by Leah Braunstein Levy
March 2014 (Atlanta, GA)— Greenfield Hebrew Academy hosted the Sidney Feldman Legacy Golf Tournament on Monday, March 31, 2014 at the Druid Hills Country Club, Atlanta, GA. This year’s tournament honoree was local businessman and GHA parent A.J. Robinson.
The tournament kicked off with the wailing sounds of a bagpiper playing “Hava Nagila.” After a breakfast and opening ceremony honoring A.J., the golfers enjoyed a game in weather that seemed made-to-order for the perfect day of golf. GHA parent Darren Tobin even made a hole in one!
A.J. Robinson is the President of Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID). CAP is a private business association that is one of the most effective advocacy organizations in the city of Atlanta. In this role, he manages the overall strategic functions of the organizations that are designed to make the Downtown Atlanta community more livable, vital and diverse. Key initiatives focus on economic development, planning, public safety, sidewalk environment, transportation, events and overall marketing of Downtown Atlanta. Before he held his current position, A.J. was President of Portman Holdings, where he worked for 22 years.
A.J.’s many business and civic interests have included positions on the Board of Directors for American Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Regional Business Coalition, and The Breman Heritage Museum, among others. He is an involved and active member of the board at Greenfield Hebrew Academy, and all three of his children graduated from or attend the school.
“We’ve always felt that GHA represents the best community Jewish education model in Atlanta,” A.J. explained. “It’s diverse in its student body; it draws students from all geographical areas and all income levels, and that’s what provides GHA students with such a great foundation, both when they’re operating in the Jewish community and in the larger world.”
A.J. has been recognized for his achievements by many different organizations and publications. Chosen as one of ten Outstanding Young Atlantans in 1986, he was a member of the 1991-92 Leadership Atlanta Class and has published articles in The Wall Street Journal, Asian Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Atlanta Business Chronicle and National Real Estate Investor. Mr. Robinson was chosen as one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine six times, and was named one of “Atlanta's Top 40 Power Players” by Atlanta Magazine. He was identified as one of the Most Influential Atlantans by the Atlanta Business Chronicle five years in a row.
“I am humbled to be honored by anyone,” A.J. says, “but I am particularly humbled to be honored at a golf tournament. I like to play, but I’m not very good! Still, I know that it’s really all about supporting the school—and that’s so important to me.” He assured the attendees that although he had to really twist his childrens’ arms to get them to leave school and play golf on the sunny, 72 degree March day, somehow he managed to succeed!
A.J. and his wife Dr. Nicole Ellerine are the proud parents of Micaela (GHA Class of 2010), Ethan (GHA Class of 2012), and Nathaniel (GHA Class of 2015).
by Avi Spector
We seventh graders had a great time on our class trip to Washington, D.C.! I had already gone to Washington once before, so I expected the have the same experience as last time; but it was way more fun going with friends. We visited all the historical sites, from Mount Vernon (George Washington’s home), to the Newseum, to the Capitol Building. We saw the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. We visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the Supreme Court building. We went to many war memorials. We saw the White House, and we even got a glimpse at Barack Obama’s limo!
Our time at the Holocaust Museum was intense, but now I understand my history and I won’t forget.
It was so much fun going to D.C. with friends, and I just can’t wait until our class trip to Israel, next year.
by Sophie Harris
GHA parent Jennifer Harris spoke to Mrs. Gordon's 8th grade Social Studies class recently about her grandfather’s adventures in WW I. Ms. Harris, who has spent years studying her family’s history, brought in documents and photos of her grandfather Wilson Teeple’s life before, during, and after the war.
Mrs. Harris brought in photos of Teeple’s life before the war showing his love of baseball, his longtime sweetheart and future wife, and his work as a farmer in northern Michigan. Students were able to see his WW I draft card, enlistment papers, honorable discharge papers, as well as notes and letters he wrote home from France. Among the most important documents were his discharge papers, which listed the dates of specific battles in France in which he fought. These battles include the Battle of Argonne Forest, Chateau-Thierry, Aisne-Marne, and St. Mihiel.
As students, we studied these battles in class, and it was interesting to learn about a man who had first-person experiences with this war. Mrs. Harris talked about being a little girl and seeing her grandfather’s gas mask, and hearing about the German Luger he brought home with him. Mr. Teeple had been gassed but fortunately not severely injured, and he was never sure if it was the British or the Germans who had gassed him.
By walking the students through her grandfather’s life--as a farmer, as a young soldier leaving Michigan for the first time in his life, crossing the ocean and seeing Europe, through each battle, then home to New York for the victory parade and back to northern Michigan--Mrs. Harris brought the war experience to life for the students in a way that a textbook could never match.
As for me, Sophie Harris, it meant even more...because Wilson Teeple is my great-grandfather.
March 24, 2014 22 Adar II 5774
I am thrilled to reach out to you with my first communication as President Elect of the "New School" Board of Trustees. Both Boards have set the bar very high with their hard work and dedication, and we are all very enthusiastic about the prospects for the combined school. I also know a little about the job, as a past President of GHA. I was privileged to be a part of the team that brought both Leah Summers and Rabbi Buckman to GHA.
I have one daughter, Sela, who's a sixth grader at GHA, and have three other GHA graduates who have either graduated from or are currently attending YA. Myles is a senior, Brooke is a freshman and Alexa graduated YA two years ago. I've spent a lot of time at both schools and know firsthand about the special feelings they generate for students and their families. I live in the Sandy Springs area and am a member of Congregation Beth Tefillah where I am the outgoing president. (Yes, I spend a lot of time at meetings).
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to those who will serve as members of our new Board. They include: George Birnbaum, Jerry Blumenthal, Perry Brickman, Chanina Falk, Danny Frankel, Michelle Hirsch, Leanne Kaplan, Jessie Klein, Renee Kutner, Natasha Lebowitz, Jed Linsider, Alan Minsk, Michael Siegel, Jeff Stein, Judy Stolovitz and Nancy Weissmann. This new Board will conduct its first informal meeting on April 10th. Our agenda is already full and we're all ready, willing and able to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
We are blessed that each school has strong leadership in Leah Summers and Dr. Paul Oberman. Your current Board Presidents, Judy Stolovitz and Nancy Weissmann, are smart, engaged and thoughtful people who will be deeply involved in this transition.
The opportunities for our "New School" are endless. Both Boards are meeting to discuss all possibilities and what's best for our future. As the ultimate plans for the combination are firmed up we will share them with you in a timely manner. We are planning to have town hall meetings beginning in early May. Stay tuned for exact location, dates, and times.
For the 2014-2015 school year, we expect that both campuses will operate much the same as they are now. Hopefully, we can begin to share more positive aspects of each school with each other and get to know each other at a deeper level. If you have never visited GHA or YA, I encourage you to do so. You will see many common faces and realize that we are already one big family.
Finally, I want to share with you that I have had dozens upon dozens of calls from community members, both within and outside of our schools, and they are all as positive as can be. The community support has been refreshing and exciting.
Please stay tuned, find a way to get involved and help us build the strongest preschool to Grade 12 Jewish day school in the country.
President Elect, Board of Trustees
by Leah Braunstein Levy
The halls and auditorium are buzzing with activity as the GHA Players prepare for the presentation of their newest musical, Alice in Wonderland Jr., on April 2nd, 3rd, and 6th. Preparations are widespread, as the production has a cast of 43 students; with the addition of the almost entirely student-based tech crew, there are approximately 50 students involved in Alice in Wonderland Jr.
“We make our productions a top-to-bottom learning opportunity for our students,” said Taryn Carmona, GHA’s Director of Drama and Artistic Director. “Joel Coady, our Technical Director, and I train and supervise everyone, but we have students backstage, a student as stage manager, students doing light and sound cues—we even had student volunteers painting the scenery.”
