Yom Ha'atzmaut!

April 19, 2018
4 Iyyar 5778

Yom Ha'atzmaut!

Dear AJA Community,

I don’t like wearing ties. 

Please don’t judge me - I do it anyway, but it’s not my first choice of apparel. Since, however, there is a time and place for everything I have been wearing a tie almost daily for the past couple of weeks. This time of year we celebrate, we reflect and we honor - and I’ve been in ties almost daily. Today, I shed the tie (thank Gd) and get to wear my AJA Yom Ha’azmaut t-shirt to celebrate Israel Independence Day. This is one of the things that makes AJA so unique - that we are so inextricably connected to Medinat Yisrael. (the state of Israel) I’ll elaborate.

When I was in Israel over Pesach, I had plenty of time (sans tie!) to reflect and process. There are so many pieces of AJA that make us so unique - and unlike any other school in our area - I plan to take the next few weeks to share those with you. Today seems to be the perfect opportunity to start here: our unwavering connection to Israel is one of the things that makes AJA so unique.

This week, our entire building has been focused on Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day). We are so fortunate, to learn about, celebrate and honor these important days. It’s our mission that to foster a deep love and connection to Israel, we bring the culture, language and meaningful days into our building. 

So much of what we are able to do is because of our talented and dedicated staff in all areas. We are so incredibly blessed to provide the best of the best teachers for your children. Today, I want to focus on a segment of our staff - our Israeli faculty.

Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut are profoundly emotional days. The extremes of our emotions over a 48 hour period are raw and intense. Imagine feeling that intensity for your friends, family and country - and not being there physically to honor, mourn, share and celebrate together. That is the case with our Shlichim, Hebrew Language instructors, B’not Sherut and all Israeli staff this week. I’m in awe of their dedication. They truly brought Israel to us this week - todah rabah.

I know that although their hearts are far, far away over the ocean in Israel - they are 110% engaged here, and have worked tirelessly to bring the beauty, sadness, intensity, emotion and celebration of these two dates right to AJA. We didn’t have to bring in speakers to share with our students the meaning of Yom HaZikaron. We have walking testimonies here in the building. We don’t have to show a video to the students with a flag ceremony (Daglanut) on Yom Ha’atzmaut - we had our own in the AJA Auditorium. (Check Facebook tomorrow for the video!) Tonight we'll have another celebration with Young Israel of Toco Hills at Mason Mill Park.

Please understand, our connection to Israel isn’t only about days and holidays. It is part of us. So much of education is about not telling and lecturing - but doing and experiencing. At AJA we live, experience and love Israel every single day.

We don’t just talk about Hebrew - we speak Hebrew (and with authentic accents!). 
We don't just speak of the culture - we live it.
We don’t just read about Israel - we learn and experience her directly from Israelis.

For these examples and so many more - our unwavering connection to Israel is one of the things that makes AJA so unique.

L’shalom and moadim l’simcha,


Rabbi Ari Leubitz

Ps. next week’s “what makes AJA so unique”.. you'll see what colleges and yeshivot/seminaries have accepted our Seniors! Amazing.

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A Community Coming Together

January 11, 2018
24 Tevet 5778


Dear AJA Community,

Community. For me, the word evokes feelings of warmth, connection and contentment. I personally witness our community daily at AJA, every Shabbat at shul and even on social media when I see interactions and “likes” for each other’s accomplishments and announcements. (ps. Have you liked our AJA Facebook page?)

The concept of community is not a new one. When Moshe came down from Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people, his charge was to shift them from being just a crowd into being a community - a Kehillah. He assembled the people of Israel and told them the commandment to observe Shabbat and create the Mishkan (Tabernacle). (Shemot / Exodus 35)

Then and now, we realize that by sharing Tefillah (prayer), studying Torah and celebrating as a group helps create our community. In other words, sharing Shabbat. Shabbat was a community-building experience for the people of Israel. Today, being a part of our community and sharing Shabbat is vital to the strength and continued growth of Judaism - at AJA, in Atlanta and in the world.

הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר: אַל תִּפְרֹשׁ מִן הַצִּבּוּר
Do not separate yourself from community. (Pirkei Avot 2:4)

There are many ways to connect with our community. One of my favorite opportunities to do so will happen on February 9 & 10 at our AJA Family Shabbaton. This time last year, we were finalizing what was to be our first ever Shabbaton. We wondered, “if we build it, will they come?”  We were amazed that we had to actually cap the registrations and sadly (based on fire codes!) turn people away.

This year, in anticipation of selling out again, we are creating new ways to maximize our new Upper School space and to create offsite opportunities during Shabbat. You won’t want to miss this incredible community program. Share some or all of Shabbat with us.

Some highlights include:

  • Lenny from Shlock Rock - a Jewish musician who teaches Jewish ideas through music
  • Tefillah and Zemirot
  • Offsite Teen Program for Upper School Students
  • Festive Family Shabbat Dinner
  • Shabbat Dinner for 8th - 12th Grade (you asked for this - we delivered!)
  • Parent-Child Tot Shabbat Program
  • New and Enhanced Programming and Activities For All Ages
  • Seudah Shlishit, Mincha, Maariv and Havdalah

We’ll update the Shabbaton website with the schedule once it’s finalized. For now - just trust me - register your family today so you don’t miss out. Shabbat Housing is available if needed, and we are grateful for our Sandy Springs families who are opening their homes to host. Toda!

Community. It is within our reach. It is right outside our doors and here under the roof of AJA. On February 9 & 10, it will be an AJA Community Shabbaton like none other!


Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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