Nancy Parkes
Nancy ParkesFounder, CEO
“I think we have forgotten the purpose of education. Education is so much more than educating the mind. It’s about truly educating the whole person – mind, heart, and soul – so that they can reach their full human potential and contribute to the world. To do that, we need to change the way we teach, what we teach, and how we teach.” – Nancy Parkes

Who I Am

A lifelong learner and natural educator, Nancy realized early on in her initial career in Sports Medicine that working with and educating children was her true passion.

Believing in the need for supportive improvements and advancements in Jewish education, she returned to school in 2003 to earn an M.A. degree in Jewish Studies and Education from the William Davidson School of Education. In 2006 she began her groundbreaking career in synagogue education at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York. As the Director of Congregational Learning and leader of the education team, Nancy created a new model of education that included full-time community educators. From the beginning, Nancy began developing and implementing the kind of innovative and inclusive programming that she has become known for throughout the Jewish educational community.

Dedicated to continuing education, she is currently pursuing her EdD. at JTS’s Executive Doctoral Program, where she also serves both as an adjunct faculty member teaching educational leadership and an education consultant on various projects that focus on leadership and congregational change.

Her vast experiences and successes in Jewish education combined with her desire to transform how and what is taught have led to the formation of JTeachNOW. Through JTeachNOW she will support schools, organizations, and educators that are embarking on, or in the process of change and innovation as well mentor, coach and support educators in their roles as leaders, change makers, and educational experts in all settings.

Some of my highlights

I have had many “favorite” projects, and writing the children’s book, “The Little Torah’s Trip to Space” was certainly one of them.  

One rainy morning as I was driving my children to school, I heard a reporter on the radio describe the Torah that Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, had taken to space. Did I hear correctly? A torah in space?  

When I told a friend of mine that I thought every child should know this story, she told me that if I truly believed that I should write it!

Collaborating with my friends, Grace Maisel, a published author, and Jane Simonson, a painter and illustrator, we wrote “The Little Torah’s Trip to Space” in less than a week. And then the unimaginable happened. The spaceship exploded as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.  

This was devastating news and our hearts went out to the families that lost loved ones. We still felt this was a story worth telling, but the ending took on a completely new meaning for us. 

The entire project was transformative: learning about the history of this special Torah that survived the Holocaust; traveling to Israel to meet Joachim Josephs, Ilan Ramon’s teacher and owner of the Torah; corresponding with the family of Rabbi Dasberg, who perished in the Holocaust, and who gave the Torah to Joachim Josephs while in Auschwitz; and hearing from people of all ages how much this story meant to them.  

All the proceeds of this book went to a scholarship fund at Tel Aviv University in honor of the legacy of this little Torah. May its story and message continue in the way we care and treat each other no matter what our differences may be. And that is definitely a story everyone should now.

Maccabiah Games2001, I represented the United States and competed in tennis in the Macabbiah Games in Israel. At that time, the second intifada was taking place and so tensions were running high. Many athletes who had made the U.S. Team decided not to compete and security was tight wherever we went.  

However, the experience of representing my country in Israel was something I will never forget. All those early morning training and practice sessions were worth it the minute I walked into the Teddy Kollek Stadium in Jerusalem for the Opening Ceremonies. It is difficult to articulate the pride I felt representing my country as a Jew playing in my “other” homeland with Jews from all over the world. Winning two silver and one bronze medal was simply the icing on the cake of an incredible experience.  

I have so many! Top three, not necessarily in any particular oder: 

  • Hiking and taking in the beauty of nature. 
  • Reading. Favorite genre: historical non-fiction.
  • Doing just about anything with my family.