Photo of Sara Smith
Dr. Sara Smith

Dr. Sara Smith is the Assistant Dean of the Graduate Center for Jewish Education. She earned her PhD from New York University and M.A. and B.A. degrees from Brandeis University.

We are thrilled to celebrate with Dr. Bruce Powell, Distinguished Lecturer of Jewish Education, and Dr. Ron Wolfson, Fingerhut Professor of Education, as they announce the publication of their new book, Raising A+ Human Beings: Crafting a Jewish School Culture of Academic Excellence and AP Kindness. In it, they present a blueprint for how to create an educational culture that informs, motivates, inspires and shapes character steeped in Jewish values and “advanced placement” kindness.

The book evolved when Ron invited Bruce to lecture his students in one of his MAEd courses. “When I heard Bruce say that the goal of Jewish education was to raise A+ human beings, I immediately encouraged him to write a book about the values, principles and practices that shape a culture to do just that. When he invited me to write it with him, I jumped at the opportunity and it has been an absolute joy." 

Bruce, a legendary leader of three outstanding Jewish day high schools in Los Angeles, reveals the origin of the book title: "I would tell incoming students: ‘Not all of you will be A students in chemistry, but all of you can be A+ human beings.’ This is the fundamental goal of Jewish education.”

The book is written for the heads, principals, teachers, administrative staff, boards and parents charged with crafting a school's culture. “This is an ideal book to read together,” Ron says. “The most successful organizations understand that to shape an embracing culture of kindness, everyone needs to be literally on the same page. Each short chapter includes discussion questions for assessing and deepening the best principles and practices of culture creation that are applicable to any Jewish institution - schools, synagogues, religious schools, youth groups and camps.” 

Reactions to the book are enthusiastic. “Bruce Powell shares in very clear and practical terms, his firsthand experience in the ‘Who,’ ‘What,’ and ‘How’ of creating a school culture that nurtures A+ human beings,” according to Dr. Gil Graff, Executive Director, Builders of Jewish Education in Los Angeles. 

“The lessons of this instructive and uplifting book can contribute to the success of any organization.” agrees Harlene Appelman, Executive Director of the Covenant Foundation. “Raising A+ Human Beings is an essential read for all those who work with and care about our young people—from heads of schools and their boards to educators and camp staff.” 

Click here to watch Bruce and Ron talk more about the book on AJU's Facebook page.

Raising A+ Human Beings: Crafting a Jewish School Culture of Academic Excellence and AP Kindness is available now at