The People of the Video Camera

Tami Warshawsky recognized the power of video while she was in high school. When she graduated from college, her first job was producing promotional and training videos for a chemical corporation.

Today, as Director of Marketing and Communications at Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago, a Pre-K – 8th grade Jewish day school, Warshawsky is recognizing once again the unique opportunities that video offers to bring the school’s mission to life. She is regularly posting videos to her school’s YouTube channel – videos that she produces herself using a flip video camera and software that is available on her Mac.

“There are so many extraordinary opportunities that Schechter offers children and families, from the strong dual General and Judaic Studies curriculum to our visual and performing arts and athletic programs, to an amazing community of parents, grandparents, and alumni who are involved in the school,” says Warshawsky. “But unless people come into our school buildings, they can’t truly understand how truly remarkable Schechter is not only for their children and family, but also for our Jewish community. Video allows us to bring Schechter directly to our audience in a very powerful way.”

Warshawsky’s experience is becoming more common. It is the way she thinks about her job that The AVI CHAI Foundation wants to see take root in more Jewish day schools. To advance this goal, the foundation created The Jewish Day School Video Academy in partnership with Chicago-based communications agency See3.

“Our goal is to increase the capacity of Jewish day schools to be strong recruiting, fundraising and community building organizations,” said Deena K. Fuchs, Director of Strategic Partnerships at The AVI CHAI Foundation. “The internet has completely changed the environment for marketing and fundraising and we want Jewish day schools to have the skills to reach their communities in the places they get information, which more and more is online and more often than not in video form.”

The Jewish Day School Video Academy is a free service offered to all qualifying North American Jewish day schools. (More information on qualifications is available at

The Jewish Day School Video Academy will run from September 2011 through January 2012 and it includes three primary elements:

  • Online learning webinars, covering storytelling, video production, editing and distribution
  • One-on-one phone consultation with the schools from the video experts at See3 Communications
  • A video contest, offering the schools prizes for putting their new-found skills to work

Administrators, teachers, parents and alumni are encouraged to participate.

“This program is amazing and so important for our day school community,” said Warshawsky, after attending an introductory webinar about the program. “There is always more to learn. To receive professional education for free and to have the chance to win prizes for our school is a rare opportunity. We intend to take full advantage of this program.”

The AVI CHAI Foundation’s focus on video follows general trends seen in the online community.

“Video has exploded online,” said Danny Alpert, See3’s Executive Producer and a filmmaker that specializes in social issue documentaries. “The statistics are incredible, and they are only accelerating,” continued Alpert. He pointed out that:

  • 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 85% of internet users are watching video, according to research firm ComScore
  • Cisco, the company that makes much of the infrastructure of the internet, estimates that 90% of all the web’s data will be video within 4 years
  • The average American internet user spends more than 14 hours watching online video each month
  • YouTube steams more than 3 billion videos per day and is the web’s second biggest search engine, after Google

“Our goal is that at the end of this project we see a critical mass of Jewish day schools producing and distributing more online video,” said Fuchs. “We are convinced that not only will these videos help individual schools by reaching a community of current and prospective parents and donors, we believe the critical mass of schools will help raise the profile of Jewish day schools in general. The videos on YouTube, social media sites and school web pages will show Jewish families the benefits of a day school education.”

image: as Director of Marketing and Communications, Tami Warshawsky documents the life of the school at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago, such as these 4th grade science students.