Yom HaShoah

April 20, 2017
24 Nissan 5777


Dear AJA Community,

It was my first Pesach as an “Atlantan” and Florence, the children and I had a joyous chag. I hope you and your families had the same. As I mentioned recently, Pesach is such an important holiday, in that we look back at our “story”, our struggle and history to always keep our past alive for ourselves and the future generations. This Monday, April 24 (28 Nissan) marks another important date that as Jews we should always remember.

Yom HaShoah. Holocaust Remembrance Day. A day where we commemorate the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. That number still gives me chills every time I read it. The Talmud tells us that “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” On Monday, we commemorate the beautiful souls who perished. We do this so that we may keep their stories, their tragic struggles and their holy legacies alive.

Did you know that the full name of the day is “Yom Hashoah ve-laG'vurah“? יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה – literally meaning “Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” That word ולגבורה (heroism) is one that is not always included when we talk of Yom HaShoah.  Not only does the word Heroism refer to those Jews who demonstrated amazing resilience and strength, but also to those valiant Jews and non-Jews whose bravery and heroism most likely saved hundreds of thousands from perishing. We recall all of these heroes on 4/24.

At AJA, we will recognize Yom HaShoah at both campuses. We are encouraging our students and staff to wear white tops to honor the day. Our Upper School students will participate in a special assembly, where they will see artistic and musical presentations about children who who perished in the Holocaust. At the Northland Drive Campus, our middle schoolers will participate in a program that will focus on the 1.5 million children who died, including a moment of silence in remembrance.

In Atlanta, the 52nd Annual Community Wide Holocaust Commemoration will be held at Greenwood Cemetery on Sunday, April 23 at 11:00 am. Holocaust survivor and Dunwoody resident Manuela Mendels Bornsteinoriginally from France, will speak about her Parisian neighbors who saved her and her family during this horrific time. The Bremen Museum will also have their Holocaust exhibition open to the public for free from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm.

It is not an easy day. It is not a happy day. But it is one of the most important days in our lives as Jews. On this day, we look to the past, we honor and we pay respects to our ancestors whose lives were tragically extinguished over 80 years ago.

May their memories continue to be a blessing.

L'shalom,


Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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Who is Wise?

March 30, 2017
3 Nisan 5777


Dear AJA Community,

Eizehu chacham? Ha’lomed mi’kol adam
אֵיזֶהוּ חָכָם? הַלּוֹמֵד מִכָּל אָדָם

The question “who is wise?” is posed to us in the Talmud. The answer: he who learns from all people. For our Upper School students, this succinctly sums up their month. Adar was filled with so many opportunities for them to learn and participate in such valuable experiences - I just have to tell you about them. Click below to read more about the programs, accolades, experiences and programs from Adar at the Upper School:

ATHLETICS / Israeli Youth Elitzur Basketball

AHAVAT YISRAEL / Modern Israel Seminar

DEBATE / Moot Beit Din  

EDUCATION / Minimester

MITZVAH / Trip to Azerbaijan

PHYSICS / Safe Cracking Competition

POLITICS / Political Process Education

SCIENCE / Tech Fair

THEATER / Girls Chagiga

All I can say is...Kol hakavod (respect) !!
 

Looking ahead…

As you know, we are constructing a new Upper School building. We are not, however, just adding a physical building, we are building a school. Merging together as ONE AJA, allows us to ultimately offer a student experience that is aligned with the goals and mission of AJAThe final product will be an AJA graduate who is accepted to the best colleges and yeshivotis grounded in middot, and a solid human being who has the skill set to navigate the complexities of the world while being an upstanding citizen. We are creating proud Jewish leaders with compassionate hearts and minds.

I’m so excited about the many amazing things happening at the Upper School, and I’m even more excited about the future...beyond just the physical building. For next school year, we are looking feverishly at new electives, new course offerings, and ways to enrich the Upper School academics and Judaic studies to truly meet the 21st Century Learning demands that our students will need.

I look forward to sharing more as the summer approaches.