This musical version of Alice in Wonderland has been updated and modernized, so the cast warns viewers not to expect the Disney version of the story.
“The original books are a bit edgier than the Disney movie, and we returned to the feel of the Lewis Carroll books in our production—but with a modern twist,” said Ms. Carmona.
Many of the cast members say that they prefer this version to the classic movie. The entire group also agrees that the feeling backstage is warm and supportive, and that they are all having fun. In fact, Jillian Gerson, the eighth grader playing Alice, said that her favorite part of the production has been hanging around backstage with the cast, which she says is like a family. Fellow eighth grader Liana Slomka, who plays the Queen of Hearts, also cited the opportunity to take a leadership role and the fun she’s had getting to know younger kids as an important part of the experience.
“We have a large cast, and some of them are quite young—we have first graders in our chorus— so for lots of them, it’s their first time on stage. But our older kids are really rallying around the young ones, and they’ve worked hard to make them comfortable,” said Ms. Carmona. “The kids are very excited. Maybe a little nervous, but not worried.”
Ari Slomka, a sixth grader, said that Alice in Wonderland Jr. preserves all the best parts from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Furthermore, he said that he’s been working very hard to prepare for his role as the White Rabbit.
“My character is always late, so I’ve been trying to slow myself down. Sorry, teachers, I have to do it for my role,” he said, with a distinctly Cheshire cat sort of grin.
Jillian added, “I hope everyone enjoys the show. And don’t be late, because we already have someone who’s doing that!”
by Devi Knapp
by Leah Braunstein Levy
The results are in!
After competing at the 10th Annual North Atlanta Jewish Students’ Technology Fair, several Greenfield Hebrew Academy students moved up to compete at the state level at the Georgia Educational Technology Fair, held at Macon State College. Once again, GHA made an excellent showing, snagging the only first-place trophy won by students from their region.
“This year State had the largest number of participants ever, and the competition was really tough,” said GHA’s Director of Technology, Sue Loubser. “We’re very proud of all the GHA students who competed.”
Fourth-grader Shiraz Agichtein won first place in the category of Non-Animated Graphic Design for 3rd and 4th grade students. Shiraz created a series of computer-executed designs on the four seasons, with each season represented in the style of a different artist.
“I like art a lot, and I thought, the seasons are unique and each artist has a unique style, so it fit,” said Shiraz. “I never thought that I would win first place!”
Noah Chen, a fifth grade student, won second prize in the Technology Literacy Challenge, 5th and 6th grade category. This is a very difficult and comprehensive test on all things technological.
Ashira Rabinowitz and Shayna Shapiro, also in the fifth grade, won third prize in the Non-Multimedia for 5th and 6th grade category. The duo designed and operated a blog about fashion that they still keep active.
“It was quite a labor of love for them; they worked on it for months,” said Mrs. Loubser.
Because the state-level Technology Fair took place on Saturday, all Greenfield Hebrew Academy students pre-recorded their presentations to enable them to participate while still observing the Shabbat.
“I also did another project in the regional fair, a video game that I did in ALICE (an object-oriented 3-D programming environment), and I might like to work on that for my next Tech Fair,” said Shiraz. “I definitely want to do Tech Fair again!”
March 13, 2014
11 Adar II 5774
Dear GHA Family,
It is my honor and privilege to share with you that the Boards of GHA and YA voted last night to approve combining the two schools into one new school.
We have moved slowly and deliberately over the past months to ensure that we are working to create the best possible school for our children. And, now, while we might want to snap our fingers to go forward to a time when all the work is done, we should stop and appreciate the path ahead of us: this is a journey of creation that will be as worthwhile as the final product. A new governing board has been formed to lead the new school consisting of 17 trustees with Ian Ratner, former GHA Board President, current GHA and YA parent, serving as president.
We are thrilled by the opportunity to create a new preschool-12th grade school that will embody our mission and core values with the end goal of creating a single, vibrant campus that will be a thriving center of our community. The focus will always be on what is truly important and consistent with that mission, which is the continued growth and education of our children. We see our children graduating 12th grade as menches with an excellent education, proud and knowledgeable about their Jewish identity, with wonderful options open to them including going on to universities of their choices and studying in Israel.
I have quoted Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain many times in the past months because, in his tremendous wisdom, he makes the profound seem obvious. At a conference on education, he spoke about how and why we educate our children: "We have to inform, not indoctrinate; to inspire, not intimidate..." and, "to defend a country, you need an army. To defend a civilization, you need education."
I have enjoyed talking with and hearing from so many of you over the past months. I look forward to continuing together and having all of us involved in the building of our school together. The Press Release is attached to this letter and will be shared publically in the immediate future.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
by Leah Braunstein Levy
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, March 14, 2014)
March 2014 (Atlanta, GA)—Students at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy arrived at school as usual on Monday, the first day of the Hebrew month of Adar Sheni. And that’s when they discovered that the school they thought they knew had been magically transformed into the Hogwarts School!
GHA’s B’not Sherut, young women doing their national service for Israel at schools overseas, do a tremendous amount to bring the spirit of Israel to the school. Linoy David, Maayan Dror, Sarah Tannenbaum, and Sara Yisrael show students the fun side of Jewish holidays, and wanted to share the tradition of Mishenichnas Adar, marbim b’simcha—“Whoever enters the month of Adar is full of joy”—Israeli-style.
“When Adar begins, with Purim coming, we have a tradition of V’nahafach hu, turning everything topsy-turvy,” explains Sara. “In Israel, students from the oldest grade in the school create activities and decorations for the other students that make things fun.”
“Ordinarily, we would have done games and activities to bring Purim spirit to GHA, but because of all the snow days, the teachers needed to make up the lost learning time—so we were limited to just decorations,” said Linoy. “and we know that so many kids love Harry Potter!”
The B’not Sherut really did make the transformation seem like magic to the students. Unfortunately, real magic being in short supply, it took long hours of hard work to transform the school overnight.
Maayan described the process. “We spent about a week preparing everything—the artwork, the flying car, the brooms, the murals. We wanted it to be a surprise, so we kept our workroom door closed. The kids were bummed out, because we always keep our door open and they come to spend time with us and see what we’re doing, but this time it was a secret.”
The four B’not Sherut spent all day Sunday hanging up decorations and staging scenes. The students reacted with wild enthusiasm.
“It’s really cool!” was the overall consensus. In the cafeteria, the tables were rearranged into the four long “house” tables of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin, and students chose their own “houses.”
“I’ve always felt like I would have been in Hufflepuff if I were at Hogwarts,” explained Sophie Harris, an eighth grader.
Jonah Gordon said that he was in Slytherin because “I just sat down where my friends were!”
The B’not Sherut also made sure to make Hogwarts educational by assigning Hogwarts characters roles in the Purim story. They cast Harry Potter as Mordechai, Hermione as Queen Esther, Ron as Charbonah, Professor Dumbledore as King Ahasuerus, the Weasley twins as Bigtan and Teresh, and of course, Voldemort as Haman.
The decorations will stay up through Purim. GHA is holding Spirit Week for the last week before Purim, when students will wear themed costumes, and the eighth grade will run their annual Purim Carnival on the Friday before the holiday. Meanwhile, the B’not Sherut are moving over to the Early Childhood Department to spread Purim happiness there with a climbing castle transformed into Shushan HaBirah, plays, and activities.
“What an amazing job the B’not Sherut did with this project!” said Interim Head of School Leah Summers. “I love the way they dressed up our whole school in this incredible Purim costume! These girls do such an amazing job sharing the beauty and fun of Purim with our students, and when you see it all…wow.”
