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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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

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Expand your Jewish Lens

We each have a different view as we look through our own Jewish and communal lens. Some see Gemara (Talmud) and Halacha (Jewish law). Some see Fiddler on the Roof. Some see homemade challah. Some see dancing and celebrating during holidays. Some see Israel and Hebrew language. Some see Toco Hills. Some see Dunwoody. Some see “OTP” (I recently learned that term!). What do you see?

What is your lens when you view it from your seat at the Shabbat table each Friday night and/or Saturday afternoon? Do you see a small intimate group of friends or family as you usher in Shabbat? Is your Shabbat a time to unplug and cherish the quiet from your daily routine?

Regardless of what your Shabbat looks like, the moment the sun sets on Friday evening, the mood changes, and it becomes special, meaningful and significant.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if we have one big shul that could offer all things to all people? That we all gather under one roof to sing, learn together, share Torah and celebrate the diversity of what we each see through our Jewish lens? My hope is that we can build this by all coming together to share Shabbat. So, I ask you to step out of your comfort zone, meet new people and illustrate for your children what it means to be a part of a larger community -  the AJA Community.

I ask you to Reimagine One Shabbat.

Look through your Jewish lens, and imagine you are now surrounded by hundreds of people, all there to share in candlelighting, Shabbat meals and inspiring davening led by area Rabbis along with special guests and AJA students. This Reimagined Shabbat I speak of is the first ever AJA Family Shabbaton and we can’t wait to share it together as an AJA Community.

I ask you to please mark your calendars for February 3 & 4. We will have a Shabbat filled with rich Tefillah, incredible speakers, delicious food, activities for all ages, and a wonderful sense of community for this special Shabbat. You can participate in one program, one meal, one activity...or join us for events over the entire 2 days. Hospitality will be provided and details will be sent to you next week, so stay tuned.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have our entire AJA Community - of all ages - here under one roof to Reimagine Shabbat. I look forward to creating a beautiful new vision of AJA Shabbat together.


L’shalom.

RAL

 

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