Faculty Spotlight – Joni Fishman, Middle School Dean of Students

by | Jun 15, 2021 | Alumni Class Notes, Community, Our Stories

In your 24 years of working here, what are some things that are new at Rashi and what are some things that are the same?

How blessed and honored that I have been to work at Rashi since 1997 when my son joined the class of 1999. It was not long before our family felt the true meaning of being part of a kehillah—community. The administrators, faculty, students, and families immediately made us all feel the warmth, spirit, and educational excellence that still exists today. Even back then, innovative teaching and student engagement were paramount to the Rashi experience.

Fast forward to today, and I feel equally blessed to work in an environment that embraces its pillars—foundational strengths—while ensuring that our students, faculty, and families are part of a community that stays current and open to the changes that are needed to help students function in a complex, changing world. Over the course of my time at Rashi, I have had many titles, but the one that I am most proud of and has never changed is that of “teacher.” Even above my official title of “Dean of Students,” I have always most cherished my ability to educate. Doing that at Rashi has been a great honor.

Through watching students, year after year, find voice, skills, and confidence to lead, my commitment has never wavered. From observing (and having those original notes from) the 1998/99 student government leadership, I am excited that we still have a serious and engaged group of student leaders, yet a change has been the openness and inclusivity of those who want to take part versus the original composition, in which each middle school grade elected two representatives. That change came from students wanting to hear more voices to make sure that all who wished to share could be heard.

Recently, I was asked about our involvement with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) , and that made me smile with pride about a partnership that has spanned more than twenty years. Now, our students play an even greater role in being trained as Youth Peer Leaders and creating connections across grades K-8. Our students, faculty, families, and administrators have always cared about those in need of support, and that is even more of a priority today, often speaking on behalf of those who might otherwise be silenced.  What hasn’t changed since 1997 is the excellent teaching, engaged learning, and a community built on respect and care for justice and collaboration.

What is different is a new building, which is already 10 years old. Before that, I had offices in four different buildings, and while I have come to love and appreciate our beautiful facility and grounds that have brought us even closer to our senior residents at Newbridge, I am constantly impressed by the work that so many do to help us find authentic connections that lead to a community that cares about each other and provides an outstanding education to enable our students to continue to take the reign of leadership as they venture out into the world.


When you think of Rashi Alumni, what words or thoughts come to mind?

When I think of Rashi Alumni, I think of innovative leaders—change agents who continue to bring their curious critical minds and compassionate hearts to whatever they are doing and wherever they find themselves. Our alumni are appreciative, reflective, and committed to continuing to strengthen their bonds with those of us still at Rashi. I now have been here long enough to think of our alumni not just as older students, but as adult professionals, parents, and spouses, but always with a sense of pride in knowing they are never far away. To hear from them through email, Zoom, phone calls, texts, and visits, I gain energy and heed their encouragement to keep doing this work. They remind me of the importance of feeling the care, support, and guidance to move forward.


What are some of your favorite things about being the Dean of Students at Rashi?

Working with students who continue to teach, inspire, and remind me there is always work to be done to make each of us feel hope and value.