Yom HaShoah

April 20, 2017
24 Nissan 5777


Dear AJA Community,

It was my first Pesach as an “Atlantan” and Florence, the children and I had a joyous chag. I hope you and your families had the same. As I mentioned recently, Pesach is such an important holiday, in that we look back at our “story”, our struggle and history to always keep our past alive for ourselves and the future generations. This Monday, April 24 (28 Nissan) marks another important date that as Jews we should always remember.

Yom HaShoah. Holocaust Remembrance Day. A day where we commemorate the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. That number still gives me chills every time I read it. The Talmud tells us that “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” On Monday, we commemorate the beautiful souls who perished. We do this so that we may keep their stories, their tragic struggles and their holy legacies alive.

Did you know that the full name of the day is “Yom Hashoah ve-laG'vurah“? יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה – literally meaning “Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” That word ולגבורה (heroism) is one that is not always included when we talk of Yom HaShoah.  Not only does the word Heroism refer to those Jews who demonstrated amazing resilience and strength, but also to those valiant Jews and non-Jews whose bravery and heroism most likely saved hundreds of thousands from perishing. We recall all of these heroes on 4/24.

At AJA, we will recognize Yom HaShoah at both campuses. We are encouraging our students and staff to wear white tops to honor the day. Our Upper School students will participate in a special assembly, where they will see artistic and musical presentations about children who who perished in the Holocaust. At the Northland Drive Campus, our middle schoolers will participate in a program that will focus on the 1.5 million children who died, including a moment of silence in remembrance.

In Atlanta, the 52nd Annual Community Wide Holocaust Commemoration will be held at Greenwood Cemetery on Sunday, April 23 at 11:00 am. Holocaust survivor and Dunwoody resident Manuela Mendels Bornsteinoriginally from France, will speak about her Parisian neighbors who saved her and her family during this horrific time. The Bremen Museum will also have their Holocaust exhibition open to the public for free from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm.

It is not an easy day. It is not a happy day. But it is one of the most important days in our lives as Jews. On this day, we look to the past, we honor and we pay respects to our ancestors whose lives were tragically extinguished over 80 years ago.

May their memories continue to be a blessing.

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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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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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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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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Tell me your story...

March 2, 2017

4 Adar 5777

 

Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

In the beginning, G-d created…

 

When powerful stories begin, they grab your attention and captivate you. They pull you in and you feel as if you were actually there, in the moment, experiencing it all with the storyteller. Stories help us remember - good and bad times, along with memories. They keep people and moments alive as long as the stories are told. A good story (and we have all heard plenty of the opposite!) is personal, passionate and provides specific examples. Those are the stories that resonate with us and that we are likely to remember and repeat!

 

It occurred to me, sitting around the Shabbos table last Shabbat, that in Judaism, storytelling is like oxygen. We must tell stories to keep our Jewish practice relevant and our traditions and customs passed along - L’dor Vador (from generation to generation). It is our heritage. It is the Jewish way to write and tell stories. Our Torah even has these two components...written law and oral law. As Jews, we need our stories.

 

From the perspective of a school, I have come to realize over the years that the most powerful way to connect with someone is to share your story. When you learn something personal about a friend or colleague, it achieves something far greater than any multi million dollar advertising budget. Your story creates an instant, real and authentic connection. As an AJA Community, we each have our own connection to the school. However, do other people know about it?

 

So, I ask...what is your AJA story? What stands out in your mind as your personal reason why you and your family feel connected to AJA?

 

When you sing Hatikvah at our school events, do you recall your trip to Israel with your GHA/YA/AJA classmates?  Are you an Alum and recently came to watch your own child receive his/her first Siddur? When you daven with your child, do you recall learning the blessings when YOU were a student? Do you get chills hearing your child reading to  you from their own Mishnah? Did you walk into the Upper School and see the artwork on the wall that you remember looking at during your own Judaics class years ago? Did you kvell when your child read you his/her persuasive speech on an important social issue for the Cause Fair? Does the school play or Chagiga bring you back to your own childhood performances? Are you moved by the sense of community you feel when you walk through our doors?

 

Herein lies your challenge. When we see something frequently, it’s not always easy to step back and look at the entire view. The forest from the trees, so to speak. Personally, when I walk into my child’s room (no names mentioned to protect the guilty!) I usually see the clutter on the dresser or a messy stack of books. If I look at the big picture, instead I see the photos of friends and family that they chose to display on the dresser and the books open on the night table that they are voraciously reading. My view is now different and the same applies at the school. Take a step back from your everyday view, overlook the growth areas on either campus, and know that we are working around the clock on repairing the blemishes. Instead, I ask you to think of your AJA connection points, focus on the "good stuff" that makes up your own personal and passionate AJA Story. Take a step back from your everyday view and think of what personally connects you to the school.

