Schechter: Becoming the Adjacent Possible for Jewish Education

So…how was your summer vacation?

Passing the torch to my friend, mentor and new Head of MJGDS, Rabbi Jim Rogozen.
Passing the torch to my friend, mentor and new Head of MJGDS, Rabbi Jim Rogozen.

In June, I wrote my last blog post as head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School (MJGDS) and on July 1, I officially assumed my new role as Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  It has been an extremely busy couple of months and as I have been finding my way in my new work, I put my blogging on hold so as to give me time to decide how to repurpose and reimagine who I am blogging for and what I ought to be blogging about.

If you are regular reader of this blog (and “thank you” if you are!), you know that it was born out of a desire to lead by example.  I had inherited a school that embraced a culture of blogging and it did not seem fair to expect students and teachers to blog regularly if I wasn’t willing to do the same.  And so in July 2010, I wrote my first blog post and pushed it out into the world.

I chose to title the blog, “A Floor, But No Ceiling,” which reflects my belief about teaching and learning – namely that there should be a floor, but no ceiling on expectations, achievements or possibilities for learning.  I imagined my primary audience – if there was going to be an audience at all – would be the stakeholders of the school and I tried to find topics I imagined would be of interest for parents, board members, donors, supporters, etc., of this one Jewish day school in Jacksonville, Florida.

Perhaps it was the forced discipline of weekly blogging.  Perhaps it was my wandering attention span.  Perhaps it was the generous patronage of folk with a much greater online presence than my own.  Perhaps it was the timing.

Who knows?

Over time, it became clear that the blog had developed multiple audiences and I tried to shift both my writing style and my topics accordingly.  I could never predict when a post would resonate or with whom.  And since even today most blog readers prefer to remain lurkers rather than active commentators, it remains difficult to be really sure you aren’t just whispering into the wind.


…having come to believe in the power of blogging, I have every intention of resuming weekly blog posts, beginning with this one.


…who am I writing this blog post for and what will I be writing about?

History teaches that the accurate answer will more likely evolve in time than be what I am suggesting here, but I do have some thoughts to get me started.

As was the case before, this is a professional blog.  I am blogging as the Executive Director of a network of diverse Schechter schools throughout the world doing the critical and holy work of educating the next generation of Jewish children.  I would hope that those who are already stakeholders of their local Schechter schools and for the larger mission of “Schechter” will find this blog a valuable resource.  And I would hope that those who care passionately about Jewish day school, Jewish education and education will find this blog a useful read as I attempt to tackle important issues of the day, share perspective, answer questions, field feedback, and – in my own way – try to create a commonplace of exploration, discussion and celebration for the sacred task of educating Jewish children.

As was the case before, this is a professional blog written by a particularly personality…mine.  I am blogging as Jon Mitzmacher.  I don’t have dual identities and although I respect those who have both professional and personal identities, I neither have the time nor the interest in maintaining them.  My understanding of authenticity leads me to be me.  You will get my love for words you need to look up.  You will get my many ellipses, asides, and occasional snark.  You will get glimpses into my family when appropriate.  You will get the extra 400 words that a more parsimonious (see!) writer doesn’t need to get to the point.


My colleague, Andrea Hernandez, who I am thrilled will be one of my daughter’s teachers next year at MJGDS and continues to lead edJEWcon into a bright future, introduced me to a phrase that I loved so much that I both wish I had thought of it and toyed with the idea of changing my blog’s title to it…and that is “The Adjacent Possible”.

It is not a new concept.  A Google search will reveal lots of articles going back to 2010. Here is the definition that struck me from Steven Johnson’s fantastic essay for the Wall Street Journal called “The Genius of the Tinkerer.”

The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.  The adjacent possible captures both the limits and the creative potential of change and innovation.  The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them.  Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations.

And so goes my “a-ha” moment from the Summer of 2014.

That’s how I see what is happening in Schechter schools – an adjacent possible for the future of education.  That’s what role I see for Schechter in the field – learning from and contributing to a larger adjacent possible for the future of the Jewish people.  Let our ability to serve as incubators of innovation catalyze the field.  Let our thirst for the new and the better stimulate and foster healthy collaborations with our sister networks of schools, foundations, federations, stakeholders, supports and friends, both in the Jewish world and beyond.

What do I hope to accomplish with this blog?

I hope – with your help – to make the adjacent possible.

We’ll start next week with a summer update of all things Schechter.  Your comments and questions on this or anything else are genuinely welcome and if offered, will be addressed.

It is good to be back.

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. Jon is studying to be a rabbi at the Academy for Jewish Religion and is on the faculty of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) as a mentor. 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.

2 thoughts on “Schechter: Becoming the Adjacent Possible for Jewish Education”

  1. I look forward to reading about this new direction! I wish you great luck and joy in your new position.

    1. I’m late…but thank you! And I am looking forward to seeing what y’all do with your amazing new gift! Go Ann Arbor! Go Blue!

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