Deborah Skolnick-Einhorn was hired as head of Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital in 2020, just before the pandemic began. But for the school and its 475 students, unprecedented times led to unprecedented fundraising.
Even though COVID-19 feels like an “impossible moment,” according to Skolnick-Einhorn, the school’s endowment campaign was a success.
“Our soul as a school is of a little school that could,” Skolnick-Einhorn said.
Milton’s endowment campaign shattered previous fundraising records at the school, bringing in a whopping $10.5 million. The funds will be invested with the United Jewish Endowment Fund, an arm of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. The funds generated by the investment will provide support for the school’s annual operating budget, Skolnick-Einhorn said.
She said she knew there was something special about the school and its community before she took the job.
“I noticed it very quickly. They had only had two heads of school who had been there for 15 years each. This is a board and a community that knows how to support its leadership through hard times. [I knew] there’s no way a school has been through 30-plus years without some hard times,” Skolnick-Einhorn said.
It’s a supportive community, Skolnick-Einhorn said. On an online bulletin board run by the parents association, students and parents post notes and videos giving kudos to the people going the extra mile at Milton.
“I have a nice emails folder, it has about 500 emails in it,” Skolnick-Einhorn said. “When I send something out into the community we get emails back with recognition.”
Skolnick-Einhorn described her effort to cultivate healthy relationships between parents and the school. “We build trust by being open with methods, why we’re making decisions. We acknowledge imperfect decisions.”
To honor its donors, the school commissioned sculptor Zachary Oxman to create two unique pieces, one for each of Milton’s campuses.
Oxman’s previous works include a gift presented by then-President Barack Obama to Pope Francis, and other official gifts from the United States to international leaders.
The theme for both pieces is “Elevating the Eternal Flame.” The plaque displayed prominently by the pieces explains the school’s gratitude to the community and all their donors who worked together to make the endowment campaign a success, even in the face of some of the most difficult challenges the school has ever faced.
“We wanted something that would capture the essence of the campaign and the school, something that spoke to what it really means to educate,” Skolnick-Einhorn said. The pieces were unveiled at the campuses on May 15.
“There is a lot more color in the lobby now. It really pops,” said fifth grader Jemma Wallace.Eden Segal-Geetter, another fifth-grade student said, “I think it is a great way to honor the people who contributed to the school. I think the people whose names are in the mural will feel very honored and recognized. It is great to see how many people contributed.” According to Skolnick-Einhorn, there are already plans for future fundraising campaigns.