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

Continue reading
67 Hits
0 Comments

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

Continue reading
198 Hits
0 Comments

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

Continue reading
162 Hits
0 Comments

Tell me your story...

March 2, 2017

4 Adar 5777

 

Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

In the beginning, G-d created…

 

When powerful stories begin, they grab your attention and captivate you. They pull you in and you feel as if you were actually there, in the moment, experiencing it all with the storyteller. Stories help us remember - good and bad times, along with memories. They keep people and moments alive as long as the stories are told. A good story (and we have all heard plenty of the opposite!) is personal, passionate and provides specific examples. Those are the stories that resonate with us and that we are likely to remember and repeat!

 

It occurred to me, sitting around the Shabbos table last Shabbat, that in Judaism, storytelling is like oxygen. We must tell stories to keep our Jewish practice relevant and our traditions and customs passed along - L’dor Vador (from generation to generation). It is our heritage. It is the Jewish way to write and tell stories. Our Torah even has these two components...written law and oral law. As Jews, we need our stories.

 

From the perspective of a school, I have come to realize over the years that the most powerful way to connect with someone is to share your story. When you learn something personal about a friend or colleague, it achieves something far greater than any multi million dollar advertising budget. Your story creates an instant, real and authentic connection. As an AJA Community, we each have our own connection to the school. However, do other people know about it?

 

So, I ask...what is your AJA story? What stands out in your mind as your personal reason why you and your family feel connected to AJA?

 

When you sing Hatikvah at our school events, do you recall your trip to Israel with your GHA/YA/AJA classmates?  Are you an Alum and recently came to watch your own child receive his/her first Siddur? When you daven with your child, do you recall learning the blessings when YOU were a student? Do you get chills hearing your child reading to  you from their own Mishnah? Did you walk into the Upper School and see the artwork on the wall that you remember looking at during your own Judaics class years ago? Did you kvell when your child read you his/her persuasive speech on an important social issue for the Cause Fair? Does the school play or Chagiga bring you back to your own childhood performances? Are you moved by the sense of community you feel when you walk through our doors?

 

Herein lies your challenge. When we see something frequently, it’s not always easy to step back and look at the entire view. The forest from the trees, so to speak. Personally, when I walk into my child’s room (no names mentioned to protect the guilty!) I usually see the clutter on the dresser or a messy stack of books. If I look at the big picture, instead I see the photos of friends and family that they chose to display on the dresser and the books open on the night table that they are voraciously reading. My view is now different and the same applies at the school. Take a step back from your everyday view, overlook the growth areas on either campus, and know that we are working around the clock on repairing the blemishes. Instead, I ask you to think of your AJA connection points, focus on the "good stuff" that makes up your own personal and passionate AJA Story. Take a step back from your everyday view and think of what personally connects you to the school.

What is YOUR story at AJA?

I’d love to hear it.

 

L’shalom,

 

RAL




Continue reading
99 Hits
0 Comments

AJA Student Nachas

February 23, 2017
27 Sh'vat 5777


Dear AJA Community,

Who is wise? One who learns from all. Pirkei Avot hits the nail right on the head. I believe that we can all learn from various sources. We just have to open our eyes. Last week we focused on the talented group of teachers we have at AJA, this week I want to highlight another group we all learn from. Our students. That’s right. Often, our own students become our teachers, and we can learn from their example. 

We can learn from their resilience when overcoming challenges, the way they try to navigate social dynamics with respect and honor, how they carefully craft their birthday invitation to be inclusive yet connected to our history, how they greet each other and adults in the building, how they only come in pairs and triads if someone gets hurt at recess, how they write thank you notes to their Head of School, how they thrive academically and athletically, how they choose to spend their free time volunteering or working to improve our community....and the list goes on.

We asked our teachers to share names of students, from ECD - 12th Grade, who have demonstrated something exceptional, and we are going to highlight them here in this email bi-monthly. It was a challenge to narrow the list down this time, as there were so many submissions. I want to acknowledge these special AJA students, who have been recognized for their accomplishments!

Here is the first of many AJA Nachas that I will share with you...click HERE to read all the details about what their teachers’ told us. 

UPPER SCHOOLLeah Bader, Nicole Dori, Medad Lytton, Yitzi Zolty, Dan Jutan and Ezra Blaut. Zach Mainzer
MIDDLE SCHOOL Gefen Beldie and Racheli Seeman, Natanel Gold, Paulina Lebowitz, Sammy Rubin, Renana Shalom, Daliya Wallenstein
LOWER SCHOOLOliver Mason, Logan Rabinowitz, Gila Sadinoff, Lindsey Webber, Isaac Weinberg 



I look forward to sharing more of this AJA Nachas with you in the coming months. Our children and their accomplishments, both big and small, are what make this school such a special place to be.

L’shalom,

 


Rabbi Ari Leubitz

Continue reading
297 Hits
0 Comments