What is YOUR story at AJA?

I’d love to hear it.

 

L’shalom,

 

RAL




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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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Toda Rabah.

February 16, 2017
20 Sh'vat 5777


Dear AJA Community,

You’ve heard me say that this is a special place. You’ve read my posts about the wonderful things that happen under this roof. Many of you have witnessed this firsthand at the numerous events and family programs we have had at the school. But...there is magic that happens here that you really haven’t seen. It is what happens in each of our classrooms, the gifts that our teachers share with the children - every. single. day. It’s no surprise to me that visitors to AJA (most recently two educators from a very progressive NY Jewish Day School) are blown away by the love, attention and education our teachers give to their students.

We often have our eyes on the big picture. I mentioned many of these in my recap of the 1st 100 days of the school year and weekly in these emails. I’m here to tell you today that the holiness and sacred nature of our work happens when you are not here. It’s the little things at 8:01 am, 8:02 am, 8:03 am… It’s when the people who are truly on the “frontlines” as our “soldiers” are in the trenches. It’s at 10:04 am, 10:05 am, 10:06 am… Our AJA teachers insure that these precious minds under our roof receive the social-emotional and academic focus they need and deserve. It’s our teachers who make the student’s challenges their own, and help the children tackle what they think are HUGE issues. And they are huge to a child. 12:07 pm, 12:08 pm, 12:09 pm.

Teaching happens in the classroom. It happens at recess. It happens at lunch. It happens while our students are navigating interpersonal relationships and interacting with their peers. 1:10 pm, 1:11 pm, 1:12 pm.

We talk about L’dor V’dor (generation to generation) from the perspective of Jewish continuity - that we are all links in an ongoing chain. I ask you to consider this...one of the most important links in the chain is the connection your child has to Judaism during every school day - via their teachers. Without that link, simply put...there would be no chain. 2:13 pm, 2:14 pm, 2:15 pm.

Here’s a thought - this week, let’s all show appreciation to our teachers. How can we do this? Well, I have some ideas:
 
1 - email your child’s teacher this week. Share your gratitude or a lesson your child has shared with you that they learned at school.
2 - post something positive on your Facebook page or your class page...and tag the teacher!
3 - ask a teacher “Is there anything I can do to help YOU?”
4 - talk to your child about how THEY can uniquely show gratitude to their teacher(s). 
5 - take a glance at some of the specifics that our teachers have done with their classes this school year, and if something resonates with you, tell them!

So, here’s to our teachers. 

And, I’ll leave you on this note from Talmud: “Whoever teaches his (child) teaches not only his (child) but also his (child)'s (child) - and so on to the end of generations.” 

3:16 pm, 3:17 pm, 3:18 pm.

L’shalom,


Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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Every Child Has Their Own Path

February 9, 2017
13 Sh'vat 5777


Dear AJA Community,

As I mentioned in an earlier Thursday Thoughts poststarting as infants, our AJA children are on a journey. This journey will eventually lead to something deep and profound. I have learned over the years that there are multiple connection and entry points in Judaism. Not every student starts at the same entry point, and not every student follows the same path. Along those lines, one of my favorite pieces of Torah is:

חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר עַל פִּי דַרְכּוֹ, גַּם כִּי יַזְקִין לֹא יָסוּר מִמֶּנָּה
Educate a child according to his way; even when he grows old, he will not turn away from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

I am proud that at AJA we have been at the forefront in offering a program for children with specific learning differences. The Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program has offered many entry points for a student’s Jewish Journey at AJA and is a crucial component of our religious mission at our school.

Why is M’silot part of our AJA mission? Our NEW M’silot program is groundbreaking! We are already the only ECD -12th Grade Atlanta Jewish Day School for all mainstream Jewish children, now we can even serve the children who don’t fit into the “typical” box. That is who we are. Inclusive and embracing - middot. I would have it no other way. EVERY child deserves a solid Jewish education as their foundation, regardless of their learning styles and needs. (Can you tell how strongly I feel about this?!)

I am so appreciative of Diane Marks, the Director of the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program, for all the hard work and focus that she has put forth to nurture and grow this program. We are facing a 2017-18 school year with some M’silot classes that are already full! Diane is also assisting me by running the new MAP testing for 2nd - 8th Grade, as we mentioned earlier this week via emailTodah Rabah, Diane!

To give you more information about M’silot and our exciting new vision for this important program, I asked Diane, to share more about our REIMAGINED M’silot program.

When I first came to AJA and learned all about the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot program from Diane, I knew it was one of the most incredible components of this school. To offer a quality and specialized education to all Jewish children is a mitzvah, and M’silot delivers on this mitzvah every single day. Thank you to the teachers who help make this program a reality, and who guide the M’silot students on their own specific paths.