“Classroom study is always an important part of learning about Judaism,” said Maayan. “But sometimes you need to do something cool, without all the speeches. Purim is something special, and they feel it. They’ll wait all year for this.”
Film Review of The Prime Ministers
by Ben Ogden
Through the anonymous gift of a generous donor, GHA was able to sponsor The Prime Ministers at this year's Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. The entire eighth grade went to see the movie in the theater, and found it an enjoyable and educational experience.
The Prime Ministers is a wonderfully filmed documentary based on the brilliantly written book by Yehuda Avner. As a government employee whose career spanned the terms of four different prime ministers, Mr. Avner is able to offer a first-hand account of the founding and governing of Israel, covering the periods of time that helped shape the Israel we know so well today.
By mixing old war film from Israel's founding with modern day interviews, the documentary gives you the perspective that the prime ministers had, and lets you know what exactly they were thinking during tumultuous times. The film was both informative and exciting; when the documentary showed film of Golda Meir flying into what had been a battlefield hours before, I was inspired by the passion she had for the defense of her country.
All in all, The Prime Ministers is a fantastic film that offers an inspiring new look into Israel's founding.
by Leah Braunstein Levy
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, Feb. 26, 2014)
First graders at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy marked a milestone in their education when they celebrated their Chagigat HaSiddur earlier this month.
Dressed in blue and white, the young guests of honor paraded down the aisles of the auditorium to take their seats onstage. After students, parents, grandparents and friends were welcomed by Interim Head of School Leah Summers; then Rabbi Adam Starr, halakhic decisor for GHA, addressed the crowd.
“We talk about connecting a lot these days—we connect through the internet, Facebook, cell phones…now and then, we even talk to each other,” Rabbi Starr began. “A siddur is like a time machine; it can connect us to the past and to the future. When you read tefillot in your new siddur, you are reading the same words your parents and grandparents read, all the way back to Moses. And as hard as it is to imagine now, someday your children and grandchildren will also open their siddurim and read these very same tefillot that you do, today.”
Rabbi Starr added, “A siddur is also like a cellphone. It can connect us directly to Hashem; when you read these words, Hashem will listen. My blessing is that you always cherish your siddur—but not up on a shelf. I hope that it’s well-used, each and every day.”
The first graders then performed for their audience, singing tefillot (prayers) from their siddurim, dancing with scarves, and accompanying themselves on rhythm instruments. There was an impressive “cups”-style performance of “V’ha’er Aynenu,” a prayer they recite daily. The first graders prayed for the happiness and safety of their parents, for the United States and for Israel, and for peace.
Each student was called by name and presented with his or her very own siddur by the teachers who had worked so hard to prepare them for this day, Hilly Simchony and Cheryl Kunis.
Leah Summers took the stage once more to speak to her students.
“When my daughter was not much older than you,” she told them, “we went to a shul in the faraway country of Norway. My daughter opened a siddur, and was shocked to find that one side of the siddur’s pages was written in a language that she didn’t know. But then she realized that the other side was in Hebrew, just like her siddur at home, and the tefillot were exactly the same. In Norway, the tefillot are the same as they are in the United States and in Israel and everywhere else in the world.
“Just as Rabbi Starr explained, the siddur connects us in so many ways—and as you see, it connects all the Jewish people around the world to each other, too.”
The ceremony came to a perfect conclusion with all the young students gathered under a giant tallit, as Rabbi Israel Robinson recited the blessing for the children.
“May you always be embraced by love and comfort,” Ms. Summers concluded, “with the guidance and support of Hashem.”
by Leah Braunstein Levy
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, Feb. 26, 2014)
The Greenfield Hebrew Academy has been fielding great basketball teams for the Metropolitan Atlanta Athletics Conference this year, and their efforts paid off; not only did the Wolves bring home a trophy, they learned important lessons about sportsmanship and teamwork.
The boys’ A team, coached by GHA alumni Gavi Abraham and David Frankel, dazzled all their fans by taking home a 1st Place trophy in the Division 2 championships.
“Of course I was proud of our boys, who played really well,” said Penny Eisenstein, GHA’s Head of Health and P.E. and Athletic Director. “But I was particularly impressed that they played like gentlemen. They won, but they held back at the end so the opposing team could walk out with their heads held high. That’s the most important thing we’ve succeeded in teaching them—to treat others the way they would want to be treated.”
The boys’ B team, coached by Rabbi Sam Strauss, also played a great season. “They came really close to the finals, and they grew tremendously, both as individual players and as a team,” said Ms. Eisenstein.
The girls’ basketball team, coached by Carol and Ian Ratner, played a great season, but lost to #1 Atlanta Girls School by 15 points in the quarter-finals. “They played beautifully and with such gusto, sportsmanship and dignity,” Ms. Eisenstein said. “I was incredibly proud of them.”
Ms. Eisenstein also noted that, in the MAAC basketball championships, the Jewish day schools swept the top categories. “GHA took first place in division 2 boys basketball, with TDSA in second place, and the Davis Academy and the Epstein School took first and second place in division 1,” Ms. Eisenstein pointed out. “Can y'all believe that the four Jewish schools took first and second places in both divisions? That is awesome!”
The winners of the Greenfield Hebrew Academy Science Fair, eighth grader Sammy Frankel and sixth grader Aidyn Levin, went on to compete in the County-Wide Science Fair in February. Both students won second place in their respective categories. Congratulations, Sammy and Aidyn!
by Sammy Frankel
In January, the 8th grade, along with some parents and teachers, went on a field trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. It was an especially great day to go, because it was Martin Luther King’s actual birthday.
The exciting day started with a tour of the home that Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in, right here in downtown Atlanta. We saw the rooms that he and his siblings slept in, the kitchen they ate in, and the backyard they played in. This was followed by a forum including two members of the King family and two radio hosts as moderators. The main theme was about choosing non-violence. We heard stories of how Martin Luther King was just an average student, but he still changed the world, and how each and every one of us can make a difference by choosing nonviolence.
Even though racism is not at the point that it was in the 50’s, violence is still an issue that needs to be overcome today. The King Center taught us a lot about Martin Luther King Jr. and inspired us to choose nonviolence.
by Leah Braunstein Levy
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, Feb. 19, 2014)
The Fifth Grade celebrated their Chagigat Mishnah with music, drama, and a great deal of learning last week. Students of Rabbi Ari Karp and Rabbi Sam Strauss demonstrated a truly impressive knowledge of the six books of Mishnah.
The program opened with Rabbi Karp’s story of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who escaped from the besieged city of Jerusalem to plead for the preservation of the town of Yavneh and its great yeshiva.
“Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai understood that there was no way to save Jerusalem, and he knew that the Jewish people were about to be scattered among the nations,” he told the audience. “The only way to ensure Jewish continuity is by having an established place of Jewish education.”
Rabbi Strauss analyzed the meaning of the Hebrew words mesorah and mesoret, which he interpreted as the tradition itself, and living within that tradition.
“Today we celebrate both those things,” Rabbi Strauss said. “Not just learning this body of literature, but living that life.”
The students sang songs and performed often-humorous skits demonstrating the concepts they had learned. Mrs. Debbie Bornstein said, “Parshat Mishpatim tells us, for example, to keep kosher; but it doesn’t tell us what to do or how to do it. One of my students—it was Matthew—asked, ‘How do we get so many laws from just one line?’ It’s a terrific question, and the answer is Mishnayot, which gives us a new level of understanding of the Written Torah.”
Interim Head of School Leah Summers and Middle School Principal Franeen Sarif distributed sets of the six books of Mishnah to each student, to add to their Jewish libraries. By the time every GHA student graduates, each one has a basic library of sefarim.
