The Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) has announced that its long-time executive director plans to leave the organization at the end of September and that a transition will begin immediately that will soon see its associate director become the acting director.

After fourteen years of guiding the leading Jewish day school support organization, Rabbi Joshua Elkin, himself a former day school head, wrote to his board, “just as 1996 was a time that felt right for a new venture, so too is 2011. I feel that I have another chapter within me that I am eager to explore – a not-yet identified different platform from which I can continue to help strengthen the Jewish people.”

News of Rabbi Elkin’s coming departure was greeted with understanding and gratitude by the PEJE board chair, Diane Troderman. Ms. Troderman affirmed her commitment to a seamless transition through Rabbi Elkin’s departure on September 30. To that end, she and the entire PEJE board concurred in a vote this week to appointment Amy Katz, Associate Director of PEJE, as acting director.

“When Josh approached me and told me of his desire to move on, perhaps for his ‘last hurrah,’ I was deeply saddened but came to understand his feelings and applaud his choice,” wrote Ms. Troderman. “[My husband] Harold [Grinspoon] and I began this journey fourteen years ago as full Partners when PEJE was birthed and have watched Josh with profound gratitude shepherding us through three transformative phases – building, strengthening, and now sustaining Jewish day schools.”

In the fourteen years Rabbi Elkin has led PEJE – beginning with its formation in December, 1996 – the organization has considerably strengthened the Jewish day school field, providing valuable expertise and coaching, as well as considerable grant allocations. Sixty new Jewish day schools were funded, volunteer and professional day school leaders were regularly convened cross-denominationally, and the first-ever day school Donor Assembly was organized in 2000. The Assembly was expanded in 2003 to include a leadership component. The most recent Assembly took place in October, 2010, with 1,100 participants from 250 Jewish day schools.

Meanwhile, over roughly the same period, the total number of Jewish day schools nationally has swelled to 800 and the number of students has increased dramatically by an estimated 25% to over 230,000, according to a 2009-09 AVI CHAI-funded report, “A Census of Jewish Day Schools in the United States,” by Marvin Schick.

And in the last year alone, PEJE has significantly modified its governance and funding structures, adding new board members, and embracing a business plan focused on financial sustainability and affordability for Jewish day schools. Recently, PEJE received a $3.1 million grant from the AVI CHAI Foundation to allow PEJE to help over 40 schools grow legacy and endowment programs. In addition, a new PEJE challenge award program was launched in April to stimulate new efforts by schools to sustain themselves.

Spanning a Jewish communal career of over 33 years in the Boston area, Amy Katz has worked in leadership positions since 1991: ten years at Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish federation in the area of financial resource and leadership development; two and a half years as the founding Executive Director of a start-up Jewish educational nonprofit; and since 2003 as Associate Director at PEJE, responsible for all internal operations and programming. A day school graduate herself and the mother of five day school graduates, Ms. Katz is an alumnus of Yeshiva University’s Stern College and holds an MSW from the University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

“A year ago, Josh and Amy, working with the Partners, developed a new business plan whose focus – viable day schools in the 21st century – reflects the challenges of the 21st century,” Ms. Troderman wrote. “Josh has positioned us in a very strategic way, which allows us to fully embrace PEJE’s leadership transition. With Amy as the acting director we are confident that PEJE will go from strength to strength.”