Collaborative grant for SMDS-RJA, Schechter


Solomon Schechter Day School (SSDS) and Saul Mirowitz Day School – Reform Jewish Academy (SMDS-RJA) have been awarded one of six grants from the AVI CHAI Foundation for a collaborative proposal to combine administrative resources and help reduce costs for both schools.

The grant will cover a portion of the costs involved in implementing a cooperative arrangement that includes a shared business manager, and centralized licensing for accounting and development software.


The collaboration also involves St. Louis’ Central Agency for Jewish Education, which will serve as the fiscal agent for the project, receiving and distributing awarded dollars.

“We will be developing a truly innovative and effective model of how institutions can work together,” said newly installed SSDS Board of Trustees President Missy Korenblat-Hanin. “I am looking forward as both institutions find ways we can collaborate and share resources within today’s economic realities.”

During the first year of collaboration, the schools anticipate a net savings of $82,500, according to figures from SMDS-RJA. Over five years, the partnership will deliver a total savings of nearly $370,000 by eliminating the need for duplicate staffing, purchasing and software licensing.

The day schools had begun meeting last summer to look at ways to share costs. Rabbi Allen Selis, SSDS Head of School; Bruce Waxman, then President of the SSDS Board of Trustees; Cheryl Maayan, SMDS-RJA Head of School and Rob Granick, President of the SMDS-RJA Board of Directors had spent dozens of hours together by the fall when the AVI CHAI Foundation put out their request for proposals for collaborative initiatives.

“Since we had already been talking for months, we were primed to break out of the box,” Rabbi Selis said.

Many nonprofit groups are pulling together to share resources, Selis said. With the growing desire to cost share in the Jewish community, Selis approached Maayan to begin conversations. The leadership at both schools said they found each other very receptive.

“It was groundbreaking to bring the leadership of both schools together — President to President, Head of School to Head of School,” Waxman said. “We had lots of Starbucks coffee sessions as we learned about each other and started building trust.”

Maayan and Granick were new to their positions at SMDS-RJA and very open to where the conversation with Selis and Waxman might take them. “It was a learning process,” Maayan said. “We spent many hours of conversations getting to know each other beyond our mission statements.”

Both schools serve different communities, and Selis said that diversity is a “sign of health for our Jewish community,” Selis said.

Everything was on the table as the schools explored every possible way to share resources and reduce costs. “One way to save money and to elevate both schools and not damage individual efforts is by sharing back office functions,” Maayan said.

The proposed new model will offer higher quality financial supervision and improved service for parents and lay leadership, said Selis.

“There has been tremendous excitement and positive feedback from the St. Louis Jewish Federation,” Selis said. “They have asked how they can be helpful to drive the process forward.” The leadership at both schools is looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate — and maximize the value from their donor dollars.

“Our leadership is building a foundation of communication and trust to be able to collaborate in how to best leverage our community’s dollars,” Granick said. “We need our community to get behind our efforts to create this model for organizational collaboration and efficiencies.”