Mrs. Summers likened the passing on of our tradition to a football game.
“At a place called Har Sinai,” she told the students, “the coach—Hashem—told them, here’s the plan. Go out for the long pass, catch it, and throw it to your kids—then your kids will toss it to their kids—and on, and on. All of our ancestors caught the ball, ran with it, and passed it on. Some generations fumbled, but lucky for us, they never dropped the ball.
“Now that you have arrived at the age when you’re starting to become B’nai Mitzvah…you’re ready to receive the ball.”
by Leah Braunstein Levy
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, Feb. 5, 2014)
January 2014 (Atlanta, GA) Students at the Katherine and Jacob Greenfield Hebrew Academy made an excellent showing at the 10th Annual North Atlanta Jewish Students’ Technology Fair at the end of January. Thirteen GHA projects took first-place ribbons; those students will continue on to compete at the Georgia Educational Technology Fair, the statewide competition held at Macon State College.
“There were a record number of entries this year,” said Sue Loubser, Director of Technology at GHA. “Over 150 students from seven schools competed in the Technology Fair this year, and they submitted 122 projects.”
The NAJS Technology Fair was started ten years ago and offers an alternative to the standard Saturday choice for regional technology fairs. The North Atlanta region invites all students to participate in the Sunday fair, and historically this region does extremely well in the State Fair. This year, the Tech Fair took place at the Weber School, and participants included students from the Davis Academy, the Epstein School, the Greenfield Hebrew Academy, Riverwood High School, Torah Day School of Atlanta, the Weber School, and Yeshiva Atlanta.
GHA First Place winners are:
- Shiraz Agichtein, Grade 3-4, Game Design and Non-Animated Graphic Design
- Zachary Amdur and Levi Linowes, Grade 3-4, 3-D Modeling
- Yoni Bachar and Matthew Chen, Grade 7-8, Case Modification
- Noah Chen, Grade 5-6 Technology Literacy Challenge
- Jillian Gerson, Grade 7- 8, Non-Multimedia Applications
- Deena Glusman and Bobbi Sloan, Grade 5-6, Multimedia Applications
- Sophie Knapp, Grade 3-4, Project Programming and Technology Literacy Challenge
- Paulina Lebowitz and Wade Rabinowitz, Grade 5-6, Non-Animated Graphic Design
- Ben Ogden, Grade 7-8, Hardware
- Ashira Rabinowitz and Shayna Shapiro, Grade 5-6, Non-Multimedia Applications
- Ethan Rolnick and Josh Schulman, Grade 3-4, Non-Multimedia Applications
“The students worked hard, and their projects were creative and of a high quality,” Mrs. Loubser said. “Many students invested hours and hours of time on their projects—and it showed. A number of categories were really competitive, with seven or eight students competing for first place.”
GHA Second Place winners are:
- Jared Amdur and Sam Brenner, Grade 5-6, 3-D Modeling
- Ilan Benamram, Grade 3-4, 3-D Modeling
- Sam David, Grade 7-8, Game Design
- Sharon Hatami and Miriam Raggs, Grade 3-4, Non-Multimedia Applications
- Paulina Lebowitz and Wade Rabinowitz, Grade 5-6, Multimedia Applications
- Noa Rudisch, Grade 3-4, Multimedia Applications
- Liana Slomka, Grade 7-8, Multimedia Applications
GHA Third Place winners are:
- Jared Amdur and Matthew Kaplan, Grade 5-6, 3-D Modeling
- Yoni Bachar and Matthew Chen, Grade 7-8, Hardware
- Adam Berkowitz and Jordan Joel, Grade 3-4, Multimedia Applications
- Noah Chen and Daniel Mordoch, Grade 5-6, Game Design
- Katherine Cranman and Ashira Rabinowitz, Grade 5-6, Non-Animated Graphic Design
- Nuriel Gadalov and Nathan Posner, Grade 7-8, 3-D Modeling
- Jacob Grant and Dov Karlin, Grade 3-4, 3-D Modeling
- Sophie Knapp and Daliya Wallenstein, Grade 3-4, Digital Photography
- Jonathan Nooriel, Grade 7- 8, Animated Graphic Design
Those students who won first place ribbons will compete virtually in the statewide Tech Fair in Macon. Mrs. Loubser serves as co-chair for this region along with Leora Wollner of the Epstein School, and she feels optimistic about GHA’s chances there.
“Traditionally,” Mrs. Loubser remarked, “our region does very well at the state level, and we’re looking forward to another rewarding state competition.”
by Zach Mainzer and Arielle Wallenstein
Our Kesher went to PAWS Atlanta, which is an animal shelter that does not put dogs or cats to sleep, unless an animal is too aggressive or suffering greatly from an illness.
We arrived at PAWS Atlanta with a lot of energy. Our guide at PAWS Atlanta was shelter manager Phillip Smith. He gave us a brief explanation of what PAWS Atlanta does, and he explained about all of the different places that the animals stayed.
We learned about what happens when animals first get to PAWS Atlanta. First, they get tested for any possible illness they might have. We learned about their hospital, and the places where the healthy dogs and cats go. We also discovered where the cats and dogs in the shelter come from.
Then we met the animals. We got to play with the cats. We sat very still on the floor, and sometimes, the cats would sit on our laps. In particular, Henry Hyman enjoyed meeting a cat named Texas. Henry and Texas sat together for at least ten minutes, while Henry sat petting Texas.
“It felt like I bonded with the cat," Henry said. “There was something he saw in me.”
We stayed with the cats for about half an hour, then went into the main building and met some of the dogs. Aliza Gold commented on her experience with the dogs, saying, “It felt very nice. I had fun and I wish we could spend more time playing with the dogs and petting them.”
Afterwards, we went outside and discussed what we saw. We helped by picking up sticks and clearing a dog-walking path so the workers could walk the dogs without the dogs getting hurt. We also got to witness the dogs playing with each other.
We all enjoyed the fun (and barking) that happens there. It was a wonderful experience. We met some of the nice workers there. And our Kesher can’t wait to see if we can go there again.
Mitzvah Day at Books for Africa
by Shayna Shapiro
For our Mitzvah Day trip, we went to Books for Africa. It was lots of fun. First, we took books out of a big box and put them on a cart. We recycled any books that the students in Africa wouldn't need, like teacher's editions or books about winter sports. Then we pushed the library cart through different aisles, sorting the books into different subjects for elementary, middle school, high school, or university students. There were many other volunteers helping there, and whenever we finished one of the big boxes, they would bring us a new one. When we were finished, we bought T-shirts with the Books for Africa logo on them. It was a great experience, and I hope to help out there again.
Mitzvah Day With the Pomegranate Guild
by Tal Kochav and Sam David
For our Mitzvah project, we worked with the Pomegranate Guild. We made blankets with them, and we finished a total of 30 blankets! Those blankets went to the Northside Hospital Cancer Center. After we finished making the blankets, we watched a movie called Unconditionally, and that was amazing. When we watched the movie, we saw how sad some kids' lives are.
Mitzvah Day Thoughts
by Datiel Dayani and Nathan Posner
On Mitzvah Day, I learned that doing good deeds leads you to do more good deeds. Lots of people can inspire you to do good things. Even if someone isn't usually very good, everyone has a little bit of good in them that can take over one day.
I learned that we are all connected somehow, and whenever someone does something good for you, you should always pay it forward.
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, January 24, 2014)
By Leah Braunstein Levy
In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., Greenfield Hebrew Academy Middle School students participated in an Acceptance Summit with their counterparts from St. Jude Catholic School just before Martin Luther King Day. The program was facilitated by the ADL, which has certified GHA as a “No Place For Hate” school for their culture of respect and their creation of a safe environment where bullying is not tolerated.
