Rabbi Marc Baker (Cohort 4)

Head of School

Gann Academy, Waltham, MA

I have been leading in some form or another since I was a kid. I have been blessed to have mentors and role models from whom I have learned along the way. I have also had the opportunity to participate in several fellowships and programs, some related to leadership and some to education. DSLTI has been, without question, the finest program I have ever been part of. The level of thoughtfulness and professionalism that Fran Urman, Cheryl Finkel and our mentors have put into designing the curriculum, creating, and facilitating our sessions, illustrates not only their talent, wisdom and experience, but also their deep respect for their work and for the fellows.

When I explain to people that our program is run not by scholars, but by experienced practitioners who are still in the field, the word that keeps coming to mind is chesed. More powerful to me than the wisdom the mentors have offered us is the profound chesed they are performing by participating in this program. Imagine six people with some of the toughest, most demanding and exhausting jobs in the Jewish world, spending their summers, in many cases their vacation time (not to mention retreats and hours of meetings and preparation), for the purpose of making my life and my job easier when I become a Head of School. I can’t begin to thank our mentors for the gift they have given to us and to our profession with their time, their energy, their passion for Jewish Educational Leadership, and perhaps most meaningfully, their willingness to make themselves vulnerable by modeling true reflective practice and collaboration.

I have learned what it means to be part of a conscious community. Although I have always considered myself a somewhat reflective person, I never understood the powerful ways that reflective practice could transform my work and my life. And this is what DSLTI has done: it has transformed me, as a leader, an educator, and a person. I have gained a community of practice – colleagues, mentors and friends - that has supported, enlightened and inspired me, and that I know will continue to do so as my professional journey continues.

It is scary to think that I might have become a Head of School without having participated in DSLTI. Although I will surely make many mistakes and learn many difficult lessons, I am convinced that this program has accelerated my learning curve and helped me avoid perhaps years of painful transition into a job that, especially in the first few years, devours so many people. Since day one, Fran, Cheryl and our mentors have reinforced – both in words and in practice – the message that to be the best leader you can be you have to know yourself.  I graduate from DSLTI with a toolbox full of skills and knowledge that will empower me to succeed as a Jewish educational leader. But as important, if not more important to my success and my happiness, I leave with the two greatest gifts of all: profound awareness of how much I do not know, and a community of colleagues who will eagerly pick up the phone when I need to ask.

I am deeply grateful to AVI CHAI, JTS, Fran, Cheryl, our selfless and dedicated mentors, and our very special group of talented, reflective, and fun fellows, for an experience that will impact who I am and how I lead for the rest of my life.

Ilisa Cappell (Cohort 4)

Program Director

Schechter Network    

As I reflect on my transition from DSLTI fellow to alum I am struck by how much I have been affected by this transformative educational experience.  In a field where there is a dearth of Heads of Schools, DSLTI has helped me to realize the challenges of this demanding profession and the joys all the while providing me with a support system dedicated to my personal growth and success.  The DSLTI curriculum balances critical analysis and theoretical discussions with practical tools and applications providing a well-rounded and comprehensive program for aspiring heads of school.  In the year after the first summer I began to see a change in the way I approached leadership in my institution.  Not only did I have a wealth of resources to draw upon, I had a new lens through which to analyze and process the happenings at my school.  The three pillars of DSLTI are the Jewish, Education and Leadership lens which have become the frames through which I reflect on my professional practice.  I began to see my own personal educational philosophy and vision for Jewish education develop as the curriculum facilitated a deeper look at the areas of school leadership, vision, mission, marketing, development and transitions.  The individual project was a great opportunity that directly related to my professional practice and my mentor’s support was instrumental in guiding the project’s development and enabling me to reflect deeply on my own process.  Most importantly, my mentor has been a source of strength for me and knowing that she is on my side and dedicated to my growth as an educator has deepened my commitment to the field of Jewish education. Being able to process, discuss and reflect with an experienced Jewish educator who knows me well has helped to strengthen my own practice. Working with all the mentors gave me an opportunity to learn from leaders in the field of Jewish education with different leadership styles.  They have modeled and created a learning community for us and have engaged in a learning process with us. They have invited us to learn with them and from them and for this process and opportunity I will always be grateful.  DSLTI has been dedicated to my emotional growth and spiritual well-being and has ensured my success in these areas by carving out time in the schedule for relaxation and spiritual-“check-ups.”

