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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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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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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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

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