The program was originally conceived in the mind of Interim Lower School Principal and School Counselor Sylvia Miller; she contacted Holli Levinson, the Education Director at the Anti-Defamation League. “I had just received a similar request from the administration at St. Jude, so all I did was match them up,” said Ms. Levinson.
“We are so excited to host the Acceptance Summit at our school,” Ms. Miller said. “As a ‘No Place For Hate’ school, I think it’s so important that our kids are exposed to other people beyond our walls. A program like this teaches them acceptance and appreciation of others.”
The summit began when thirty students from St. Jude arrived at GHA, where they were welcomed by the thirty nervous and excited GHA middle schoolers. Ms. Levinson introduced the ice-breaking game of “Stand Up,” in which various groupings stood if—for example—they were born in Atlanta, or if they had ever fallen asleep in a movie, or if they spoke more than one language.
Rabbi Adam Starr of the Young Israel of Toco Hills, who serves as the rabbinic decisor for GHA, addressed the students with a short explanation of the basics of Judaism and also explained the significance of Israel as the Holy Land for the Jewish people. Reverend Bill Hao, Parochial Vicar for St. Jude Parish Church, covered the foundations and basic beliefs of Catholicism.
Reverend Hao and Rabbi Starr took questions from the group, answering some very thoughtful students about subjects like the origin of Santa Claus and Christmas and what Jewish beliefs about heaven might be. The questioners discovered some things in common; some students were surprised to learn that both Jews and Catholics observe a Sabbath day.
The group broke up into workshops, where ADL facilitators Dana Smith and Leesa Kellam used games and activities to help students to ponder religious identity, commonalities and differences, tolerance, and understanding. At lunch, both GHA and St. Jude Middle Schoolers discovered that each group recited blessings before their meals.
After more workshops, Ms. Miller addressed the group. She explained that they were holding the Acceptance Summit on Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for the Trees. Students planted seeds in a joint flowerpot, decorated with all of their names and an inspirational quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We thought that this was a wonderful way to celebrate Martin Luther King Day,” Reverend Hao said. “It’s important to be tolerant and accepting of people with different religious traditions and customs, and also learn that we’re not really very different—we have so much in common…Love of God and love of one’s neighbor are two things that we incorporate into our own lives.”
Rabbi Starr agreed. “They learned so much about one another; it’s important to respect one another despite our differences, or even because of our differences. They also learned that there’s so much they share—similar interests, a similar sense of community…I was delighted to see our students take such pride in their Judaism as they beautifully articulated and shared what Judaism means to their lives.”
“Coming as it did on Tu B’Shevat, and immediately before we commemorate the impactful life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday,” GHA’s Interim Head of School Leah Summers said, “it seems fitting that our students were given this opportunity to expose prejudices and break down stereotypes, and plant the seeds of tolerance.”
"Tu B'Shevat higiya, chag la'ilanot..." and we celebrated the New Year for the Trees all over the school. There were activities galore, from the ITV through the eighth grade, with plenty of delicious fruit and tasty "tree-ts" to eat! Many grades held a Tu B'Shevat seder with fresh and dried fruit. There were also scavenger hunts, games, and a puppet show written and performed by our own B'not Sherut.
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, January 17, 2014)
By Leah Braunstein Levy
At the Greenfield Hebrew Academy, everyone knows Emile Worthy. As “Mr. Emile,” he’s been overseeing the “Club Kef” after-school homework lab for eight years, as well as running the IN THE PAINT Basketball Camp. But not many people realized that Mr. Emile has another life, as a professional jazz vocalist; Emile Worthy has been a fixture on the Atlanta music scene since 1979. With a deep, rich baritone that seems to originate at the very bottom floor of his enormous heart, he has been singing jazz standards in and around Atlanta for over forty years. On Saturday evening, January 25th, at 8:00 pm, Mr. Worthy will perform at Jazz at GHA, an evening of sophisticated entertainment, to benefit the performing arts program at the school.
How did you get started singing?
Well, my father was a singer in New York—I grew up there—and of course, all his friends were musicians. My father knew Louis Armstrong, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Danny Kaye—musicians who performed in New York. I remember, he’d line us up in the living room, all the kids, and we’d sing “Rockin’ Robin” for his friends. I grew up around music. I remember visiting Louis Armstrong’s house and playing on a big, round rug he had—we would all congregate at his house and sing together. Louis Armstrong once told me, “If I can sing, you can sing. Anybody can sing!” He was a wonderful man, very kind.
I sang at my first gig when I was fifteen or sixteen years old, and I was scared to death. You see, I’m very tall, so I looked much older than I was! I did lots of musical theatre in school, and my high school music teacher got me a role in an Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway theater. I sang all over New York.
What brought you to Atlanta?
It was just too cold in New York! My family moved from Brooklyn out to Long Island, to a little town called Wyandanch. There was nothing but farmland out there back then—kids could always make a little money picking strawberries. Well, one day, I went to apply for some job in Roslyn, Long Island, and when I came out, I couldn’t find my car. The snowplow had come by, you see. That was when I decided to leave. I got my car out and as soon as the weather cleared, I jumped in my little Plymouth Duster with a six-pack of Coke and two sandwiches and started driving south. My sister lived in Atlanta. When I got here, Atlanta seemed like home. It felt like the place I was supposed to be.
Was it difficult to break into the music scene here?
No, it wasn’t hard. Every gig you go to, there’s always someone you know. But it is difficult to make a living doing nothing but music here in Atlanta, so I’ve always done a lot of different things. I worked at Emory as a research technician for thirty years, and I do the afterschool program and basketball camp, and I perform around town. I sing at Churchill Grounds, at Café 290 just around the corner from here, all the little clubs, private parties. For the last couple of years, I’ve been ringing in the New Year by performing with Mose Davis, a marvelous piano player, at the Sundial Restaurant in the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza. I’ve always believed that I can do anything I want to do.
At GHA, you’re famous for that line!
You know, when I work with kids, the essence of what I do is motivation. They tell me, “I can’t get the ball in the hoop,” and I tell them, “You cannot say ‘can’t.’” That’s not a good word. It blocks you. If you try, you will work it out, as long as you’re not afraid to fail. The more you try, the more you’ll do. The other day, at Club Kef, one of the little ones said, “I can’t zip up my coat.” Another child turned around and told him, “You can’t say that in front of Mr. Emile; he says there’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it.” It brought tears to my eyes, I was so proud.
You’re a really patient coach.
I know that the more you explain to a child, the deeper the pathway you build from one neuron to another. If you don’t have five minutes and 600 words to explain to a child, than why are you here? I give my students the love and direction I’d give my own kids. And when I coach basketball, I teach the kids that just because they aren’t 5’10”, it doesn’t mean they can’t play.
It’s a long time since your first performance as a teenager. Do you still get nervous?
The time before I sing is nerve-wracking for me. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have; you never stop being a person, you never stop being nervous. Tony Bennett used to say, “If you’re not nervous, you’re going to bomb.” Every time, I’m a nervous wreck until I actually start singing. But once I walk on stage, I’m so into what I’m doing that I don’t even hear the audience. I just sing.
by Aidyn Levin and Sophie Steinberg
On the Shabbat of January eleventh, GHA’s sixth grade went on a Shabbaton. The entire grade was invited to Toco Hills, where the Young Israel of Toco Hills was kind enough to host us. Unfortunately, the synagogue had water damage because a pipe had frozen during the cold snap the previous week, so everything took place at the Torah Day School of Atlanta building. Friday evening started off with the sixth grade girls lighting Shabbat candles. We then joined the Young Israel congregation in davening Ma’ariv and Kabbalat Shabbat. After tefillah, we played a game, and then the meal began. We had delicious food and sang many zemirot (songs). We listened to a great D’var Torah by Eliana Goldin and Hannah Solon. Everyone returned to our hosting houses to get a good night of sleep (at least some of us got a good night’s sleep!).
