Meet our Head of School

ממנהלת בית הספר

Letter Announcing Shira Deener as Head of School

Dear Jewish Community Day School Community,

I hope that each and every one of you, our JCDS community members, is as well as can be during this unsettling time. I am very pleased to have good news to share about the future of JCDS.

As President of the JCDS Board of Trustees, I am thrilled to announce that the Board has voted unanimously to name Shira Deener as our next Head of School.

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The Board's unanimous decision to appoint Shira was based upon the enthusiastic recommendation of the Head of School Search Committee, which embarked on a nationwide search process starting this past summer. The Search Committee endeavored to find an experienced educational leader deeply aligned with the school's values and mission, enthusiastic about our intentional pluralism, possessing the ability to build authentic relationships, with a disposition marked by positivity, flexibility, and an appreciation for Jewish Day School education.

I am extremely proud of the entire community's efforts in searching for our next Head of School. The active engagement and thoughtful feedback from the entire school community – parents, faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni, and friends – was the hallmark of our successful search. It was your combined support of the process and your meaningful involvement that helped the Search Committee identify, vet, engage with, and, ultimately, enthusiastically and unanimously endorse Shira Deener to the Board.

Currently, Shira is the Director of the Jewish Education Program at Facing History and Ourselves, an international educational organization whose mission is to use the lens of history to challenge teachers and students to fight bigotry and hatred. As Director, she oversees and manages the integration of Facing History's pedagogical structure, resources, and mission in Jewish Day Schools across the country. Along with her team, she works closely with teachers and administrators to actualize these goals within the framework of Facing History's Jewish Education Partner School Network (of which JCDS is a longstanding grantee). Shira is also involved in operations, fundraising, curriculum development, program evaluation, and outreach. Under Shira's leadership, her program recently received the Lippman-Kanfer Prize in Applying Jewish Wisdom to Democracy and Civic Engagement.

Prior to joining Facing History in 2005, Shira was a teacher (Grade 1 and Grade 3) at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, was a Fellow in the Day School Leadership Training Institute, and worked at JCDS (2000-2005) as a history teacher and co-coordinator of the middle school. Shira has been a part of the JCDS community for 19 years. Shira and her husband, David Chodirker, have four children, all of whom have attended JCDS.

In her letter of interest regarding this opportunity, Shira shared: “As I write this letter, I am reminded of the words of a favorite mentor of mine: "Make sure the place in which you work is life-giving.' I have seen JCDS grow from its earliest days into the vanguard of progressive Jewish education. I am attracted to the school's genuine commitment to intentional pluralism within a joyful collaborative learning community, and would relish the opportunity to lead the school in its next phase of development. It would be a labor of love."

Shira's references underscored her strengths as a strong relational leader and community builder. During Shira's visit, our own community clearly felt her warmth, openness, and authenticity. Please join me in welcoming Shira now and more formally when she begins her tenure in July.

Special thanks are in order to my fellow members of the Head of School Search Committee: Marci Borenstein and Howie Rodenstein who co-chaired the search committee, and committee members Joshua Foer, Chavah Goldman, Sharon Levin, Avi Minder, Raffaella Sadun, and Shiri Segev. The committee well represented the JCDS community, taking very seriously their responsibility and role in conducting this search. I hope you will join me in thanking this group (and their patient families) for their tremendous dedication and the countless hours they have devoted to the school during this search. They have served us well.

I also want to recognize Dr. Susie Tanchel for her tremendous service to JCDS, which is a better and stronger school thanks to her. There is no better way to thank Susie than to move forward in a way that honors her remarkable dedication to and influence on our school. In Shira, we have a capable and humble leader who will do just that. Sincerely,

Elizabeth Waksman
President, Board of Trustees (July 2018-2 June20)

From Our Head of School
Dear Community,

Thank you for the warm welcome and for your interest in learning more about JCDS.

I believe that the goal of a Jewish day school education must be to enhance students' ability to live in this world as the best versions of themselves.

