DJDS Parent Ambassador Program Sets Example for other Jewish Day Schools

“One of the more common roles parents play in Jewish day schools, either informally or ‘officially,’ is as ambassadors to the prospective families.  Shayna Friedman, Director of Admission at Denver Jewish Day School, recently shared their school’s experience with parent ambassadors and how Atidenu helped them rethink their model, resulting in healthier recruitment and retention.” – Prizmah Blogs.

Check out this interview on Prizmah’s website featuring our Director of Admission, Shayna Friedman, expanding on the benefits of the Parent Ambassador Program at Denver Jewish Day School:


Prizmah is the new center for Jewish Day Schools. Their mission is to transform the North American Jewish day school landscape. You can find out more about Prizmah here.

Denver Jewish Day School Updates

A Fresh Look at Jewish Life at DJDS, by Sarah Levy

Judaism is a religion of doing and of learning…in that order. Exodus 24:7 tells us that when Moses read the words of the Torah to the people, their response was “na’aseh v’nishma – we will do and we will listen.” The people seemed to prioritize acting on the words of God above anything else. The Talmud (Kiddushin 40b) echoes this idea by saying that “study is great, for it leads to action.” By emphasizing actions over study, while still connecting the learning to the deed, the rabbis seem to be encouraging performance tied to an understanding of significance.

The same concept of learning in order to act can be found in the DJDS mission statement. We aim to educate students, not just to be learned citizens, but to act ethically and purposefully in the world. Similarly, the title of my new position, Director of Jewish Life and Learning, places the action before the study, again showing that learning just for learning’s sake is not our goal; rather we aim for that learning to translate directly into action.

We emphasize the middot, for example, not so that our students know what kavod means. We emphasize the middot so that the students know how to show kavod and the role that kavod plays in their world and so they display kavod when they are interacting with their peers and taking part in their Helping Hands and other service learning projects.

We engage students in tefillah not so that the students can memorize words and sing tunes. We engage students in tefillah so they can consider their connection with God and so they can foster dispositions such as gratitude, humility, and kindness to carry with them as they explore their role in the community.

We teach Parshat HaShavuah not so that students can learn stories about people from long ago. We teach Parashat HaShavuah so that students can apply the timeless lessons of the text in order to gain a better understanding of their relationship to each other and the world around them and begin to find their purpose on this earth through thoughtful and purposeful acts.

As Director of Jewish Life and Learning my priority is to work with our incredibly dedicated faculty to ensure our students are given the skills to study, the motivation to be life-long learners, and the inspiration and guidance to put that learning into action, making their world of tomorrow better than our world of today, acting purposefully and ethically just as our mission stipulates.

I would encourage you to send me an email or set a time to meet with me so that we can discuss why you choose to send your child(ren) to DJDS, what you want for them to get from a DJDS education, and how we can partner to make that happen. We are in this journey together. Together, we will do, and we will listen.


Denver Jewish Day School Updates

Introducing the New Lower Division Dean, Mark Parmet

Mark Parmet just earned his Master of Education with an emphasis in School Leadership. He was one of a few recipients to receive a full fellowship through the Walton Foundation at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego, California. The bulk of the program was a hands-on experience with the vast majority of his time spent as a school leader residence at High Tech High Media Arts.

Prior to his time at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, Mark spent six and a half years as the Upper Division Math Department Chair and teacher at Denver Jewish Day School. As the head of the department, he was responsible for evaluating and creating our 6th-12th grade curriculum, preparing and tracking the department’s annual budget, recruiting and hiring new teachers, resolving any student/teacher issues to ensure the needs the individual student were being met, meeting with parents and ensuring that the requisites of the department were communicated to the administration.

Mark has always had a firm belief that schools should provide a strong culture for students that allows them to learn through community, personal growth, and experiential and classroom learning. The goal is to provide all students the skills and abilities to succeed in academics and true-life experiences. He feels that it’s vital to create an environment where students prepare for the rigorous work at all levels of their schooling, but to do it in an educational atmosphere that is both challenging and rewarding.  

“It is not only important to prepare today’s students for school, but to do it in a way that challenges the student in both the classroom and a real-world setting,” says Parmet. “I believe it is important to do this through select course work, service learning, sports, travel, and encouraging personal responsibility. In addition to teaching classes that adhere to core standards, it is crucial to prepare students for the world that awaits them upon graduation.”

Mark has long been admired by many of his colleagues for his work at DJDS thus far, and he is grateful for the time he has spent here. Mark is looking forward to beginning a new chapter as the Lower Division Dean and the Chair of the Upper Division math department while still teaching part time in fifth grade for the upcoming 2017-18 school year.

Student Story

Between the Pipes with Zach Stern

For most students at Denver Jewish Day School, their morning begins at 7:55am in the classrooms. Some students are wide awake and excited for their first class; some students are taking quizzes or tests and others are still groggy and trying to wake up. However, for one member of the sophomore class, the daily grind starts much earlier, before the sun rises. For Zach Stern, each morning starts at the ice rink at 5:00am, and you can find him behind a goalie mask – between the pipes – playing one of the toughest positions in all of sports.