The next morning, we had our own tefillah with the B’not Sherut: Sarah Tannenbaum, Sara Yisrael, Ma’ayan Dror, and Linoy David. Following that, we went to the main minyan, and concluded davening with kiddush. Young Israel’s Rabbi Adam Starr told us a story to teach us that everybody is a leader in his or her own way, and that helping even one person can make a difference.
We had a delicious lunch followed by singing, dancing, and a D’var Torah by Zach Mainzer and Jaren Linowes. We concluded the meal with birkat hamazon, and then we had free time. People went to their hosting families' houses and hung out.
At 5:30 pm we had Seudah Shlishit hosted by the Steinberg family. We schmoozed, snacked, and ended Shabbat with Havdalah. Our grade had a very meaningful and “learning-ful” experience.
We would like to thank Mrs. Debbie Bornstein, Rabbi Sam Strauss, Mr. Scott Forbus, Rabbi Adam Starr, the B’not Sherut, and all of the families that warmly opened their homes to guests. Lastly, we would like to thank all of the 6th graders at GHA for making it an awesome learning experience. !תודה רבה
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, December 27, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
December 2013 (Atlanta, GA) On December 17, 2013, the Katherine and Jacob Greenfield Hebrew Academy honored Henry Birnbrey and Malcolm Minsk as trustees for life at a wine and cheese reception at the school.
Board President Judy Stolovitz opened the event, citing the Talmudic passage “As my fathers planted for me, so I planted for my children.” She noted that the passage, which appears on the school’s Founders Wall, is a perfect description of what Mr. Birnbrey and Mr. Minsk have accomplished through their years of hard work.
Henry Birnbrey, one of the visionary founders of GHA, embodies the spirit of the Academy. Seeking community support, he convinced the Jewish Federation of the importance of day schools; thus, GHA received its first substantial allocation, beginning the Federation’s continuing support for Jewish education. Mr. Birnbrey’s goal for ensuring the Academy’s financial stability was the establishment of an endowment fund. Further, as of this year, there has been a member of the Birnbrey family attending GHA for 56 continuous years.
Malcolm Minsk, appreciated for his candid assessments and his dry wit, has provided his special expertise in the ongoing oversight of GHA’s financial affairs and trust funds. The fiscal responsibility and accountability that he demands have been invaluable gifts to the school, but his wisdom and astute counsel have been just as important. Mr. Minsk has translated his campaign to make Jewish day school education accessible to everyone by becoming the driving force behind the school’s participation in the ALEF fund, which raises much-needed scholarship funds.
Interim Head of School Leah Summers explained a passage from Mishnah. “Moses received the Torah; our tradition was not just given,” she said, “and the Midrash tells us that this chain of tradition is like a ball that is flung by hand without falling…it is due to the great integrity, character, commitment, and vision of these two individuals whom we honor today that the ball is still in our hands.”
Mr. Birnbrey and Mr. Minsk were then presented with certificates affirming their new status as lifetime trustees by their respective grandchildren.
Mr. Birnbrey thanked GHA “for my four children, for my fifteen grandchildren, for my two children who have taught here—this school has given me so much more than I ever gave to it. The education they received here has made all my children conscious of and committed to their Jewish heritage.”
Mr. Minsk reminisced about becoming involved with Jewish leadership at the tender age of 15, when “Jewish education was a mile wide and an inch deep.” He went on to congratulate GHA for doing “a great job of teaching our children how to be Jewish.” Citing the recent Pew poll that reports increased assimilation, Mr. Minsk charged GHA never to fail to teach their students why to be Jewish.
Dr. David Frankel, past President of the Board, closed the ceremony with a D’var Torah about the different but equally necessary leadership styles of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. “Malcolm is insightful, smart, consistent, passionate, dedicated, colorful, responsible…Henry is a true scholar, a pragmatist who takes the historical perspective, always excited by the opportunity to learn at the age of 90.”
And in that metaphor, he explained, Miriam represents their wives. “The secret to success lies in one’s partner, and we recognize the support, wisdom, and guidance of Betty (Minsk), Ricky (Birnbrey), and Shirlye (Birnbrey).”
By Leah Braunstein Levy
December 2013 (Atlanta, GA) Every student at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy from first through eighth grade learned the basics of computer code last week when GHA participated in “Hour of Code,” a nationwide campaign to promote computer science education.
“It’s been very successful in our school,” said GHA’s Director of Technology, Sue Loubser. “Being able to code is an incredible skill to have, and this program is an excellent introduction to coding. The material provided was of a high quality, and there were a lot of choices for the students. They seemed to really enjoy working through the material and were very proud of their accomplishments."
“Hour of Code” has received support from titans of the computer industry like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, as well as from President Obama. Through their website, code.org, the campaign offers computer tutorials that are appropriate for every age group. The goal of the campaign was to get 10 million students to code for one hour. As of this writing, over 12 million students have participated.
“At first, I was pretty confused,” said Jaren Linowes, a sixth-grade student. “But then after a while, I started to understand what the code was supposed to do—and then it was a lot of fun.”
“One of our second graders was out sick on Friday,” said Jonathan Farazmand, GHA’s Technology Specialist. “But she was so excited about the coding she had done earlier in the week that her mother sent me an email asking for information about how she could continue her coding from home.”
In fact, the program was so popular with the students that Mrs. Loubser invited parents and grandparents to come to GHA to learn the basics of coding as well.
Interim Head of School Leah Summers was also enthusiastic about the school’s participation in the campaign. “At GHA, we take computers and technology very seriously,” she said. “We know how important it is to teach our students to succeed in the 21st century, so this project fits right into our existing curriculum. And the kids loved the chance to get hands-on and do authentic programming.”
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, December 20, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
December 2013 (Atlanta, GA) Greenfield Hebrew Academy science teachers Sarah Topper and Suzanne Sears had assigned, organized, recruited, and arranged, and the science fair was finally underway. The students stood before their carefully crafted display boards and waited for the judges.
“I’m pretty nervous, actually,” confessed 7th grader Danielle Brog, waiting in front of her project, which explored the engineering of pinwheels.
Students from 6th through 8th grade had labored for months on their projects, first doing a practice preliminary project and then formulating their own questions and hypotheses.
“My favorite part of Science Fair,” said Zach Mainzer, a 6th grader with a project on baseball, “is that we get to discover how things work. No one gave us guidelines; we did it all ourselves.”
Avi Spector, who had just finished explaining his suspension bridge project to two judges, was happy to be finished with the hardest part. “I definitely feel better than last year,” he said.
After the interviews, the judges sat down at long tables to debate the merits of each project by category. Judges may not be related to any contestants, but are recruited from the parent body of the lower school, friends of friends, and word of mouth. Judge Walter Reeves, who as “The Georgia Gardener” is a well-known radio host and author, said that he first become involved in the fair through a young friend who raises chickens, GHA alumnus Isabella Cantor.
“I’m learning from these students how I should have done it when I was a kid,” Mr. Reeves said. “When I was eleven years old, I did my entire demonstration so the judges couldn’t see it!”
Students from younger grades also came to explore the science fair, where they learned a lot and got a chance to check out project ideas for the day their turn at the science fair comes around. Fourth grader Elliot Sokol immediately zeroed in on big sister Zoe’s project about the temperatures required to melt different kinds of chocolate. “Hey, look, everybody! My sister did this!” he called. Jonah Gordon studied the display board.
“I would have thought the milk chocolate would melt faster,” said Jonah.
