By NICHOLAS HAMBURGER, Exclusive to the CCJN
The Jewish Community Day School (JCDS) marked its 23rd anniversary by honoring outgoing head of school Sharon Pollin for her accomplishments during the past six years. The gala, entitled the “Butterfly Ball,” was held Sunday, November 18, in the gymnasium of the Goldring-Woldenberg community campus in Metairie.
The interior of the gymnasium was strewn with glittering string lights and ornamented with iridescent paper butterflies as part of the theme. Organizers for the event told the CCJN that expectations for both attendance and funds raised were far surpassed by the record number of guests that turned out in attendance to support the school.
The theme of the evening was inspired by “An Invitation to the Butterfly Ball: A Children’s Counting Book” that JCDS board vice president Susan Green used to read to her children. Green, who co-chaired the gala with Fran Lake, presented Pollin with a glass butterfly platter as a parting gift, and also announced a new addition to the school’s campus — a butterfly garden, dedicated in Pollin’s honor.
Pollin came to JCDS in 2013 after occupying two prominent positions in Jewish education in Portland, Oregon: as head of school at Maimonides Jewish Day School and later as assistant principal at the Portland Jewish Academy. She received a doctorate in Education Leadership from Northeastern University and also possesses a doctoral certification in Jewish Education Leadership from Hebrew College.
Speaking before a crowd of several hundred attendees, former JCDS board president Dashka Roth cited Pollin’s tireless work ethic as one factor underlying her effectiveness as Head of School at JCDS. “She works nonstop. And when I say ‘works,’ I mean she gets things done,” Roth said.
“Just look at what she’s accomplished in the six years that she’s been here: the student population has doubled, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program is exciting and excellent, we added a sixth grade this year, and we’re adding a preschool next year in addition to the wonderful baby program that Sharon brought in a couple of years ago.”
When Pollin assumed the podium on Sunday night, she stressed the importance of JCDS’s teachers. “Our faculty and staff are the reason parents choose JCDS,” Pollin said. “Without you, we would literally be an empty building of great ideas.”
Founded in 1996, JCDS aims to provide a secular curriculum within the context of Jewish tradition and spirituality, emphasizing an ethical awareness inspired by the concept of tikkun olam. The school boasts low student-to-teacher ratios and prides itself on encouraging collaboration and creative expression in addition to more conventional approaches to education.
In addition to the butterfly garden, JCDS also noted an addition of a different variety: a $250,000 grant from the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana (JEF), which has been named the Charles Zucker JCDS Endowment Fund. Along with the JEF and individual donations, funding for JCDS comes from sources such as the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, the Prizmah Center for Jewish Day Schools, the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust, and the Legacy Heritage Fund.
The gala concluded at 9:00 p.m., several hours later than originally planned, after the gala committee decided it would be best to push the event’s start time back in order to ensure that Saints fans could view the afternoon game against the Eagles prior to attending their event. Numerous attendees arrived clad in Drew Brees jerseys, while one enthusiastic Zach Strief fan was spotted as well.
When the last of the desserts prepared by Casablanca Restaurant were scarfed down, guests began to file out. Various student-made artwork selling for as much as $35 and, likewise, bearing images of butterflies, lined the perimeter of the gymnasium, while a number of attendees, including one who wore a sharp navy blazer over a tattered Deuce McAllister jersey, stopped to help themselves to one last “Monarch Martini” on the way out, perhaps as a final celebratory gesture, or perhaps in preparation to add to their art collection.
Following her departure from JCDS, Pollin intends to return to Portland, where her son and daughter and their families both currently reside. Both of her offspring were present at the Sunday night event too.