L’shalom,


Rabbi Ari Leubitz

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Looking In The Rear View Mirror (Just this once!)


February 2, 2017
6 Sh'vat 5777

Dear AJA Community,

Much of my focus since we started “talking” on Thursdays has been to Reimagine AJA and focus on the future and what is next. I embrace the concept of looking back at the past as needed, while keeping our eye on what is ahead...looking through the windshield vs. the rear view mirror, so to speak.

However...there are times that reflection is necessary and also inspiring! Don’t you agree? This is one of those times. As we hit the 100th day of school at AJA (and my 1st 100 days here!) it feels right to share some highlights of the 1st 100 days of school at AJA. There are too many to include here, so I compiled a Leubitz Top Ten: 

  1. Streamlined parent and community communication. We instituted our weekly Tuesday Talks and Thursday Thoughts - what you need to know to stay in the AJA loop.
  2. We are proud of our students who have won many honors, including Science Fair awards, Literary contests, International STEM competitions, and more.
  3. We enjoyed school wide gatherings, bringing all ages together to celebrate the Chaggim. And the Ruach continues daily, strengthening the connection and pride in Judaism and AJA at the school and in the community.
  4. Our newly renovated Library Learning Center, which brought a hub of 21st Century Learning directly to AJA.
  5. Incredible new Upper School construction, which is on target for completion this summer.
  6. An accelerated enrollment process, which allowed us to predict enrollment with 90%+ accuracy, leading to a more accurate budget and (p.s.) a 96% retention rate!
  7. The continued quality and professionalism of our AJA teachers as witnessed every day at both campuses. 
  8. The creation of a full calendar for the 2017-18 school year in January to allow families more time to plan ahead.
  9. Finally, we have a detailed analysis of our AJA finances and projections, so we can be more fiscally responsible in managing all areas of the school.
  10. What do YOU think is missing from this list...I'm all ears.

And, there are so many more. To see the whole list, fasten your seatbelts...and click here. It’s been a busy 100 days. Now, back to looking out of the front windshield! 

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some very exciting updates and initiatives that we are working on for the remainder of the school year. And, in the interest of transparency, I will continue communicating my observations and even some of the obstacles we are facing. As you know, we sent out a parent survey to all current AJA families, and those results combined with learnings from the small group meetings (fireside chats) I’ve had with teachers and our observations during Wednesday Walks to the classrooms will help us formulate our plans moving forward.

Thanks for sharing your children with us. Here’s to an incredible rest of the school year.

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Reimagine Lower School Judaic Studies

January 26, 2017
28 Tevet 5777

One of the many changes we’ve made at the school is to add more resources to strengthen our Judaics program. For me, it is one of the most important pieces of the AJA puzzle, and it needed some updates and enhancements. I was going to share them with you, but thought I’d go right to the source. Debbie Bornstein, Director of Judaic Studies, K - 8th Grade, has put together her view on how we are Reimagining Judaic Studies at the Lower School.

Read Debbie's article here.

I am so proud of the strength of our Judaics program, and am thankful for our outstanding Judaics staff who bring it all to life for the students, both at our Lower and Upper School. As we continue to push our students for stronger text skills - at times they push back - as it is especially challenging. These hard pieces are often the keys to success. We need your help to support their stress, and to remind them of the importance of unlocking the rich history of our textual past.

In her views, Debbie mentions the importance of community. I look forward to having the AJA Community gathered at our SOLD OUT Family Shabbaton on February 3 & 4, and seeing the children share the Torah they have learned here with our families.

 

L'shalom.

 

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Tolerance and Appreciation of Our Differences

As Inauguration Day approaches tomorrow, there is a word that keeps popping into my head...tolerance. There are many opposing views in our world, in our country, in our states, cities and even our shuls as to what is “correct”.  And, while many people are open to other views, regardless of if they personally embrace them, some are not.

This tension leads me to the question “why do we find it so challenging to live in harmony, within an environment of intellectual honesty and independent thinking?  Why are we unable to respect or even dialogue with those whom we disagree”?    

The root of the problem, I believe - revolves around a lack of tolerance. It is this intolerance, the belief that any one person has a claim to the only truth that breeds the infighting and the lack of mutual respect which threatens the very fabric of our future.  It will not surprise you, that the intolerance is most acute in the areas of religious matters - what is really troubling, is the intolerance regarding fundamental religious labeling, and judgement based on superficial externalities; it is here where the challenges seem the most acute. 