Joshua Alhadeff, also in fourth grade, was examining a project called “Underwater Robots” by Leead Silverstone, a sixth grader.
“This is interesting,” he said. “I’ve always wondered about robots and how they’re made…I’ve always wanted one.”
The winners were:
Sixth grade: First place, Adina Bader; second place, Josh Anderson; third place, Noam Laufer.
Seventh grade: First place, Danielle Brog; second place, Avi Spector; third place, Zoe Sokol.
Eighth grade: First place, Ben Engelman; second place, Zeke Siegman; third place, Rem Hellmann.
Overall winners will continue on to compete in the Fulton County Science Fair. They are: First place overall, Sammy Frankel, 8th grade; and second place overall, Aidyn Levin, 6th grade.
After the announcement of the awards, Interim Director of the Lower School Sylvia Miller spoke to the students.
“Everything we learned about at the Science Fair—the miracle of crystals, the wonders of flight—is all Torah,” she told them. “You learned the miracle of Torah through science projects.”
By Shani Kadosh
I prepared for the Evening of the Arts for about 3 months, because I am a member of the drama class. First we read the play; then we edited the script, made costumes, built the set, and staged the play. I was the only girl in my class to volunteer for the role of the “Little Lady,” the main character of my play. As soon as I got my script, I was nervous. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to memorize my lines, or that I might start a scene too early.
As the Evening of the Arts came closer, my group got pulled from class to rehearse. We started practicing and I realized that I still didn’t know my lines, and that I had only a few days to learn them by heart. Unfortunately, I forgot about it for the next few days. On the day of the Evening of the Arts, Ms. Taryn told me that I had less than 24 hours to memorize my lines; and that was when I really got nervous. That day after school, I had a basketball game. I only got home at 5:30, and I had to be back at school at 6:45.
The traffic was heavy on the way back from school, and I didn’t arrive until 7:00. As soon as Mrs. Taryn saw me, she pulled me in to get changed and practice really quickly. By then, I had realized that I actually did know my lines from practicing them so many times. Then I had to wait for my group’s turn to perform. As my turn to speak was coming up, a surge of nervousness hit me, but I had to shake it off.
My performance was good—and then I found myself saying a word that wasn’t in the script. The second it came out of my mouth, I knew it was incorrect. I ignored it until the end of the play. Once the play was over, we bowed and the audience applauded. That’s when I told Ms. Taryn that I had made a mistake. She told me that because I had not called attention to the mistake and had moved on smoothly, neither she nor anyone else in the auditorium had even noticed that I said the same word twice in one sentence.
After all the performances ended, all the parents and children headed to Homburger Commons, where Mrs. Knapp, the art teacher, was selling the students’ framed artwork. I spotted my artwork in the colorful display, and my parents bought the picture I had made in art class. Finally, we all enjoyed a yummy sufganiah (jelly doughnut) in honor of Chanukah!
By Leah Braunstein Levy
What does it mean to be a hero?
This was the question for the middle school patrons of the Café Dilemma, a thoughtful (and tasty) Chanukah program from GHA’s B’not Sherut (Linoy David, Maayan Dror, Sarah Tannenbaum, and Sara Yisrael). The B’not Sherut set up the school’s boardroom just like an Israeli café, creating a relaxed and cool Tel Aviv vibe at intimate little tables dotted with flowerpot centerpieces. It was the ideal spot to indulge in the Israeli national pastime of schmoozing over a cup of coffee and a pastry—in this case, a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of rugelach.
But the menu indicated how unusual this Israel café really was. Instead of a Chanukah menu of tasty treats, there was a menu of heroes—because Chanukah is the story of bravery as well as the story of miracles. Students watched a video presentation featuring a number of people, real and fictional, performing acts of heroism. Afterwards, each table was asked to discuss what they had seen and choose the “biggest hero” from the menus.
The middle schoolers had to ponder the qualities of heroism, as well as to analyze many mitigating factors to select their heroes. There were Israeli soldiers represented, including Roi Klein, who sacrificed his life for his comrades by diving on a grenade, and Aharon Karov, who was severely wounded days after his own wedding because he didn’t feel right about taking time off even though he was entitled to do so. Students also saw two men moving a car out of the way of an oncoming train, a couple confronting a bike thief, and fictional characters.
One group chose Roi Klein, because he knew that he would definitely die; another chose Aharon Karov, because he didn’t have to be on active duty. A third group settled on the men who pushed the car away from the oncoming train. There was hot debate on the bravery required to “do the right thing”; ordinary or extraordinary?
Café Dilemma was open for only a few hours, but it was clear that it would remain on the minds of its patrons for a long time.
(appeared in the Dunwoody Crier, December 18, 2013)
December 2013 (Atlanta, GA) It was the last day of Chanukah, and the last chance to celebrate—so GHA parents, grandparents, and friends turned out to applaud their little performers in the Early Childhood department.
All the children performed songs, often with accompanying dances, to the delight of the audience. Afterwards, parents visited classrooms to admire the students’ Chanukah-themed artwork and homemade menorahs.
The party also featured plenty of sufganiyot, the traditional jelly doughnuts—and many children waved goodbye with faces glowing through a light dusting of powdered sugar.
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, December 13, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
December 2013 (Atlanta, GA) The Greenfield Hebrew Academy was delighted to host a two-man show performed completely in Hebrew and starring Elad Mizrahi and Keren Meiri of the Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth, based in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The performance, called “Mr. Simon’s Shoes,” was a play within a play that explored children’s feelings about old and new, familiar and strange, within the framework of the story of an American girl who moves to Israel and finds it hard to feel at home. GHA invited the Epstein School to join them for the performance, and the actors were so vivid and entertaining that even those with limited Hebrew skills enjoyed it.
“The kids were great—it was nice to see American children so engaged in a play in Hebrew,” said Mr. Mizrahi. “Israel is ours,” Ms. Meiri added, “but the US is something else. They laughed in all the right places!”
“Theater is an international language,” said Mr. Mizrahi.
The Hebrew language teachers at GHA also enjoyed the show. Rinat Porat-Cohen approached the stage to tell the actors how moving she found their portrayal of an American girl trying to find her place in Israel. “I had tears in my eyes,” she said.
“It was very cute, and the actors were terrific,” said teacher Yaira Auz.
“Our love for Israel is at the heart of the GHA mission,” said Interim Head of School Leah Summers. “We are so grateful to the Israeli Consulate for bringing us such a wonderful way to connect to life in Israel—and to exercise our Ivrit! It’s so important to us that our students get an authentic experience of the Hebrew language.”
Atlanta was only the first stop for “Mr. Simon’s Shoes.” Mr. Mizrahi and Ms. Meiri will be taking their show to Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, carrying all the scenery, costumes and props with them. “Three bags for the show, two for us, and our carry-on luggage,” explained Mr. Mizrahi.
The tour was arranged by the Israeli House, a joint project of Israel’s Ministry of Immigration and Absorption and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its purpose is to maintain and strengthen the link between the State of Israel and Israelis living abroad, and the Israeli House provides the community with cultural events, children’s activities, and holiday celebrations, all in Hebrew.
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, December 6, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
November 2013 (Atlanta, GA) First graders at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy donned tricorns and mob caps to perform at their annual Colonial Festival, celebrating their early American history unit just in time for Thanksgiving.
Each year, the first grade studies Colonial America with teachers Beth Intro, Gail Skolsky, and Chris Gleklen. These teachers use a variety of study methods to make their students experts on life in Colonial America, beginning with an examination of what “history” means. They asked students about their personal histories: What were their first words? What did they look like as babies? After putting these memories into a memory quilt, as was popular in the Colonial era, the class moved on to external objects: What did the first car or the first phone look like?
