Meet the Purim Ball Honorees: Kinney Zalesne and Scott Siff
March 21, 2019 by
Kinney Zalesne and Scott Siff are taking an online ulpan class, and the whole family—including Matthew (‘14), Adina (’17), and Gideon (’21) -—is heading to Israel this summer to study Hebrew. All of it, the couple happily note, is an extension of their JPDS/Milton experience.
Neither Kinney nor Scott had gone to day school, so when they were looking for a school for their kids, Jewish education was “on the list, but not a must,” recalls Kinney. ”One thing that really impressed us [about JPDS] was that the head of Matthew’s non-Jewish pre-school thought the world of JPDS. I remember her saying, ‘I wish I had more Jewish kids, so I could send them there.’”
As each of the Siff children enrolled, the school quickly began to change the family as much as the kids. Says Kinney, “We kind of fell into the kids’ preparation for Shabbat and the holidays and it became part of the rhythm of our family. That is something we have really cherished. We felt like the school was strengthening our own texture as family.” While Kinney talks about foundational identity and how it prepared their kids to “find their way in a bigger world,” Scott emphasizes that the family love for JPDS was also practical and pedagogical. ““The curriculum was great. The teachers, academic programs, and the other kids are so impressive. Every year we have been at the school, we’ve felt these things more and more strongly.”
JPDS “had a clear perspective on how to educate the whole person, it wasn’t just academic.” In other words: the school educates mensches, steeped in Jewish values.
As lawyers, Scott and Kinney were enormously drawn to the Jewish approach to textual study. “Going to original sources is so central to so many fields— it became increasingly important and valuable as the kids got older,” Scott says.
Kinney, for her part, appreciates how each of her children, as individuals, made the school their home. And soon the school was in their home, they joke, as their volunteering and engagement regularly brought JPDS/Milton gatherings and meetings into their living room.
The first job Kinney took on at school was to interview the Purim Ball honorees! “Soon after that,” she says, “I joined the Board.” She co-chaired the strategic planning efforts that led to the purchase of South Campus, chaired the Advancement Committee, and eventually became President of the Board. Kinney helped shepherd the school through several transitions from purchasing the Kay and Robert Schattner Center South Campus to adding a middle school and renovating and expanding the Kay and Robert Schattner Center North Campus. She recalls that if felt like all of her efforts led up to “the day when all the parents came in for orientation at the renovated North Campus.”
“There were people crying in the hallways,” Kinney remembers. “Grownups, who were so amazed and moved and awestruck that our school, which had always been modest, now had this place of light and joy that seemed to finally match what the teachers and administrators had been creating all these years. It was an amazing convergence to have a building match the tremendous spirit and learning that goes on inside.”
Indeed, the spirit in the school mirrors Kinney and Scott’s own enduring spirit of support that has helped strengthen JPDS/Milton through the years.