, resource development, assessing present materials, crafting compelling stories, utilizing data-driven research to present your case, or any of my day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

To Love Your Fellow Jew – part II

Promote Compassion and Integrity

Yeshiva parents are certainly concerned about their school’s academic track record. They also want to raise children who have stellar values. Therefore, a parent needs to know that the place where their child lives for close to 40 hours a week, the school that their child attends, is a partner with the parent in promoting values. As Rabbi Zvi Bajnon, the former menahel of my children’s alma mater often asserted: not every student can earn academic honorable mention… but every child can be a mentsch.

Let your parents know how you promote compassion and integrity. Document that your environment is a healthy one where sinat chinam is not an option.

Share information about your:

 Anti-bullying program
 Derech Eretz curriculum
 Honor code

Show them that chesed is not limited to “community service activities,” but rather that kol yisarel areivim zeh le zeh is integrated not only into daily lessons but also into daily life. In fact, show them that community responsibility extends out of your own insular community as well.

How? Compelling stories and hard data.

If you want to learn more about how to craft compelling stories and use data driven research to make your case, please send me an email.

On a deeply personal note, I am thrilled to wish mazel tov to my children Netti and Ari Herman on the birth of a son. I pray that through being raised in a home where Torah values rule the day, zeh ha katan gadol yihiyeh. May his parents raise him to Torah, chuppah, and maasim tovim.

Click here to read To Love Your Fellow Jew – part I

Should you have any questions about marketing, resource development, assessing present materials, crafting compelling stories, utilizing data-driven research to present your case, or any of my day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman