Kesher

May 25, 2017
29 Iyyar 5777

Dear AJA Community,

What a week! You’d think the last week of the school year would be uneventful - winding down, packing up and tying up loose ends. Well, not so much at AJA. We’ve been busy! There is a theme to all of the amazing events that happened at AJA starting this past Monday, and it is:

קשר

Kesher - Connection(s).
I was struck at how AJA connects with Atlanta Jewish history and continues to connect on so many levels even today.
Let me elaborate.

It all started with a bang at our special annual Jerry Siegel Legacy Golf Tournament. This event is held in honor of former AJA President of the Board Jerry Siegel z”l. Not only was Jerry involved at the school, but his children and grandchildren were students, and his son, Michael, is finishing up his final term on the AJA Board. The tournament honored two wonderful women, Judy Stolovitz and Nancy Weissmann. Both Nancy and Judy watched their children grow through the schools (GHA and YA), and each eventually served as Board Presidents. On the course and the court, we were surrounded by current parents, board members of alumnni, grandparents of current and past students. You get the idea. I even saw a couple of “vintage” GHA/YA shirts on some of the attendees.  קשר

Tuesday, we welcomed a very special guest to AJA. Students connected with Shoah Survivor, Martin Lowenberg, who was here to address both the 12th and 8th graders at their respective ceremonies. Your children greeted Mr. Lowenberg with incredible middot and respect, as they stood when he entered the room. He encouraged the children to be proud to be Jews, and to always remember that sense of pride. Incredible advice from a courageous man. Mr. Lowenberg created a special mezuzah for the inside entrance to our new Upper School, placed on a wood base that was reclaimed from a German railway car that transported Jews to concentration camps. In addition to the legacy project the children created, this mezuzah was a gift from the 8th graders to the school. (Todah Rabah!)  קשר

Tuesday night, the Graduation was incredible. We watched as the Class of 2017 moved from strength to strength onto their next steps of their journey (21 out 23 are headed to Israel or to the army)! These children have grown up at AJA (or GHA/YA) and their parents and grandparents have a history here, too. Our guest speaker from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Joanne Birnbrey, even shared that her family has had students enrolled at GHA/YA/AJA for 60 years! That amounts to 31 students who have walked these halls (and more to come, as the next generation is now here in our ECD!) Many of our graduation speakers are following the footsteps of their parents and grandparents and older siblings who were students. I know we’ll see these young men and women back here - as parents of their own AJA students one day - in a later step of their journeys. קשר

On Wednesday, our 8th Graders took the stage for their Recognition Ceremony. These young men and women will be the first Freshman class to start at the new Upper School campus (and whoa, is it going to be amazing)! In the audience, there were siblings, parents and grandparents - all here to celebrate this milestone for their students. I saw board members past and present, parents who are school alums and grandparents who helped create our school. Afterward at the reception, I was amazed at the range of ages there to celebrate these students - it was incredibly moving to me. קשר

One final connection piece, before we close the door on this school year. Welcome to the Dan Family, who will be joining our AJA Family as our newest Shlichim! Meet Amir, Tali and their children, Noa, Matan, Ohad, Adi and baby Itay - click HERE to see their welcome video. Our AJA Shlichim are such an important part of our connection to Eretz Yisrael, and we are excited for the Dan Family to arrive. קשר

Friends, the Upper School has finished exams, and the end of the school year is officially tomorrow for the Northland Drive Campus. In a few short months (don’t worry...I’m not rushing away the summer) we will all be together as ONE AJA on the Northland Drive Campus. I simply cannot wait. I look forward to seeing all ages under one roof, enjoying our school programs and celebrations with all the generations. I’m ready to start building more memories as we enjoy the next chapter of AJA together.

Over the summer, I won’t be sending a weekly Thursday Thoughts email. I will, however, be back in touch soon, as we finish preparation for the new school year. Wishing you all a safe and fun summer, filled with meaningful time with your wonderful children. Thanks for sharing them with us during the school year!

