In a guest column in the April 3 issue, Aaron Smith, board chair of the Ottawa Jewish Community School, announced Jon Mitzmacher would become head of school at OJCS. The accomplished educator spoke with the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin during a visit to the city in advance of his move here this coming summer.
Jon Mitzmacher, the incoming head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS), is a proven leader in Jewish education whose track record includes being head of two successful Jewish day schools in the United States – one of which he built from scratch.
Mitzmacher is currently vice-president of innovation at Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, the umbrella organization for Jewish day schools in North America – including OJCS – where he has been working with day schools all over North America to establish best and innovative practices to ensure educational excellence, financial vitality and community support for Jewish education.
“Jon is a warm and approachable leader,” said OJCS Board President Aaron Smith. “He will be a great asset internally for our teaching faculty and is genuinely interested in getting to know every family in Ottawa to let them know about the benefit of a Jewish day school education.”
“I’m pleased to be coming into a school with a rich tradition of excellence,” said Mitzmacher, 44, who spoke with the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin during a visit to the city, April 4, in advance of his move here. “We want to build on that strong foundation and guide the school to its next chapter of growth and excitement. … I want it to be filled with passion and learning and enthusiasm.”
Mitzmacher, who holds a doctorate in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, has signed a five-year contract with OJCS and will begin work as head of school on July 3.
Mitzmacher said his family – wife Jaimee and daughters Maytal, age nine, and Eliana, 11 – are looking forward to the move to Ottawa this summer. Maytal and Eliana will be students at OJCS beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.
“We’re looking at this as an international adventure for us,” he said. “We are excited to be active members of this vibrant community. The decision to come to here was not just about what makes sense for my career, but what’s right for our family.”
Mitzmacher grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and did his undergraduate work at University of California, Berkeley.
“I moved to Los Angeles and got my next round of degrees at American Jewish University: a master’s in Jewish education and an MBA.”
Mitzmacher began his career in Jewish education at the Bureau of Jewish Education for Greater Los Angeles, where he was educational director the Youth Programs Department for three years.
He then served as education director at the Old Westbury Hebrew Congre-Wgation, a Conservative synagogue on Long Island, New York, before moving to Manhattan where he started working toward his doctorate at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
After completing his doctoral course work and comprehensive exams, Mitzmacher moved to Las Vegas and spent five years as the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.
“We started with five kids, and five years later had 85 children and a kindergarten-to-Grade 5 program,” he said. “Founding a Jewish day school from scratch was quite a learning experience. I’m proud that the school has done so well.”
From there, he went to Jacksonville and became head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a preschool-through-Grade 8 school of about 200 students.
“In Jacksonville, we became known for being one of the leading 21st century learning schools,” he said.
After leading Jewish day schools in Las Vegas and Jacksonville, Mitzmacher became the creative director of the Schechter Day School Network – the umbrella organization for Jewish day schools in North America associated with the Conservative movement. When the Schecter Network merged with four other national and international Jewish educational organizations to form Prizmah, Mitzmacher became vice-president of innovation.
“Five national Jewish organizations coming together is no small feat,” he said.
Jewish community leaders expressed excitement at the news that Mitzmacher will become head of school at OJCS.
“I congratulate the leadership of OJCS for hiring a first-rate educator. Jon has a deep understanding of Jewish education and knowledge of how to run an excellent school, coupled with energy and passion for Jewish life. I look forward to working with Jon and am excited to begin this next chapter for OJCS and our community,” said Jewish Federation of Ottawa President and CEO Andrea Freedman.
“We are so pleased to have such a highly accomplished day school professional join our school community,” said Aaron Smith. “Jon brings a wealth of experience in modern educational approaches that will benefit both current and future students at OJCS.”