The problem is a Jewish problem - and also a Modern/Orthodox problem. If Orthodox Jews who claim to be nuanced and critically-minded cannot value or at least appreciate multiple halachik (Torah-based legal rulings) viewpoints then we threaten the vitality and the future of Orthodoxy as we know it.  If an open and intellectually-sophisticated Modern Orthodoxy is to survive, then we must find a way to tolerate, appreciate nuance, and the possibility of multiple Orthodox halachik truths.  

There is a wonderful lesson in this week's Torah portion that I think can help serve as a model as to how we should live as open-minded and tolerant Jews.   

Pharaoh commands the Hebrew midwives to kill every male child. Shifrah and Puah bravely resist and instead of fearing Pharaoh, they feared G-d and thus allowed the Jewish boys to live. One of the boys allowed to live as a result of their bravery was Moshe himself. These women - two simple midwives - allowed for the birth of Moshe, and in return, G-d blessed these midwives with high honor. 

Shifra and Puah didn’t follow the party line. They didn’t acquiesce and they did not follow the status quo. They were able to see the big picture and did what was right in their eyes and what they believed was right in the eyes of G-d.  They did not do the safe thing; but they did the right thing.

It is often safer and easier for us to simply tow the party line.  It is so hard to be the first to break the status quo.  It is challenging to be a Shifra and Puah. It's difficult to reach out and dialogue with someone with whom you deeply disagree.  

Appreciating our differences - which is a step more than just tolerating - is important for us as well. There is a Mishnah in Sanhedrin that states that G-d makes each human being different from every other; as such, everyone should be able to say with confidence, ‘the world was created just for me’. Chassidic literature understands this to mean that each of us has strengths and weaknesses that distinguish us from every other person; each of us has a unique spiritual task. 

Maybe it would serve us and our larger community well to remember; when we grasp the truth we cannot do so in its totality, only G-d can do that. We, however, see only part of the truth. Like pieces of a puzzle, no individual piece gives us the whole picture.   
Tolerance. Appreciation of Our Differences. I ask that you keep these in mind, as you go through your days and weeks and months...and most specifically, as another Presidential Inauguration is added to the history books tomorrow.

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Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 12, 2017
14 Tevet 5777

I’ve often wondered what it would look like to have school on MLK Day. Please, don’t get me wrong, I place a tremendous value on and have reverence for the work and teachings that Dr. King gave to the world. It just intrigues this Rabbi to imagine what a school day would look like on a day that we are together as a community, at the school, and honoring this important man. The day would surely start with davening, as usual, however we’d most likely add specific and relevant Torah that would apply to Dr. King. Certain pieces of the day would remain the same...classes, Judaics, lunch, recess...you get the idea. But it would simply have to be different. By the nature of what the day means, it would have to be. Even those pieces of the day that were “the usual” would take on new meaning. But, we’d be surrounded by programs, events, discussions and focus that would reinforce the message of the day. I think it would be incredibly meaningful to share that day together. (Note: this is not my way to announce that school is “on” for Monday…)

With that being said, here is the challenge. This Monday, January 16th is a day where we are not at work or at school, but it is not “just a Monday”. Instead, let’s remind ourselves and our children of the meaning and importance of the day. The memorial component along with the celebratory component are equally as important. We can reflect with awe and reverence as we memorialize a man whose impact on our country and on our world was immeasurable, while we celebrate his life and bring his light and values to our own lives. The question is, how can we do that on other days, not just the day of observing his memory?

In Judaism, we do not have a Torah holiday for the giving of the Torah. There is no specific day that is designated for remembrance of that occasion. If fact, the Talmud debates when the events at Mount Sinai actually occurred! Instead, we are required that on a daily basis, we should celebrate and reflect as if the Torah was given to us today. What a concept, to celebrate something so meaningful - Every. Single. Day. (If you want to know more, please explore the commentaries at the beginning of Shemot / Exodus, or call or email me and we can discuss!) It would be so meaningful and the ultimate tribute to Dr. King, if we recalled his lessons more often than just on that one calendar day that bears his name.

As we look ahead to honoring, celebrating and memorializing Dr. King, I think you will all agree, that we could each use a little more of his lessons and light in our country these days. Here are some ideas of how you can bring this day to life:

 

Visit the King Center

Staffing Rebecca’s Tent Shelter with Young Israel of Toco Hills

Hands on Atlanta MLK Community Service Program

MLK Day at Center For Civil and Human Rights

Georgia Tech MLK Celebration

Atlanta History Center Free Admission

I invite you to share with me how your family made this a meaningful day. Shabbat Shalom.

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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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The Essence of Chanukah

Dear AJA Community,

 

We have a unique opportunity and challenge this year. Chanukah falls late in the month, so we are on a school break during all 8 days. If we are deliberate in our planning, we can all find new ways to celebrate and share the Chanukah light authentically. It can be volunteering in the community, focusing on community service, tikkun olam or just sharing a nice family meal learning and creating new Chanukah memories, after lighting the menorah together. The focus is finding those special ways to bring the essence of Chanukah to the forefront with ourselves and our children.

