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Eleven schools. One message.

Federation video highlights cornerstone role of area Jewish education

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A gallery of students is featured in a video about the 11 day schools in the area served by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

“This is where Jewish community begins,” says a woman with a broad smile, as children walk down a locker-lined school hallway behind her.

What follows is a video of many brief scenes. Cuts follow fast and furious, as children and adults recite lines that in less than five minutes tell the story of the Jewish day schools of northern New Jersey. The film is the latest product of an ongoing marketing collaboration between the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the area’s 11 Jewish day schools.

“There are two audiences” for the video, said Linda Scherzer, who leads the day school marketing project and wrote the video’s script.

There’s the part of the community that’s very familiar with the day schools – and already sends its children there.

“We want them to know the value we as a federation place on these schools,” Ms. Scherzer said. “We’re saying to our day school parents and our day school community that we understand you to be the cornerstone of the community, where we create the next generation of leaders.”

The second audience is the non-day school community. “We want them to understand what these schools are about. We’re trying to take the mystery out of the schools for the wider community,” she said.

The goal is not recruiting new students – though if some parents of preschoolers watch the video and consider day school as an option, that would be nice, Mrs. Scherzer said. Rather, “we want the non-day school community to understand the value of these schools,” she continued. “That these are state-of-the-art institutions where Jewish values begin at morning meeting.”

“We want to lift the hood off of the day schools and show the community their overall academic excellence and social impact,” said Scott Leibowitz, the federation’s managing director of marketing and communications.

The video talks of day schools as conveying Jewish values and continuity and basketball. It spotlights students who have won science, math, and stock-picking competitions. It shows children telling how they help the community, feeding the hungry and assisting in the wake of natural disasters.

And it features area residents who are Jewish day school alumni with impressive accomplishments – from recent graduates who are pro-Israel activists on campus; to Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, who made aliyah after graduating from the Frisch School in 1983; to Jason Shames, the federation’s CEO, a graduate of the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy in the Bronx.

“It was really sweet to be in those schools and engage with these kids,” said David Thomas, who shot the film. The production took 15 days.

“When you set up filming, generally you’re going to try to keep it as little work as possible. You want everyone in one location. For this, however, we made a big commitment to go to all the locations,” he said.

This included not only the eleven different schools – “I was up at night making sure I was as fair as possible for all the schools,” Mrs. Scherzer said – but also graduates’ homes and workplaces.

“We’ve got all these different schools that are really focused daily on their own students and their own little world. The piece was written where you felt there was one voice from all of the Jewish day schools,” Mr. Thomas said.

To anchor the disparate shots visually, “I began to shoot beautiful stills of the kids. Every day I added two, three, five faces to a wall of photos that was being built.” The final grid of faces “represented building and community and the Jewish day schools being the cornerstones of the Jewish community,” he said.

“We hope the film leaves a feeling of what these schools are about,” Ms. Scherzer said.

The video has been distributed by the day schools and posted to the federation’s Facebook page and website.

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