What is YOUR Fifth Question?

What a difference a year (and a career change) make!

#TBT MJGDS Kitah Gimmel Model Seder 2012
#TBT MJGDS Kitah Gimmel Model Seder 2012

I was leading or attending model seders long before my children were born, but this marks the first year in about fifteen or so that the only model seders I “had” to attend were my own children’s.  It was very bittersweet to see all of the wonderful Passover experiences being offered at Jewish day schools throughout the world.  As much as it was a luxury to only have my children to attend to, it was also a reminder of how different it is working one concentric circle more macro than a school.  To all those teachers and administrators who had the responsibility for multiple Passover seders in addition to preparing for their own, I salute you.  And I wish you all the joy and relaxation possible during your holiday.

This is my 200th blog post!

The beauty/excitement/frustration/wonder of blogging is that you don’t always know who (if anyone!) is reading.  Very occasionally, especially in this field for reasons to be explored at another time, I will write something that will attract some measure of verifiable interest. A few brave folk will comment directly on the blog or I can see the number of tweets, reposts or “likes”.  It gives me some sense that someone is actually out there!  Going back over my posts, it is often the case that the ones I thought would resonate didn’t and a post that I thought was no big deal captures the most attention.  That’s part of the fun.

Many (many!) times, I have attempted to use this blog not to share my opinions, disseminate information, showcase excellence, share a personal observation or professionally reflect, but to invite conversation.

The value added of the blogosphere is the opportunity to have your thinking challenged and expanded by the interaction of your ideas with others.  The power of collaborative reflection can only be realized with others.  Believe me, I would and will continue to blog because of the value it provides me of personal reflection and the utility it offers me to share important information with professional stakeholders.  But, it is only in the company of others does my learning expand.

So at the risk of tilting at windmills, I will again see if a conversation can be generated.

question-mark-1000269-mIt has become a tradition for organizations to use the pedagogy of Passover to advocate for causes.  We can change customs (“The Four Children”), add customs (“Miriam’s Cup), or adjust customs.  One common adjustment is the addition of a “fifth question”.  In addition to the traditional “Four Questions” we add one to address important issues of the day.  You can go online and find a myriad of examples of “fifth questions” that deal with everything from hunger, drought, Israel, peace, etc., etc.  You can find a “fifth question” for every cause.

Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers…

As we collectively prepare to celebrate our freedom tomorrow evening, I would like to share with you some of my “fifth questions”.

Jon’s “Fifth Questions” for Passover

Executive Director of Schechter: Why will this conversation about the field be different than all other ones?

Jewish Day School Practitioner: Fill in the blanks.  “During all other admissions seasons we’ve used Value Proposition A, but during this season we are using Value Proposition B and it has made all the difference.”

Israel Advocate: If I will not literally aim towards “Next year in Jerusalem…” how can I use those words to inspire my deeper engagement with the Land, People and State of Israel in the year to come?

Parent: How can the imagery of the “Four Children” remind me that my children are unique – from each other as well as everyone else – and that the responsibility for “differentiated instruction” is as much (if not more) a parent’s as it is a teacher’s?


What are some of your “Fifth Questions”?  I will highlight any good ones that come back to me as well as share any interesting answers to mine or other questions that I hear during the holiday.  I know my seders will be enhanced through your wisdom.

Wishing you a chag kasher v’sameach…

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. Jon has recently begun his rabbinical school journey at the Academy for Jewish Religion and is thrilled to have joined the faculty of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) as a mentor for Cohort 12. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.