Excellent innovative education takes place when children can bring their full selves to learning every day. This can only happen when students experience a profound sense of belonging and shared purpose where individual identities are celebrated within a context of membership in a larger collective. That deep sense of belonging is what JCDS is all about.

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An academically excellent, intentionally pluralistic Jewish day school which is also an engaged global citizen must also be committed to equity. It must strive to not only accommodate but cherish differentiated learning, so that its students can each thrive. An equitable institution must go hand in hand with a pluralistic institution.

In the spirit of pluralism, and recognizing our increasingly complex connected world, I believe that we must educate our students to be informed and engaged in the wider spaces of our local, regional and global communities. It is the role of JCDS to provide students and faculty with opportunities, through content choices, partnership programs, and current events curricula to develop a stronger sense of global citizenship. Our students can be educated to apply Jewish wisdom in the pursuit of a humane citizenry and to carry a commitment towards Tikkun Olam (healing our world). Using the World as text, and overlaying it with a Jewish ethos, our students increasingly recognize the relevance of their studies and merge their education with their broader experience outside of school.

At JCDS, the process of teaching and learning is student-centered and rigorous. We believe in the pedagogical triad of:

● social and emotional engagement,
● intellectual and academic excellence, and
● ethical reflection through a Jewish lens.

Social and emotional engagement is developmentally appropriate, and woven seamlessly through curricula and teaching methods. Students feel that their school fosters a sense of curiosity and inquiry. Flexible thinking and perspective taking are essential Habits of Mind and Heart needed to build skills for the 21st century learner. Jewish and Hebrew studies provide a solid foundation in the language and frameworks of our rich tradition, and are conducted in a joyful environment that cultivates an indelible positive association with Jewish learning, culture, and history.

Our school is committed to the ongoing nurturing and support of its varied communities. Teachers have been and will always be at the heart of our success. At JCDS, we support this sacred work and fuel teachers with authentic learning experiences for their classroom and for themselves personally. The parent community is an ongoing witness and contributor to the culture of the school. In greater partnership, we achieve greater success.

Our capacity to provide opportunities for our students to learn how to think, to build strong moral characters and to develop the capacities to engage with difference distinguishes JCDS from other schools.

I welcome you to walk through our school online or in person so you can fully appreciate this warm and vibrant community that nurtures and challenges our children to happily grow each day.

B'ruchim ha'baim (welcome) to JCDS!

Shira Deener, Head of School

Learn more about Shira

Shira Deener
Head of School

Shira with her daughter Ma'ayan '21, on her first day of Gan Nitzan.

One of the things that inspires me most about Shira is how she leans in to hard problems. Rather than shy away from challenges, Shira actively seeks out responsibility, always doing so with humility, thoughtfulness, and grace. Read full quote

Yoni Kadden, History Department Chair, Gann Academy, Shira's former colleague

I am, undeniably, a better teacher for having worked with her. Read full quote

Josh Mocle, JCDS Humanities and Social Studies Teacher, Shira's mentee at Facing History and Ourselves

leader - dog walker - educator - Loving - enthusiastic - hockey mom - all in Read full quote

David Chodirker, Shira's Husband

Shira always challenges people in the best ways: to own up to what they are saying, to do the best job they can do, and to be better people. Read full quote

Sharon Samber, Childhood Friend of Shira

One of the supreme attestations of her work and the work of the team is the recognition afforded the team in winning the Lippman Kanfer Prize in Applied Jewish Wisdom in 2019. Read full quote

Edward Miliken, Director of Program Operations & Regional Strategy, Facing History and Ourselves, Shira's former supervisor

An honest, open, and respectful communicator, guided by Jewish ethics and moral teaching, Shira has clarity of vision, and articulates it in a powerful and inspiring way. Read full quote

Dorit Zmiri, JCDS Judaics Studies

Shira's professional hallmark has always been her wise and compassionate leadership. Read full quote

Sara Bellin, Manager of Jewish Education, Facing History and Ourselves. Shira's former supervisee.