 

It is important to remember that the essence of Chanukah is more than just a military victory or a miracle of lights and oil. It represents something that was as important over 21 centuries ago as it still is today.

 

The Jewish people were victorious in their refusal to assimilate into the Hellenistic culture. We didn’t want to just go with the flow (when do we ever?!) and accept their teachings, celebrations and beliefs. Today, we face a similar “battle”. Although, on a daily basis in the U.S. we are not pushed toward other holidays or religions, we are still surrounded by them. This becomes even more apparent during this specific time of the year. Everywhere we turn outside of our community, we are exposed to the lights, decorations, music and festivities of surrounding cultures. They are beautiful and bright and special, but they are not ours.

 

This time of year, it becomes challenging, and at the same time more imperative, to embrace our Judaism. To show our pride as members of this incredible community. To remember our Jewish values and those we share with our children daily. To remind ourselves and our families about the essence of Chanukah, and about the focus we have as Jews to stand strong and hold tight to our connection to our community. Notice my word choice here, folks...embrace. Hold tight. This is an important time to communicate and demonstrate a deep love for our faith and heritage, to encourage our feeling for and attachment to Judaism - and embrace it.

 

I have found over the years, the holidays that resonate most with the children - those they will remember into their adulthood - are those that are infused with meaning and purpose. (and some of your Nana’s delicious brisket doesn’t hurt…) These memories and meaning will create a connection for your children, not only to the actual holiday, but will help them continue to embrace our beautiful Jewish community, long after the Chanukah candles are gone.

 

Some events and resources for Chanukah can be found here. If you have more to share, please let us know so we can share with our AJA community.

 

  • Event: Grand Menorah Lightings around Atlanta
  • Online Event: Share the Lights World Project
  • Event: Young Israel of Toco Hills, Pre-Chanukah Carnival 12/18 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Event: Pinch Hitter Program
  • Article: Teaching the Meaning of Chanukah
  • Article: 8 Thoughts for 8 Nights
  • Article: Making Chanukah with Children Meaningful
  • Article: Chanukah Insights and Stories
  • Video: The Fight for Freedom
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What's Your Blind Spot?

Parshat Toldot

 

One of the very first things they teach you when you're learning to drive is to watch out for "blind spots" - those areas that are so close to us, that the rear view mirrors cannot pick them up. We must therefore get out of our comfort zone, and actually turn our heads to ensure that it is safe to stop or make a necessary turn.

 

We can apply this metaphor to our own lives at those times when things are "too close" to be seen - when our ego and pride cover up our shortcomings, thus, creating a blind spot.  A blind spot is an area that we can't see, unless we take the time to look. The funny thing about blind spots is that we can see other people's blind spots just fine, it's our own that we struggle with.

 

One of the many great features of the Torah is that it does not shy away from exposing the blind spots of our ancestors. We learn from the story of Yitzchak, that we are all blind to something. Maybe it's a blind spot in a relationship; perhaps we have a blind spot when it comes to G-d. Maybe we are blind to our own qualities and our own challenges. We are sometimes blind to our own blind spots. Ironic, yes?

 

From the Torah we know that Yitzchak had a literal blind spot. He lost his eyesight towards the end of his life. But it seemed that Yitzchak was more than physically blind and was unable to make a solid character assessment. When charged with the task of choosing one of his sons to receive the bracha and serve as the next family representative, he chose Esav (who used his hunting skills to swindle people) instead of the wholesome and pure Yaakov.

 

To understand Yitzchak’s thought process, like all good amateur therapists, it helps to understand the relationship with his own father, Avraham. He was a prominent man and was the star. He was after all, Avraham (av hamon hagoyim). He had the initiative, and was recognized for his contributions to the world. He unveiled circumcision; inaugurated the concept of bikkur cholim (visiting the sick); made the first seudat hodaah (a celebratory meal after a mitzvah); fought powerful kings to save Lot, and argued with G-d to save Sodom. Avraham stood firm for what he believed was right. Avraham, for all these reasons, will always be a powerful figure in the Torah.

 

Yitzchak, as opposed to Avraham, was not a powerful figure, he was not a catalyst for change. What was Yitzchak known for? What did Yitzchak accomplish in his life? He was passive and his only claim to fame was being the child selected for slaughter.

 

The events of Parshat Toldot changed the way Yitzchak looked at the world. He was forced to confront his own legacy. As Yitzchak’s life was drawing to a close, he reflected, saw that he had not made an impact in this world, as he wasn’t even able to sustain his father’s earlier accomplishments. In some respects, Yitzchak may have seen his life as a failure.

