By ALAN SMASON, Special to the CCJN
Brad Philipson, Ph.D., was formally installed as the new Jewish Community Day School (JCDS) Oscar J. Tolmas Head of School in public ceremonies on Friday morning, October 11 in. the chapel of Shir Chadash Conservative Synagogue.
Philipson, a New Orleans native who succeeded Sharon Pollin, Ph.D., had been working in that capacity since the summer following her move back to her hometown of Portland, Oregon. His position had been filled following a nationwide search for a new head of school.
The ceremonies began with a formal welcome by JCDS board president Carole Neff. She introduced a full complement of JCDS grade schoolers in uniforms, who sang songs in honor of Philipson. Led by JCDS faculty member Lauren Gisclair, the number of singing participants numbered more than 30, or nearly half of the sch0ol’s current enrollment.
Randy Philpson, Brad’s older brother spoke on behalf of his family and gave a brief history on his brother’s involvement as a leader, teacher and, more recently, husband and father. He noted that even while Brad was furthering the education of others at various schools, he was also advancing his own education. In the span of a decade, he added, Brad earned two master’s degree and a Ph.D. while working fulltime.,
“Brad’s passion for education and the development of young people is what makes him such a special leader,” Randy Philpson said. “His commitment to the children and the process for learning is why he has so many many colleagues, campers, and students stay in touch with him through the years.”
Rabbi Deborah Silver was called upon to give an inspirational drosh on the occasion of the installation. She remarked that the companionship – the chevrutah – evident at JCDS is evident and an integral portion of the school’s culture. Kohellet, the author of Ecclesiastes, she insisted, went even further, suggesting that a companionship based on the strength of three threads or bindings could not easily be broken.
Silver described the area’s synagogues and rabbinate as the first of these threads and that the Jewish institutions including Federation, Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana, the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Service, Jewish Children’s Regional Service as well as Jewish media as representing the second.
“But the third thread in the cord is the one that represents our future, ” the rabbi continued. “The third thread in the cord is the one that represents dedicated Jewish education, a commitment to an affirming and an exploring and an owning of Jewish identity
JCDS is unique in that they are the only organization with open doors to all that is dedicated to deepening their students’ experience of Judaism. “Triple threads don’t come apart,” she concluded. “Triple threads hold each other and affirm each other and support each other…Dr. Philpson…Brad…Thread three, welcome on board.
Philipson said he was honored and humbled by the honor of being installed, but that he understood the responsibility of his office to the students and to the school. “I’m filled with joy with being part of this school,” he said. “I work with a wonderful people every day – the school staff and the wonderful school parents, not to mention these incredible kids. I couldn’t ask for more, but I do,” he added.
Philpson concluded by pledging to broaden the educational mandate for the school as both a Jewish educational institution and one that will become known citywide for its general curricula. He ended by saying he hoped to be worthy of the task ahead.