When One Door Opens Another Door Opens

Open DoorsFor those of you who are members of our local school, academy, synagogue or Jewish community and who read my blog regularly (and I thank you if you do!), you may be wondering why I have been so conspicuously silent about what has been known locally for an entire month – namely, my decision not to renew my contract when it expires in order for me to assume leadership of the Schechter Day School Network.

At the time, my desire was that the national announcement should be the place where people not living in Jacksonville should hear about it for the first time, but with that announcement still pending for another week or so and with leaks mounting on Facebook and Twitter, it no longer seems necessary to wait.  Additionally, I have had a full month or so to process and reflect on this future transition and, thus, feel better able to share a little about how this decision is impacting my thinking and planning.  [My focus, here, is on my current headship.  I will have other opportunities and spaces to explore my thinking about Schechter, and when I do, I will be sure to link to them, but this blog is dedicated to my work here and now.]

First, let me take an opportunity to share what was sent to our stakeholders:


May 28, 2013

Dear Galinsky Academy Families and Members of the Jacksonville Jewish Center,

We are very fortunate to have Dr. Jon Mitzmacher leading our efforts toward achieving excellence in all of our Center schools.  As he concludes his first year as Head of the Galinsky Academy, it is clear we are on the right track with a bright future that lies ahead.

In the spirit of transparency, Dr. Mitzmacher and the Schechter Day School Network Network (of which the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School is a member) have engaged in open and candid discussions with the Center’s leadership regarding the Schechter Network’s interest to retain Dr. Mitzmacher as their Executive Director upon the conclusion of his current contract, which would be July 1, 2015.  Since this would be after Dr. Mitzmacher has fulfilled all of the obligations and duties of his current contract, it is with great appreciation that we are receiving a full two years notice of his future plans.

Dr. Mitzmacher has indicated his strong desire that he and his family remain in Jacksonville, as the Executive Director position does not require him to relocate in the immediate future.  As a member of the Schechter Network, the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School will benefit greatly from having the “head of the network” living and working in our Jacksonville Jewish Community and his children attending the Galinsky Academy.

The Schechter Network has assured the Center of their strong desire to ensure a smooth transition for our Day School and the Galinsky Academy.  According to Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, “The Martin J. Gottlieb Day School is a flagship school in our network.  With a rich history of over 50 years, it is a shining example of what Day School education is all about.  We are committed to the ongoing success and positive transition for the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School and in no way would we ever want to detract from the great strides the school has made in recent years. ”

Going forward, it is business as usual.  We are very confident that Dr. Mitzmacher is extremely focused on the task at hand.  He is committed to the ongoing success of the Jacksonville Jewish Center’s Galinsky Academy and the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School.  We are fortunate to have him leading the way for the next two years.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Mitzmacher on being recognized as an outstanding educator and visionary in Jewish Education.  It is this type of leadership that the Schechter Network desperately needs and will be of benefit to all member schools, including our own.


Michael DuBow                             Alyse Nathans                                                               President                                        VP of Education & Chair, Galinsky Academy Cabinet


One month later, I am still very grateful to Michael, Alyse, and all my other lay leaders for working with me and the Schechter Network as we prepared for, announced and now plan for a healthy and smooth transition.  I continue to be inspired the by care and nurturance the Jacksonville Jewish Center provides its professional staff.

One month later, I am still very grateful to Schechter for working with me to re-imagine what leadership can look like in order to allow me to continue to live in this amazing community and send my children to this amazing school.

Typically opportunity requires you to close one door so that you may open the next.  And sometimes, life is such that a door is closed for you and opportunity requires you to open the next.  Rarely does one have an opportunity to reach for the next open door while the current door remains (in some ways) open!  But that is the blessing the Schechter Network and the Jacksonville Jewish Center has afforded my family and we are humbled by it and grateful for it.

As I shared at our annual L’Dor V’dor event a week after the announcement was made,

Last year, I closed with one of my favorite quotes from the Mishnah: “Lo alecha ha’mlacha legmor…” – “It is not incumbent on you to finish the work, neither are you free to exempt yourself from it.”  (Mishnah: Avot, 2.16).  This year, those words – for me – are charged with new emotion as I prepare to transition over the next two years from my current position to my new position as head of the Schechter Day School Network, which was announced to our community this week.  There is something very appropriate about this timing as it is only because of L’dor V’dor that we have been able to raise the bar at our schools and it is only because of the opportunity and support of this community that the Schechter Network took an interest in our school and in me.  None of this happens for me if I had not been blessed to wind up in this nurturing and special place.  My commitment to Galinsky Academy does not expire when my contract does.  While I am the proud head of the of the Galinsky Academy and when I become the head of the Schechter Network, proud to call MJGDS one our flagship schools, I will remain inspired to do my part – with you – to carry this dream forward into the years ahead.

And so in addition to the typical summer planning one does as a head of school, I have begun thinking about what I need to do over the next couple of years to ensure that not only will the chapter of our school and academy’s history that I will have helped shape be as excellent as it can be, but – perhaps more importantly – that the next chapter continue and better the story.  They say the most important leadership task is paving the future for what comes next…

I can assure you that I will never take a task more seriously.


About Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of Galinsky Academy [which includes the DuBow Preschool, the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School (a K-8 Schechter), the Bernard and Alice Selevan Religious School, and Makom Hebrew High] located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center. He is the Executive Director Designate of the Schechter Day School Network. Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.
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