 

So why did Yitzchak initially choose Esav over Yaakov? Yitzchak believed that Esav, with a little love and guidance would be better equipped to sustain Avraham’s initiatives. Esav was cunning and daring. He could make things happen. Esav was a man of the world, a man of action, courageous and bold.  Although he used questionable methods, Esav had what it took to bring change to the people, and Yitzchak saw Esav as the true successor to Avraham.

 

So why, in the end, did Yaakov get the blessing? Because of trickery or some kind of ruse? This is the most important point of this Parsha. Yaakov came to this “meeting” dressed in Esav’s clothes and covering his arms with goat skins to resemble his brother’s hairy complexion. But, Yitzchak was not tricked, he was not deceived. Yitzchak knew precisely to whom he was giving the blessing!  It was at THIS moment, that Yitzchak saw a different Yaakov. A Yaakov willing to take action, albeit not through the best means, but he was ready to make things right. Yaakov took on some of the characteristics of his grandfather, became fit to receive the bracha and engage the world. At that moment when Yaakov took on some of the traits of Esav and Avraham, Yitzchak cried out “hakol kol Yaakov vihayidyim yiday Esav! (Yaakov you have successfully merged the man of the tent and the man of action!)

 

Yitzchak looked inward late in life and identified his core weakness.  He “sensed” his blind spots and took steps to change the future. Once we are set in our ways, it is difficult for us to see our blind spots, let alone to make significant changes in them. Just like with Yitzchak and Yaakov, unless we take the time to look, we can miss our own blind spots.

 

As a school, it is important that we take a look at our blind spots, both as individuals and collectively as an institution. We encourage you, our parents and community, to reach out to us when YOU see a blind spot we may be missing. One way we will be reaching out to you for input will be via a series of parent and community surveys we are designing. We want to know what you think, and your input is vital to the continued success of our school. Until those surveys come out, as always, I encourage you to reach out to me via email, phone or a good ole’ fashioned panim el panim (face-to-face) conversation.

 

In the spirit of this week’s Parsha, I encourage each of us to open our eyes, remove the blinders and take the time to look at our own blind spots this Shabbat.

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Our Village.

I have found over the years that it’s important to identify what you know and what you don’t -  what you can do and what doesn’t come as easily.

 

Exhibit A: this past Shabbat, Florence took our daughter, Eliana out of town to a Bat Mitzvah. There I was, faced with flying solo with Aviva and Ezra. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I called in the reinforcements. My friend was gracious enough to help, and offered to take my youngest for various pieces of Shabbat, so I was able to attend community events, while also being Abba (father) to my own Leubitz community.

 

It was a perfect arrangement. I joined the Shabbos Project Block Party at Beth Jacob on Shabbat. This was a worldwide initiative that drew at least 1,000 people in Toco Hills - and I was in awe of how the community was gathered for such a positive and special Shabbat lunch. The message of strength of community was everywhere.


Sunday morning, the kids and I enjoyed the AJA Neon Dance Party with well over 80 people - many of whom were new families who came to tour our school. (We anticipate a full ECD this coming year!) The kids danced, played and had a ball. It was a very diverse crowd, and gave me yet another glimpse into the connection within our community (this view was a little more fluorescent and loud, though!)

 

My weekend concluded Sunday night with the L’chaim Event, celebrating 18 years for the Chabad of North Fulton. I was moved by the speakers’ stories of the growth of this Chabad community. Rabbi Minkowicz and his late wife, Rashi (z”l), built such an incredible community - that was crystal clear. I was taken aback by the diversity in the room, connecting and bonding as a community to honor the late Rashi and celebrate the growth of Chabad of North Fulton.

 

The overall theme of my weekend was one simple word: Community. It ran through my head constantly.

 

After my dear wife and daughter arrived safely home on Sunday night, I had time to reflect on the weekend. My conclusions:

 

1- Florence is amazing. (she never reads my emails, so tell her I wrote this, plz). Seriously. I did my best to pinch hit, but no one keeps the Leubitz family running like she does. She keeps it all moving like I operate this school, with systems and protocols and plans that work. I follow her plans, and it just works. But, for me to run the show without her...er... (changing the subject…)

 

2-  Homes are like schools. My time flying solo and trying to run the house, started me thinking of the similarity to how homes and schools run, and then I thought about my leadership style at AJA. Just as I needed help to coordinate the weekend, I was reminded that no Head of School is the expert in all things. An effective HOS finds the best teachers, staff and administrators and lets them thrive in their own areas of excellence. We have some of the most talented and qualified staff here at AJA, I am grateful to have them here. I couldn’t do it without their expertise.