 

L'shalom,


Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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Doors Closing, Doors Opening

May 18, 2017
22 Iyyar 5777

 

 

Dear AJA Community,

The ebbs and flows of a school year, this is the season of transition. As we move from the more serious mourning aspects of the Omer to the countdown to celebrate Shavuot, we also experience a transition with our students.

There is something bittersweet about the final days of a school year (although I know the children would disagree with the “bitter” piece!). It’s now time to say “farewell” and time to say “what’s next?”. We can all hear the simultaneous sounds of doors closing and doors opening.

Next Tuesday, at our Upper School graduation ceremony (we hope you can join us), we will say goodbye to some outstanding and special students, to young men and women that our talented staff have heavily invested in over the past many years. And, though I’ve been a Head of School for quite sometime, I can tell you that saying goodbye to students never gets any easier. At this time of mixed emotions, I do love the beautiful symmetry that occurs organically. We send off our Seniors to the next adventure, and can also take comfort in knowing that in a just a few months, they will find their new exciting next steps...whether in Israel or here in the states at a College or University. We will also welcome a brand new group of eager, curious, motivated and amazing freshmen to start the whole process anew. Beautiful Symmetry.

This past Shabbat, I joined the Upper School students at their year end Shabbaton. I continue to be awed by the leadership and dedication of our Student Council who prepared a robust Shabbat program which included Tefillah, singing, musical Havdalah, dancing, dancing and more dancing. (oh, did I mention the dancing?). There was one particular moment that moved me. The chaperones were trying to get davening started, but we couldn’t because we simply couldn't stop kids from dancing and celebrating Shabbat. They were truly happy to be with each other. Watching our Seniors study Torah together, on what was most likely their last group experience, was both inspiring and emotional.  This is the tension of this time of year at a school. Doors closing. Doors opening.

As we close the door on another academic year, and offer our best wishes and mazel tov to the AJA Class of 2017, we are also opening our door for our 2017-18 school year. We are happy to report unprecedented growth in our younger grades! I am so confident this will be a year of amazing learning, continued incredible teaching and please G-d - for all AJA students - lots and lots of dancing!

Wishing all the best to the graduating Seniors and remember that MY door is always open.

קְֽנֹה־חָכְמָ֗ה מַה־טּ֥וֹב מֵחָר֑וּץ וּקְנ֥וֹת בִּ֝ינָ֗ה נִבְחָ֥ר מִכָּֽסֶף

How much better to acquire wisdom than gold; To acquire understanding is preferable to silver. (Mishlei/Proverbs 16:16)
 

Mazel tov!
 

L'shalom,


Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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Why Are We Here?

May 4, 2017
8th of Iyyar, 5777

Dear AJA Community,

This week and last solidified for me (and hopefully, to many of you) why we are here. Why we have this school. Why we are a Modern Orthodox Day school. Why we are so proud of our role as a cornerstone of Jewish education in Atlanta. As we observed the events of Yom Hashoah, Yom HaZikaron & Yom Ha'atzmaut - watching the hard work unfold from our dedicated and talented Hebrew staff, our Shlichim, our US Student Council and our B’not Sherut  - it clearly answered my “why?”.

Ultimately, the reason we are all placed on this Earth is to partner with Hashem. Sharing the gift of tzedakah, raising our children, fulfilling mitzvot, demonstrating middot to our friends and neighbors, or just simply, doing what is right. All around us, there are opportunities to literally partner with G-d to do holy things in this world, and to treat all lives (and each other) as holy. It is what Parashat Achrei-Mot Kedoshim tells us this week...we are all holy, as created by G-d.

קְדשִׁ֣ים תִּֽהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י ה' אֱלֹֽקיכֶֽם You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy. (Vayikra 19:2) 

I believe that the best way to bring this to life for the children at AJA, is through our mission: teaching them commitment to the Love of Torah, Love of Israel and the Jewish people, and doing this all in a nurturing, inclusive and loving community.