Hockey has always been more than just a game for Zach. From the moment he first saw the fast-paced game played, to his first street hockey pads he owned growing up as a toddler, Zach found himself enamored with the game of hockey. “When you first smell the ice to when you first feel the breeze blowing on your face when you’re speeding around the rink, you realize there’s no better feeling in the world,” says Stern. “When you walk into the rink at 5:00am every week, you find the beauty and passion you have for the game, and if you truly love it, that feeling never goes away.”

Zach Stern image 2

Zach is the current goaltender for the Colorado Thunderbirds 18U team. 

But like most other young and aspiring hockey players around the world, Zach is faced with difficult decisions in other areas of his daily life amidst substantial time commitments and frequent travels. Time management and schoolwork have always been very important to Zach and he is extremely thankful that his teachers and friends at DJDS are always willing to help him out and accommodate whenever he misses class. Even beyond the flexibility, Zach feels that DJDS has helped him grow and mature in more ways than he ever imagined, and he feels that he has found yet another home away from home.

“DJDS is one of a kind. Its small nature enables students to build strong relations with both their teachers and peers, making it a ‘family’ setting,” says Stern. “The community has helped shaped me into a student, athlete, and, most importantly, the person I am today.”

Zach’s father grew up in a religious home, and both of his parents have instilled Jewish values in him throughout his life. Both Zach and his parents agreed that DJDS was an ideal fit for Zach to maintain and build upon his Jewish values while receiving a top-notch Jewish and secular education. But it’s the close-knit environment that has helped Zach reach a comfort zone he truly has grown to appreciate during the heart of his hockey seasons, and even throughout the entire school year.

After a point in a young hockey career, there is a requirement to move away from home in order to take one’s career hopes to the next level and play Junior Hockey. For Zach and many more young hockey players, the jump from youth hockey leagues to Junior Hockey can be daunting, because Junior Hockey is an international business. Players are recruited, frequently traded and more often than not, find themselves miles away from home. As Zach continues to approach this intimidating stage, he is working harder than ever with each passing day to overcome injuries and get in the best shape of his life mentally and physically. He reiterates that he would not be in the position he is in now without the incredible support from his family, coaches, teammates and most importantly, the DJDS community.

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“Hockey is more than just a game, it is full of life lessons and opportunity,” says Stern. “Every player on the team must be a leader, be it on or off the ice. I am less of a vocal leader; rather, I am a leader through my play, and do the job that is asked of me in order for the team to succeed, and I carry that mindset everywhere I go.”

Zach has long idolized former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden, and as a die-hard Canadiens fan, he enjoys watching their current all-star goaltender, Carey Price. Zach admires how composed and relaxed Price remains through his athletic play, and he tries to base his own goaltending game around Price’s style.

Standing at 6’2, the Colorado Thunderbirds goaltender has the physical tools and talent to take his game to the next level and beyond. This past season, Zach was recruited by the Wenatchee Wild of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), and was added as an affiliate to their roster. Zach hopes to be on their roster for the 2017-2018 season.


With Zach’s mentality, the sky’s the limit, and we are truly lucky to have him here at DJDS.


Upper Division

Introducing the New Upper Division Dean of Student and Faculty Affairs, Peta Miller

Peta Miller was born in Brisbane, Australia. Her first visit to the US took place in 1982, she later returned in 1987 to live when she married her American born husband. This year will mark 30 years of marriage! The secret to a long lasting marriage, she shares is to marry your best friend.

Prior to coming to Denver Jewish Day School, Peta was an educator in South Carolina. When her son shared that he intended to pass the bar and practice law in Colorado, Peta began looking for opportunities to teach in Colorado to keep her family close. She connected with the DJDS job post on the NAIS, the National Association of Independent Schools website, then applied and the rest is history.

Peta has been a part of the DJDS family for the past two years. Teaching Social Studies to 6th and 7th grade students from unique and diverse backgrounds expands on the perspectives shared in class. Much to her delight Peta is consistently surprised by how much her students stay up to date of the ever changing current events. The children have a better understanding of “different world-views and usually end up teaching me something new in the process”. Having the opportunity to create a participatory environment where students can learn about each other and from each other is one of the most rewarding parts of her job.

Her love of interacting and connecting with students is what motivated Peta to accept the position as Dean of Students when she was approached by Jason Snyder, Upper Division Principal. She viewed it as a great opportunity to building strong relationships with the families that make up the DJDS community.

As the new Dean of Students, effective in June, Peta will be responsible for looking after the welfare of students while managing the lines of communication between students, their families and DJDS. “People are giving us their most precious belongings, their children, and they have to have trust in us”, Peta expanded on the most important goal of the position as the free and effective flow of communication.