 

3- It’s all about Community. In Real Estate the key is “Location. Location. Location”. Using Creative Rabbinic License, I’d revise it to: “Community. Community. Community.” We need each other. We depend, trust and lean on each other, and we are each a part of a village. In this village, we each have a role. One of my roles is to challenge and empower the faculty and administrators here to work toward their full potential. Along those same lines, I challenge you.

 

What is your area of expertise? Can you come teach a class at the school? Can you open your home to a new family for Shabbos or a Sunday meal? Can you volunteer with the PTSA or Booster Club? Is your heart in a non-for-profit and we need to know about it here at AJA? What can you add to your/our community? Email DIrector of Admissions, Erica Gal, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and she’ll make sure to connect you with the right person to help you find your role in the village - to help give back to your family, friends and your AJA community.

 

We are incredibly fortunate to be a part of the AJA Community and the Atlanta Jewish Community. I do know, community doesn’t come to us by chance, we have to build it. And, I believe that our children deserve nothing less.  

 

 

L’shalom.

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Are you ready to "Be IN"?

November 3, 2016
2 Cheshvan 5777

Dear AJA Community,

Remember the game, “I Spy” that we all played as children - “I spy something small”, “I spy something blue”, “I spy something shiny”? Today, as I walked around the school here is some of what I “spied”:

  • Beautiful Israeli music being piped into the carpool areas to start the day with great energy

  • Teachers, hard at work, ensuring all children have a day full of learning and fun

  • Students with Chromebooks and books ready for General Studies and Judaics

  • A lunchroom filled with children and delicious food, together with their teachers

  • Children in the art room, being inspired to create and explore

  • The Upper School Boys Basketball team heading off to a tournament in Memphis. (ps. They play tonight at 6:00 pm, and you can watch here, click on "broadcast live")

  • Students on both campuses preparing for their upcoming theatrical performances

  • Classrooms filled with cool air conditioning keeping our children cool in this Atlanta heat (which, by the way, isn’t it NOVEMBER??)

This is just a glimpse into what happens under the roof at each campus. All of these important components of our school (and many more) come directly from your volunteer hours and tuition dollars. But, here’s the thing that some of you may or may not realize. Your tuition pays for what is imperative to run this school and make it wonderful for the children. And, there are still so many amazing programs and technologies we want to bring to your children, as we Reimagine AJA. Tuition alone does not cover these. What will? Your contributions to the AJA Annual Campaign. That is what will help make this wonderful school...exceptional.  

Today, as we launch the AJA Annual Campaign, I “spy”: New STEM labs, Cutting edge technology in the classrooms and in the new Upper School Media Center, Fine Arts program in the Upper School, a Makerspace (a community center with tools for sewing, woodworking, engineering), an Innovative and relevant Judaics program, increased Professional Development, an Athletic Program expansion. I could go on and on.

We are working hard to Reimagine AJA...can you help us get there? Are you IN? Since tuition alone cannot fund the full cost of the excellent education AJA provides, we need to count you IN. With your generous gift to our 2016-2017 AJA Annual Campaign, you will be INvested, INvolved, INfluential and INcluded in our very important AJA mission.

Thanks to those who have already responded and contributed. We are grateful. AJA Community, you’ll be hearing from us again, and when you do, we ask you to Be IN. Please remember the importance of where the money from this fund goes. Let’s work together to turn this wonderful AJA into the EXCEPTIONAL AJA we are all Reimagining. If you have any questions or are ready to be IN, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 678.298.5344.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Past, Present and Future...



October 27, 2016
25 Tishrei 5777


Dear AJA Community,

There is such a fascinating dynamic and tension in Judaism. It kept popping up in my head over various times during the Chaggim. In shul, I was thinking about the meaning of each holiday, how for much of the month we are so connected to G-d and so deeply immersed in Tefillah. It occurred to me, specifically on Shemini Atzeret, that we’d all be going “back to normal” as soon as the Chaggim came to a close. It was a beautiful month of connection with G-d, reflecting on the beauty of this past year, thinking about my hopes for the future and now (ah, reality) I had to reenter the present. It is the push and pull - literally a tension - between the past, present and future we all feel, in all aspects of our lives. We are situated here in the present, but all feel a constant pull from the past and constant push toward the future. Tension, you know, is not always a bad thing. It can represent a strain, but can also be a driving force to move us to change. We are each wired in a certain way that feeds into how we deal with this tension.


Ask yourself, are you:

Living in the past and present?
Living fully in the present?    
Living in the present and future?


The delicate challenge comes in understanding what space those around us are living in. If you are a “live in the moment” person, and a person close to you is focused on both the past and present...it can cause some strain in your views and perceptions. You need to find the balance as you both navigate that tension. We often hear our relatives comment on their wonderful past, the “good ole’ days”, whereas, many of us think TODAY are the good days, and others cannot wait to see what the future has to offer us. It takes understanding and balance, and an acceptance that the past, present and future are all vital parts of our lives, and are all inextricably linked.