DSLTI has had a profound affect on my personal and professional life.  I feel privileged to work with a group of individuals passionate about Jewish education and dedicated to the future of the Jewish people.  Our cohort has formed such a deep connection and respect for one another.  I am privileged to have colleagues and friends who support, understand, encourage and believe in me.  As I make the transition from fellow to alum I realize that what I will take with me goes way beyond the content knowledge and practical tools for becoming a head of school.  It is the deep emotional connections that will endure.  In Ethics of the Fathers, it says “Aseh L’cah Rav U’kinei l’cha chaver,” Make for yourself a teacher and acquire for yourself a friend. What a blessing in life to have found such wonderful teachers and friends in the same individuals.

Rabbi Elliot Goldberg (Cohort 2)

Head of School

Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston

Participating in the DSLTI program helped prepare me for success in Day School administration.  The program exposed me to new strategies for effective leadership, provided key information and guidance concerning the financial management of independent schools, and built a network of colleagues and mentors that continues to be available for consultation and support.  The intensity of the program created an environment that prepared me for the intensity of day to day life as a Day School administrator.

Rabbi Yossi Kastan (Cohort 8)

Head of School

Brauser Maimonides, FL.

I was hoping that DSLTI would perhaps teach me some new content.

I never expected to learn so many data-driven and research-based methodologies.

I was hoping that DSLTI would perhaps teach me a couple of new practices.

I never expected to learn a whole new suite of skills.

I was hoping that DSLTI would perhaps teach me about how to lead others.

I never expected to acknowledge, appreciate and embrace the journey itself.

I was hoping that DSLTI would help me become a better Head of School.

I never expected to become a better Head of School, a better colleague, a better husband/father and a better human being.

How do you wrap up DSLTI in a single quote? Simply put... DSLTI has changed my life, professionally and personally. I am more honest with myself, my approach, my philosophy. As I learned at DSLTI... Rav Kook once said "if there is no "I", there is no "you", and then there is no G-d". Thank you for helping me find the "I". Because of DSLTI, I can now sincerely see the "you" in everyone I work with, and I embrace G-d throughout the entire journey.

Thank you for selecting me into DSLTI and helping me find the "I".

Daniella Pressner (Cohort 7)


Akiva School, Nashville, TN

DSLTI provided me with an experience that is unparalleled in the field of Jewish education and the impact of this experience will undoubtedly last forever. Through case studies, seminars, book talks, and sessions led by both the mentors and the cohort, I have been able to see leadership from multiple perspectives and a refreshing blend of incredibly successful and talented leadership.

I have learned about the value of vulnerability and the strength in taking risks. I have also had the opportunity to think about the value and power behind reflective leadership and leadership which creates space and invitation for your own growth, as well as the growth of others. I have also learned how to look at challenges in the field with multiple lenses and to lead using strategy and a focus on mission and vision.

The mentor is a person with whom you can reflect, share ideas, gain strength, and build a more practical and empowered understanding of what it means to lead with precision, intent, and presence.

Finally, the cohort and extended DSLTI network is a group of people who are committed to transforming their practice and the practice of others to help infuse, ensure, and enrich the future of Jewish Day School education and the Jewish people.  I leave completely humbled by our future leaders and touched by the light so present and that I hope continues to be present in Day Schools across North America, a light strengthened daily by the support and encouragement provided in the DSLTI experience.

Dr. Ari Yares

Head of School

Solomon Schechter Day School of Cleveland

In my roles as a school administrator and a school psychologist, I have participated in countless hours of professional development ranging from workshops to conferences to mentoring. And, I have had more years of post-secondary education than I would really like to count. Very rarely have I been exposed to a professional development experience that has had the impact on me that the Day School Leadership Training Institute has had. Most professional development is focused on exposing you to new content. While there is certainly new information shared during DSLTI, its greatest impact is in how it trains you to think differently about your practice as a Jewish day school administrator.

About a month or two after returning from the first summer institute, a colleague turned to me and shared that she saw a noticeable difference in the maturity of my leadership and a strengthening of my impact as a principal. For me, it was extremely gratifying to hear that my experiences with DSLTI were transforming my leadership in a visible and impactful way.

I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity over the past 15 months to grow as a leader and to gain a network of colleagues and mentors to share the joys and challenges of working in Jewish day schools.