August 31, 2017
9 Elul 5777
Dear AJA Community,
As I drive around town braving the infamous Atlanta traffic, there are many days that I notice something different in my travels. Maybe it was a tree that I had never noticed, or a street sign with the name of an old friend. Either way, those always catch me by surprise, and I take notice. The same realization happens in the halls of AJA - I’ll often notice new artwork in the halls that I either hadn’t previously noticed, or perhaps a new creation.
In Judaism, Art/Symbols and Music specifically have significant roles over our history. It is not by accident that Rabbis place emphasis on singing zmirot (songs) around the Shabbat table as we celebrate together. The singing helps crystallize the moment, create memories for us all, and also bring us together. During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the prayer Nusach (prayer melody) changes - to help awaken us spiritually and emotionally and brings us back to various times in our lives where we sang these same melodies. Music inspires us in our service of G-d and is a powerful tool of connectivity. It is also an important part of our school culture, whether in music class, musical theater performances each year, the weekly Upper School Shabbat dancing or the monthly Lower/Middle School Onegs.
In addition to the photos, have you noticed the artwork that adorns each of our hallways? Some pieces are special gifts to the school, and others are from the generations of our student artists, past and present. Truly, there is a living testament to our student’s work inside and outside the classroom.
Symbols and Art are inspiring and stir our emotions as Jews. Seeing a star of David, a hamsa, a beautiful view of the characters inscribed in the Torah, unique Judaica and even a mezuzah reminds us of our deep, rich history and the visuals that are such a part of the Jewish people.
So, what is the role of Art, Music and Musical Theater at AJA, you may wonder? In his book “Arts with the Brain in Mind” Dr. Eric Jensen says “The Arts enhance the process of learning. The systems they nourish, which include our integrated sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotional, and motor capacities, are, in fact, the driving forces behind all other learning.” (Jensen, 2001).
You’ve heard us talk in the past about being a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Music) school. We are now focusing on being a STEAM school and adding “Arts” to the equation. I believe the Arts are important for our children to have the holistic education we strive to provide. A school that is preparing our students for 21st Century Collaborative Learning needs to be one that fosters not only memorization, reading and writing, but also the creativity and ultimately problem-solving. One that encourages application of knowledge, which shows a higher level of learning and understanding.
To bring this all to life, I am pleased to introduce you to our outstanding Arts faculty and staff. Click to read more about this talented group:
Kendra Fabry (Art)
Alison Todd (Art)
Marian Harrison (Music)
Simonie Levy (Theater)
Andrea Slomka (Theater)
As you can see from their bios, each brings a passion to their field and that has already carried over to the students. WIth this team in place, along with some exciting enhancements: our upcoming new Makerspace, new full-scale Upper School Theatrical performance, new AJA Junior Chorus, AP Art track and additional Music Theory curriculum, we are grooming our students to be creative-thinkers, using their expression to articulate and persuade using their own self-expression. It’s what our history leads us to do!
Wishing you a beautiful Shabbat, filled with much music, art and symbolism.
Rabbi Ari Leubitz
P.S. Join me at Young Israel of Toco Hills on . I'll be speaking as part of their Lecture Series, featuring "AJA Educators!"