Reimagine.

It’s been a word you’ve heard a lot since I joined AJA back in August. According to our friends at Webster’s, Reimagine means: reinterpret imaginatively; rethink. Here at AJA, it means to view the school through a new pair of lenses – to take a fresh look at every single detail here and to review, reevaluate, revise, reflect and reimagine the possibilities. We look at this Reimagine process as an incredibly positive one. The outcome, in our minds, is to fine-tune our school – Upper, Middle, Lower and ECD – to be the best possible environment for the children, academically, spiritually and social-emotionally. That is why we started to Reimagine AJA. And, as we move forward, you - AJA parents and community members - will have a voice in the Reimagine process.

In the meanwhile, I want to clarify something for all of you.

During this in depth process, while we are doing a deep dive into academics, programs, Judaics, admissions, marketing, finances, etc etc etc…we are still keeping our eye on something very important. That is our past - our heritage and history as Greenfield Hebrew Academy and as Yeshiva Atlanta. As Jews, it is our responsibility to remember. To face forward and look toward the future, but to never (!) forget our history, our traditions and our background. In his Nobel Prize lecture in 1986, Elie Wiesel reminded us of the respected historian Simon Dubnow, who over and over implored his fellow inhabitants in the Riga ghetto: “Yiddin, schreibt un farschreibt” — “Jews, write it all down.” There are six things that the Torah commands us to remember on a daily basis. As Jews, we have always connected an intense significance to remembrance. That is just part of who we are, and who we want our children to be.

Our connection to our GHA/YA past is of tremendous importance to us as we Reimagine and revise, and we acknowledge how everything connects to our present and our future. Walking the halls at both schools, you’ll see plaques of dedication and remembrance, and artwork from early years at GHA and YA that decorate our walls, a constant reminder of the students who have graced these halls. Class composites, ranging from the 1960’s to our most recent graduating class, are truly a slice of history here at the school.

In that light, we are excited and honored to be featuring our Alumni and their D’vrei Torah, in addition to their thoughts on what AJA means to them. We’ll include a link to those, below this letter, in each of my Thursday Thoughts. We are very appreciative of those Alumni who have offered to provide these meaningful insights to us.

Wishing you and your families a peaceful and warm Shabbat as we navigate through the past, present and future together. I would love to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on what you would like us to Reimagine at AJA, and encourage you to share those with me.

 

 

 

 

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Reimagine Sukkot at AJA

October 20, 2016
18 Tishrei 5777

Dear AJA Community, Chag Sameach! I hope you are all enjoying the holiday with your friends and families. At AJA, we started this short week with a lot of activity on both campuses. Yesterday, the Hallel Davening at the Lower School started the day for our students, and it was incredible. All the Lower School children gathered in the Auditorium and davened together - Lulavim and Etrogim were shared with all of the students by some of our Middle Schoolers. It was a lively tefillah filled with prayer and song. After Davening, they had a chance to see the “Sukkah Museum” filled with the most creative model Sukkahs that the students built based on Mishnah and laws. It was a pretty impressive display. Our Shlichim put together fun Sukkot stations surrounding the theme of Ushpezin (Sukkah guests). Lunch this week for all the students has been in our school Sukkah, and it is a joy to see our students all under one roof enjoying their meals and spending time together in the Sukkah.

Also this week, our Upper School students gathered to start their annual Maccabiah/Color War in celebration of Sukkot. The two teams have been participating in outdoor and indoor sports, activities, leadership, learning, art, dance and music. They are expressing their creativity and ruach (spirit) through their spirited attention to the games and one another. Everyone has a chance to shine as part of their team, working together across all grade levels as they connect over their common purpose. The Maccabiah will culminate at the Northland Campus for pre-Simchat Torah dancing on Friday. At that time, we will finally have all of our students here under one roof. (I can’t wait!) And, this is the day that I think about when I continue to Reimagine AJA. Sharing all things AJA, as one connected community on one incredible campus.

As we continue to Reimagine, we are taking a closer look at all areas of the school that impact teaching and learning. In particular, assessment is one of many areas that we are currently reimagining. Special thanks to the hard work of Debbie Bornstein, Diane Marks, Franeen Sarif, Leah Summers, and John Wilson.

As we Reimagine testing at AJA, we were charged to reevaluate whether or not the ERB assessment is the most effective option for our students. After careful consideration, we have concluded to postpone the November ERB administration. We are researching alternative solutions and all the details can be found here. This is but one of the improvements and changes we are making as part of the Reimagine process. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions.

L'shalom.

 

 

 

 

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