Peta is grateful for the encouragement and support of her predecessor, mentor and friend, Laura Mock who is one of the many DJDS staff excited for Peta to embark on this new opportunity. For Peta, she will pass the time until the new school year celebrating her 30th wedding anniversary retreating to a rainforest resort in Australia with her closest family and friends.

Denver Jewish Day School Updates

Congratulations to the DJDS Class of 2017 on a Stellar Year

In yet another highly competitive year, the DJDS Class of 2017 has shown tremendous promise with acceptances to a number of prestigious institutions. Ten of the 19 students in the Class of 2017 are graduating with a Distinction in Judaic Studies, several students will be traveling abroad in top-tier programs and two students have also received National Merit honors. It is truly safe to say that the Class of 2017 has gone above and beyond with their leadership abilities and academic capabilities.

Ely Merenstein, who will attend Colorado College in the Fall, has been named a 2017 National Merit Scholar. Classmate Avi Kaye, who will attend Stanford, has been named a National Merit Commended Scholar.

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Ely Merenstein (Left) and Avi Kaye (Right). 

“We are extremely proud of Ely and Avi for their tremendous accomplishments,” says DJDS College Counselor Ceci Lowinger. “This year’s entire graduating class is an exemplary one, and their hard work and dedication has been reflected in the options that each student has.  Several students will be traveling abroad for a gap year, and one student will be making aliyah to Israel to join the Israel Defense Forces.  Our Class of 2017 earned over $1.6 million in merit scholarships.”

“During my high school career at Denver Jewish Day School, I’ve spent a lot of time growing as a person and as a community member. Being chosen as a National Merit Scholar recognizes this, and I’m very grateful for that recognition,” says Ely Merenstein.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic scholarship competition administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a privately funded, not-for-profit organization based in Evanston, Illinois. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) and by meeting published program entry and participation requirements.

The  test screens more than 1.6 million program entrants from more than 22,000 high schools in the United States, measuring critical reading ability, mathematics problem-solving ability, and writing ability, rather than existing knowledge. Of these, only about 34,000 students are named commended scholars. Of the 15,000 Finalists, about 8,000 receive Merit Scholarship awards.

We wish the Class of 2017 nothing but the best with all of their future endeavors. Here is a list College Acceptances for the Class of 2017: Bard College, Brown University, Brandeis University, Carleton College, Case Western Reserve, Creighton University, Colorado College,  Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Drew University, Duke University, Emory University, George Washington University, Goucher College, Indiana University, Lehigh University, Lewis and Clark College, Oberlin College, Rutgers University, Stanford University, Syracuse University, Tufts University, University of Arizona, University of California/Los Angeles, University of California/San Diego, University of Colorado/Boulder (including Honors Business and Honors Engineering), University of Denver, University of Kansas, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin, Washington University/St. Louis, and Yeshiva University. Students have also been waitlisted at Bowdoin, Harvard, Harvey Mudd, NYU, Princeton and Vanderbilt.

Weekly D'Var Torah

Parshat Hashavua: Achrei Mot – Kedoshim by Ilana Jacobs

In this week’s Torah Portion, God tells Moses to give the people a series of ethical and ritual laws instructing them in how to be holy. Read the full text in English and Hebrew here: Leviticus 19:1 – 20:27.

Also, don’t forget to check out this week’s Dvar written by 8th grader, Ilana Jacobs.

In this week’s parsha we learn to love a convert as we love ourselves. This reminded me about all the new kids who we will meet next year, whether or not we stay at this school. Think about it. We are going to get new kids in our class, just like the people who are leaving will meet new kids who went to school together before high school. When we meet new people we want them to accept us for how we act, look and what we have. I think that this is one of the challenges of being Jewish, and I recently experienced someone who did not accept me for who I was.


I was at a volleyball clinic for DPS high school volleyball, called FUTURES. We were warming up, and I met some seemingly nice girls. We were introducing ourselves, and when it was my turn to say what school I was from, I said “Denver Jewish Day School” as I always do. The girls looked at me, and asked “Wait, You’re Jewish?” and I replied with a simple yes. They then proceeded to say “ Well, you can’t warm up in our line, because we only want christians to warm up with us.” Instead of agreeing to this, I asked them what they had against jews. They answered me, saying “Jews are different and they act differently”  and I replied saying, “Is difference really a bad thing? Everyone comes from a different background, but deep down, we are all the same. We all have hearts, brains, bones, skin and blood, so why should someone who believes in something different be sent away? Shouldn’t we all come together as a family and work together? Because without getting to know other types of people, we will never understand what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.” The two girls looked at me, smiled, and said, “Okay, why don’t you warm up with us.”


I believe that I helped those two girls understand that difference is good, and I helped them become more accepting of others, just as I strive to be. So no matter where you go for High School, remember to look at everyone as equal, and to never, ever judge a book by it’s cover.
Thank you, and Shabbat Shalom!