As the events of the last two weeks unfolded - Yom Hashoah - Yom HaZikaron - Yom Ha'atzmaut (Lower SchoolUpper School) - I watched our students of all ages gain an understanding of our history, our challenges as Jews, and how they each have a unique role as a chain from the past to the future. They learned about kavod (respect) and honor for those who were killed in the Shoah, or defending Medinat Yisrael. It was moving to see the children ride the emotional wave between each of the very different days. They davened, sang, danced and celebrated in front of their peers, their teachers and members of our community. The Hebrew teachers, US Student Council, Shlichim and B’not Sherut turned every corner of both campuses into a tangible reflection of our love for Israel and pride in AJA. It was evident how important these days were for the children, and the connection they felt to their heritage.

This week was also about community. Watching all the parent volunteers, who, during Teacher Appreciation Week, showered our teachers and staff with such authentic gestures of gratitude - it was incredible. It reiterated to me, that we ALL understand this AJA journey is about our children, their future and their connection to community and Judaism...and our parents get it. Special thanks to all of you who contributed time and energy to thank our teachers all week. It meant a lot to everyone here.

As we move closer to Shabbat, I encourage you to talk to your children about what they learned this week at Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut and how it helped them cement their connection to our heritage, and our land, Israel. I guarantee they will have some special stories to tell.

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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Imagine...by Rabbi Ari Leubitz

 

August 26, 2016

13 Av 5776

 

Can you imagine…?

 

  • Being excited about the future

  • Being inspired by the depth and breadth of our staff

  • Being the top Atlanta Jewish Day School

 

No need to imagine -- it’s time to Reimagine AJA.

 

At AJA there is an energy in the air as we get ready for the school year as a partner in each child’s Jewish journey.

 

In the same way that we will watch the growth and changes in the children, we are delighted to share with you some significant changes at AJA.  My vision, as we Reimagine AJA, is to continue positioning ourselves as a highly competitive college preparatory Jewish Day School that is fiscally responsible to our board and families, while offering an outstanding progressive education for all our students.

 

To achieve this, changes are underway! From renovations to new construction, hiring talented faculty on both campuses, and announcing the addition of three accomplished staff members whose focus will be to assist in bringing the vision to fruition.

 

It is with great excitement that I introduce to you:

 

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In Operations: Mark Dingmann / CFO-COO

 

Mark will be focused on the operations and business side of the school. Mark brings an extensive business and financial background to the AJA family, and was the perfect choice for this role, His charge is to Reimagine Operations, and to drive efficiency from a fiscal perspective, leading to a positive impact on how we allocate each and every dollar. Mark will insure that all of our school resources are aligned properly, so that we are accountable, as an academic center and as a business, to meet our vision. It’s imperative that we add extra focus to the operations and fiscal piece of the puzzle.

 

In Marketing: Barrie Cohn / Director of Marketing and Communications

 

As we began to Reimagine AJA, we needed a dedicated resource to launch us on the path to be the most recognizable day school “brand”. We are focused on working to bring our families a clear, concise, dependable communications policy focusing on all things AJA. We recognize that we live / work in a fast-paced, pressure filled world, so it is a priority for us that we remain mindful of your time. Our goal is to share with you in the most efficient way all the exciting things at AJA! Barrie will be creating an overarching communications / marketing plan as well as a new and improved website as we work to Reimagine AJA.

 

In Admissions: Erica Gal / Director of Admissions

 

Along with these changes in Operations and Marketing, came the need to Reimagine Admissions. Erica’s role will be to continue placing AJA’s roots far, wide and deep into the greater Atlanta community, as well as nationally. She will be the face of admissions, nurturing connections with current and encouraging new families to join us. Erica’s passion and enthusiasm for Jewish education, as well as her personal experiences as an AJA parent, provides an authentic perspective to prospective families. She will provide an extension of the AJA brand - genuine, welcoming, nurturing, inclusive and approachable.

 

We are energized by all the changes, I ask you to come and see for yourself. Our doors and emails are always open. An important piece of our vision is to keep the communication flowing and open, so we want to hear from you.

 

The countdown to school begins. We cannot wait to see the children soon as we Reimagine AJA!

 

 

 

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