Stay tuned!

L’shalom,

Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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From Generation to Generation

March 23, 2017
25 Adar 5777

 

Dear AJA Community,

When my inbox is overflowing, it gets a bit overwhelming. I know you can relate! Lately, my inbox has been filled with emails that stop me in my tracks. They pull me right in and I can’t stop reading. These are emails with your AJA stories. I have been floored by the responses to my request for YOUR AJA storiesIt has been incredible for me to read the many ways that AJA has impacted your family, and how and why you feel so connected to this school.

Here is a small glimpse into some of the stories. (to keep it brief, I only included a handful of those I have received). We are compiling your stories without including the names or specifics that would reveal the authors (some of you have asked). We want to hear your AJA story. What is it that connects you to our school? What is it that means the most to you about AJA? Here are snippets of what your fellow parents, community members, alumni and teachers had to say:

"I look at where our two graduates are now, and what they have achieved. I believe strongly that their success definitely was due in part to GHA/YA/AJA."

"As I teach the children of parents whom I taught in the past, I enjoy seeing how the students are similar to their parents, as well as celebrating their differences.  L’dor Vador!"

"When we moved to Atlanta, AJA’s warm and inclusive approach won our hearts. It produces kids that are confident, care deeply for others, are inclusive and very well grounded with skills to be successful. They use the Torah learning to follow their life's goals and aspirations."

"At AJA, we look after each other and make sacrifices and honor each other in the good and bad times.  I have spent 85% of my life at AJA as a student and teacher. AJA is my life."

"Our family connection to AJA started the minute we walked in the door for the first time. We felt welcomed by the teachers and staff, which led to our family feeling included and instantly comfortable at our new 'home' ”.

"Years ago, at GHA, I loved when the Pledge was recited and then Hatikvah was sung every morning. I got chills every day. We wanted our daughter to get a strong Jewish education. I am proud of her and know that her background at GHA was a beginning of her pursuit of her career."

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of storytelling. In Judaism it is in our souls to keep the stories going (and going, and going, and going!). We read in Shemot 10:2, “And in order that you should tell into the ears of your children and grandchildren…” That is one of the main reasons we repeat the story of the Exodus every year at Passover. When we recount those details at our Seder and in shul, we keep that story alive, which encourages a connection to our past and paves the vision for the future.  

In our everyday lives, it is amazing that 84% of people trust information and reviews from conversations with friends more than any other source (Nielson). Word of mouth is one powerful vehicle! As the stories of the Exodus pave the way for our future as Jews, the future of our school is inextricably linked to the stories about AJA that we tell. These AJA stories and details of your personal connection to the school are priceless. Tell a friend. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. I’d love to hear.

L’shalom,

Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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A Sneak Peek into the Upper School

 

March 16, 2017

18 Adar 5777

 

Dear AJA Community,


Whoever coined the phrase, “no news is good news” was only partially right. There are times when news is GOOD! This is one of those times. Last week, I donned a hard hat over my kippah, and headed into the new Upper School construction site to take a glance. WOW. It is incredible how it is all coming together. 

Therefore, I am thrilled to be the bearer of this GOOD NEWS…

“We are on time and we are on budget!”

The classrooms look like classrooms. The STEM lab framework is all in place. Construction is moving along at a rapid pace in the Learning Commons and Beit Midrash. Phase One/All Academic Components (classrooms, furniture, smart boards, etc.) of the new building, as well as the renovation to the current  Lower School building will be ready for the 1st Day of School on August 14th, with the STEM labs and Beit Midrash being completed just a few weeks later. Wait until you see it all. Oh, you want to see the progress?  Guess what? I have more good news...you can take a look here.

 

 

We are on time and on budget and I couldn’t be more excited. We’ll have updates as to the timing of the Athletic Center (gymnasium, wrestling facility, etc.) after Pesach. There are special naming opportunities at the building that are still available. Just contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can tell you about those naming options still available. 

