67 Chabad School Leaders gathered in Great Neck, NY, on 22-23 Teves, January 15-16, 2023, for two days of networking, learning and empowerment at the Menachem Education Foundation’s annual Women’s Chabad School Leadership Retreat. MEF organized the event as part of their goal to create a cycle of success in the Chabad Chinuch system, which begins with empowering school leaders to run organized Moisdos that are equipped to meet the needs of every student.

The program brought together principals and administrators from preschool through high school from 39 schools around the US and Canada, and provided workshops and presentations from renowned Shluchim, educators, and school leaders. Menahalos had the chance to hear words of welcome from Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, Regional Director of Chabad of Long Island, over a gourmet lunch. A full day seminar followed with Rabbi Elie Tuchman Ed. D., renowned educational consultant and sought-after speaker on “Strategic Planning” for school leaders. It gave Menahelos the tools to plan for long term growth and while running their Moisad efficiently every day.

“I took away many practical tips and points to apply to the way I think and function as a leader,” shared Mrs. Chana Kaila Hildeshaim, Principal of Bnos Menachem Junior High in Brooklyn, NY, after Tuchman’s seminar.

A grand Hakhel banquet took place in the evening at Chabad of Great Neck, to celebrate the dedicated school leaders for their hard work and endless effort on behalf of hundreds of children. The evening’s elegant ambience and inspiring presentations gave attendees tremendous empowerment.

The evening’s featured speakers, Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky, Shliach to Great Neck, NY and Dean of Silverstein Hebrew Academy, and Mrs. Chani Okonov, Principal of Blue-Ribbon Award winning Mazel Day School in Brooklyn, NY, both shared the remarkable stories of their schools’ growth from humble beginnings, giving much-needed Chizuk to Menahlos. After dinner, an engaging panel called “One Team, Three Takes,” led by Mrs. Chanie Geisinsky, Mrs. Chumy Ezagui and Mrs. Mushky Lipsker, left Menahalos with multiple perspectives on school leadership, along with new ideas to bring home.

The second day of the retreat gave attendees the opportunity to observe Silverstein Hebrew Academy in Great Neck, NY, and Tichon Meir Moshe High School in Far Rockaway, NY, to gain educational insight from other schools, and learn critical skills for observation that they could practice in their own classrooms.

Participants then attended informative workshops with Ms. Shaina Baumgarten, preschool teacher at Silverstein Hebrew Academy on “Leading with Connection and Regulation,” and Mrs. Sharon Richter, Lower School Associate Principal at Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy on “Nurturing the Inner Greatness of Our Students,” which provided school leaders with tools for how to approach each student with love and respect.

The concluding panel shared the perspectives of a parent and teacher on school leadership. Dr. Julia Aronovich, a Silverstein Hebrew Academy parent, conveyed appreciation to the Menahelos for investing in their professional development. She shared how she constantly furthers her training and expertise as a doctor, and how necessary it is for principals to do the same, as they are entrusted with the lives of so many precious children each day. Ms. Shaina Baumgarten shared a moving perspective on what teachers need most from their leaders.

She said, “We want to know that you see us as people first, and not just workers coming to do a job. When we come to you to vent, we likely are looking for an ear to hear, and a heart to understand. We are not looking for you to fix or judge our problems. We are looking for empathy and compassion. And yes, at times we may also need your guidance and expertise. We need to know that you’ll have our backs.” (You can read her full message here: https://mymef.org/blog-post/what-teachers-want-from-the-directors/)

Mrs. Leah Sollish, Principal of Chaya Mushka Children’s House Elementary School in Atlanta, shared, “The presenters spoke on topics that were both inspiring and relevant. They provided valuable insights and practical takeaways that I am excited to apply in my work. The program ran smoothly and all the details were well organized and professional.”

MEF thanks their project manager, Sara Varon, for organizing an event that also gave the Menahelos the rejuvenating experience they so deserve b’gashmius, as well as the team at Chabad of Great Neck for their hospitality and dedication.

“The food was delicious and the ambiance beautiful, adding to an overall excellent experience. Thank you MEF for the fantastic opportunity to learn, connect and grow as a leader,” Sollish continued.

The program concluded with attendees sharing their biggest takeaways and Hachlatos of what they will bring back to their schools, and an interactive learning session of Hilchos Talmud Torah in the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch in honor of Chof Daled Teves, from an exclusive preview of SIE’s new translation by Rabbi Eli Touger. A visit to the Ohel concluded the program, which gave Menahelos a chance to daven for Hatzlacha in implementing what they learned at the retreat.

“One conference, thousands of students affected,” Mrs. Shana Teichtel, Principal of Bais Rivkah High School in Brooklyn, NY, so eloquently summed up the experience. To continue the cycle of empowered educators for student success, the Menachem Education Foundation will host an equivalent leadership retreat for men later in the season as well as their annual Kinus Mechanchos Chabad this coming summer.

Educators can visit mymef.org to find out about upcoming events and opportunities. “It was such a zchus to be in a room with women who each impact hundreds of children,” shared Educational Director, Mrs. Chanah Rose. “It is our honor and privilege to provide any support that we can to those doing the most important job in the world.”