(718) 858-8663

Head of School Nicole Nash Interviewed by the Lookstein Center

Embracing Diversity, Building a Stronger Jewish Future:
An Interview with Nicole Nash

April 4, 2024 | Jewish Educational Leadership

Jewish Educational Leadership: To what extent do you see diversity as a challenge and to what extent do you see diversity as an opportunity?

Nicole Nash: I’m going to start with opportunity because, to me, the opportunity outweighs any challenges. I’ve been in the field for a long time, and when you work in Jewish education, you meet so many children, parents, faculty, staff, and community members. I’ve had the privilege to see just how diverse the Jewish people are. When we are at our best, our diversity can be a real source of strength and celebration of Jewish peoplehood. When I say diversity, I think about it across ethnicity, race and nationality, Jewish identity and practice, interfaith family composition, sexual orientation, gender identity, life experience, socioeconomic status, worldviews—the list goes on and on.

Sometimes we are tempted to put people in boxes, but individuals are more complicated—we all hold multiple identities. If we embrace the rich mosaic of Jewish life and the diversity within our Jewish community, we’ll see our connections multiply and build a much stronger Jewish future. In addition to that, by lifting up diversity we’re modeling, teaching, and leading with Jewish values such as building empathy, promoting tolerance, and valuing difference. This enables us to empower our students to be agents of change in the world. It’s a tremendous opportunity.

There are also challenges. When you start talking about identity, people are passionate—it is a deeply personal conversation. When you start to lift up one identity, others can feel excluded, and that’s when people start to put up barriers or even feel resistance. I find sometimes it can be a challenge to help people realize that if we’re talking about one identity, it’s not because there isn’t room for others. The Jewish tent is really big and there’s room for all of us.

Can you offer a concrete example of this?

Senesh (Brooklyn, NY), where I am Head of School, is a really diverse community. We have Israelis, Russians, multifaith families, LGBTQ+ families,  families that speak many different languages at home, and more. One area that we’ve been diving deeper into is thinking more about Jewish families of Color—what does engagement of that community mean, what can that look like, and what are the possibilities? When we start to have those conversations, we could have somebody who suddenly feels like they are being overlooked. “What about us? My identity matters, too!” Everyone needs to be reassured that they still belong and that being welcoming doesn’t mean we are ignoring other identity groups. No one has to be marginalized or seen as less important as we broaden our tent even further. We’re missing the boat if somebody starts to feel excluded.

Read of the rest of the interview here.