We look forward to seeing each of you in the new building at one or more of the many upcoming events and programs planned for the 2017-18 school year. We can’t wait to be ONE AJA, on one campus, under one roof in only 5 short months!


L’shalom,

Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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Purim and v’nahafoch hu

March 9, 2017
11 Adar 5777
Ta'anit Esther


Dear AJA Community,

MIRUP.

(huh?) What on Earth is MIRUP? I’m glad you asked. For those of you who guessed it, nice job. For others, it’s simple...it is “PURIM” backwards.

 

A famous phrase in the Megillah is v’nahafoch hu  ו’נהפוך הוא - turning things about, or seeing the opposite. We see the phrase actualize throughout the Purim story on many occasions. For example, Haman plots to kill the Jews and demands gallows to be made for the hanging of Mordecai. What happens next? By the end of the story, Haman’s name is drowned out with our voices and we read about his demise - hanging from the same gallows he created for our hero.

 

So I debated writing this entire article backwards, but, quite frankly, that made my head spin. So I decided instead to use this as an opportunity to answer an important question that keeps popping up.

Many of you have asked me “what does Modern Orthodoxy mean at AJA?” I’ve spoken and taught publicly about the topic, I’ve written posts about my Religious Vision (Part 1 and Part 2) and have had many sidebar conversations over my 7-ish months at the school and in shul. Today, I want to share what Modern Orthodoxy is at AJA...in Purim Style, and a little sdrawkcab. (“backwards”. oy!).  

AJA is an “Orthodox Light” school.

  • NopeWe believe in the adherence and follow all of Halacha (Jewish Law). Shabbat, Kashrut and Davening are the foundation. We believe and love that Talmud Torah (Torah study) is a staple each and every day.  

  • We prepare our children to eventually have enough Talmud skills to enter the best Modern Orthodox Yeshivot in Israel. We also teach our women and girls Talmud because we believe that women have a right to the full education that our men have access to.

  • As a Modern Orthodox school, we daven every day...and we want to infuse the sense of spirit and love of Davening - for it to not only be a way of fulfilling an obligation. We believe that all participants, including women, should feel included in the context of Tefillah at AJA.

  • We believe that in addition to text skills, Hebrew language immersion connects our children to the land, culture and people of Israel. We are fully committed to remaining the only immersive K-12 Hebrew program in Atlanta, and the only Modern Orthodox school in Atlanta!

We are ONLY for the Modern Orthodox community.

  • Nice try. We cherish our diversity! This helps us all grow Jewishly and spiritually. We gather as ONE AJA to grow, connect and learn together. We actively recruit families who want an authentic and immersive Jewish experience to join our AJA Family. We embrace dialogue and appreciate nuance from different religious perspectives. We are proud to be Modern Orthodox!

Men’s Torah study has more value than women’s.

  • Not us. We value the importance of women learning Torah, studying Mishnah and davening each morning. We believe that women should have equal access to Torah and Jewish rituals. It’s not men or women...it’s BOTH. Co-educational studies thrive here. We are proud to be the only Modern Orthodox school in Atlanta!

AJA does not encourage students to follow Kashrut policies.

  • Not on my watch. We adhere to a strict Kashrut policy inside our building and at all school functions. Kashrut is a vital piece of our educational mission, connecting our students with their authentic heritage in the most basic way. The spirituality that infuses even basic actions in Judaism is a wonderful example of the practical application of mindfulness, and one of the unique aspects of our religious experience. We are a Modern Orthodox school.

Middot stops at our front door.

  • Are you kidding me? We teach middot - character, virtues and values and recognize students for demonstrating them daily. This simply cannot stop at the doors out of the school. We believe that these character traits should follow our students wherever they go, and with whomever they meet.  We are a Modern Orthodox school with solid Jewish values.

A first-rate secular education comes at the expense of a solid Judaic studies program.

This is just Part One. I look to you for Part Two. What have I missed here that you want me to add? Please "snail mail" me a letter (ok, this backwards thing stops now…). Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. me with your ideas. I’ll include them in the next round.

Purim Sameach!


Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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