One class studied life in Colonial schools and put on a play to share their knowledge with the other class (did you know that students had to bring their own firewood to school?). They learned how to do needlepoint and cross-stitch samplers, and practiced weaving with paper to make placemats. They made lanterns, flags, and their own china teacups and saucers. They studied the Declaration of Independence and experimented with their own declarations. They examined the lives of famous Jews of Colonial America. There was even a beautiful replica of the Mayflower on display, built by GHA volunteer (and professional architect) Jean Paul Pentecouteau.
The culmination of all this hard work took place on Friday when first graders dressed in period costumes invited friends and family to GHA, performed a concert of patriotic songs for them (with sign-language translators from the middle-school elective class), and danced the Minuet and a square dance onstage. At stations around the room, they also demonstrated the use of natural dyes to color cloth, how to make butter and sachets, how to write with quill and ink, how to seal envelopes with red sealing wax, and showed everyone how to play with colonial toys.
At the close of the program, the first graders presented Interim Head of School Leah Summers with a cross-stitch “Home Sweet Home” sampler to decorate the GHA hallways. Another cross-stitch sampler was presented to retired GHA teacher Sharon Sarnat, who first instituted the annual Colonial festival—by her first-grader granddaughter, Talya Sarnat.
“My favorite part was the singing,” said Kayla Wallenstein. Micah Baron volunteered, “I like the singing AND the dancing.” Eliana Linsider added, “The most interesting thing I learned was all about the thirteen colonies.”
“This program was such a perfect example of cross-disciplinary education,” said Esther Shulkes, mother of first grader Shmuel Shulkes. “Every subject was incorporated; my son was completely immersed in the experience.”
First grade teacher Beth Intro was delighted by the children’s enthusiastic performances and demonstrations. She remarked, “This is what we hope for, that through all these hands-on lessons—the baking, the drama, the arts and crafts—they’ll always remember how they went back in time, and really lived our history for a day.”
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, December 6, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
November 2013 (Atlanta, GA) Every year, the Fernbank Museum presents an exhibit called “Winter Wonderland.” This year, Fernbank asked the Consulate of Israel and the Greenfield Hebrew Academy to participate in the exhibit by making “menorahs with a story.”
Inspired by Jewish/Israeli stories and songs, the GHA seventh-grade class created four beautiful chanukiot, now on display at the Fernbank Museum.
The project was led by GHA’s Hebrew Language teacher Yaira Auz, with the able assistance of Hebrew teachers Molly Peled and Pazit Shelnutt, as well as Judy Merlin, Assistant to the Head of School.
“We were so impressed with our students’ creativity,” said Ms. Auz. “And we are grateful for the opportunity to build an authentic connection between Israel, our school, and the Atlanta community.”
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, December 6, 2013)
By Leah Braunstein Levy
November 2013 (Atlanta, GA) The Greenfield Hebrew Academy hosted The First Annual Celebration of Educational Theatre on Sunday, November 17—and it was a day packed with remarkable performances and interesting workshops.
The performances included the GHA Players in their one-act play, Children of the Wire Fence. The play, written by Taryn Carmona and Joel Coady of GHA’s own theatre department, was modified by the students, who also handled lighting, blocking, costuming, and set design. Under the leadership of teacher and director Taryn Carmona, assistant director Brian Harrison, technical director Joel Coady, costumer Liz Whittemore, master carpenter Stevyn Carmona, and properties manager Carla Nixon, the GHA Players were a tremendous hit.
But they were not the only performers at this extravaganza. As a celebration of educational theatre, it seemed only right to open the festival with a group of interns from the Atlanta Shakespeare Company. These talented young adults dramatized a lesson on the works of Shakespeare that was both fascinating and funny, mesmerizing audience members from kindergarteners to great-grandmothers.
The third group of performers on the bill were the teenagers of the Christian Magby Company. This theatre company was founded by 19 year old Christian Magby when he was a high school student, and is comprised of high school and college students. The troupe presented “Out of the Box,” a musical exploration of what it means to be your own person that was written by Christian himself when he was only 15. The twenty young performers dazzled with their acting and their incredible singing.
The last group to take the stage was Rathskeller, the Emory University improvisational theatre troupe. Rathskeller had the attendees in stitches with their spur-of-the-moment humor. Their performance required a lot of audience participation, and students were clamoring to be next on the stage to participate in a sketch.
Between performances, attendees enjoyed workshops taught by real working actors. Stevyn Carmona, who taught the stage combat workshop, had participants weaving and bobbing (and taking some dazzlingly dramatic fake falls). The musical theatre workshop, led by Victoria Dunn, sang and danced their way through “Wicked” and “Hairspray.”
“The student participants were so talented, and the performances were stunning!” said Interim Head of School Leah Summers. “We all had a wonderful time, and we can’t wait to host the festival again next year!”
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, November 15, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
November 2013 (Atlanta, GA) Excitement rippled through the halls of GHA as 11-year-old Orli Rose returned to the school that she had left two years before. The Rose family had been a vital part of the GHA family for a long time, with both Dr. Daniel and Jacqueline Rose teaching at GHA and their children attending the school. The Roses had returned to their home in Israel; but although they were out of sight, they were never out of the minds or hearts of their friends at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy.
Orli had come to the school to speak about a cause that had long been very important to the Rose family—the Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petach Tikva, Israel. In 2006, a young cousin of theirs had been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. The Rose family, eager to help somehow, had started running races to benefit the hospital that had done so much to bring their little relative good health.
So when Orli was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January of 2013, the Roses already knew where the best care was to be found. And now that Orli has completed her treatment, once again, the Roses are giving back—and the Greenfield Hebrew Academy is standing right behind them, ready to help.
Spearheaded by Orli’s former classmates, now in the sixth grade, GHA has created a mitzvah project to benefit the Schneider Children’s Hospital. It will include a 5K run/walk called LaRutz LaTet L’ha’Ir, (“to run, to give, to light”). L’ha’Ir refers to both the date the race will be run (November 26, just a few days before Chanukah) and to Orli’s name, which means, “my light.”
“The doctors and nurses who looked after me were really nice,” explained Orli. “Once, a rabbi there even gave me a bracha (blessing) for good health.”
Each family at GHA is being asked to contribute at least $10 to the fundraiser. Older students will complete the 5 kilometer circuit between 10:00 am and noon on February 26, while younger students will do their walk/run around the soccer field. Meanwhile, in Israel Dr. Rose has created a marathon that will be run from the family home to the grounds of the Schneider Children’s Hospital, 42.2 kilometers, with a carnival at the finish line. All funds raised from both events will be donated directly to the hospital.
“Our students may graduate or move away, but we never forget them. They are always part of our GHA family, and members of a family care for each other,” says Interim Head of School Leah Summers. “We are so grateful to the Schneider Children’s Hospital for taking such great care of Orli, and we’re delighted to have the chance to ‘pay it forward’ to help other children to get the care they need.”
Editor's Note: Inclement weather prevented our walk, but we successfully raised enough funds to finish the Rose family's proposed outdoor playground at Schneider Children's Hospital. We will continue to accept donations for the hospital.
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, November 8, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
The Greenfield Hebrew Academy’s new electives program is bringing a lot of excitement to the school, in more ways than anyone expected.
For example, the Forensic Science class invited the Mock Trial class to join them in hosting Special Agent Agie George and Special Agent David Norman of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Special Agent George, who works in Drug Enforcement, and Special Agent Norman, who is a crime scene specialist, began with a fascinating presentation that covered the history of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation from its inception in 1937. Special Agent George explained the requirements to become a GBI agent—and it was a lengthy list, beginning with a bachelor’s degree and including many kinds of training (including in the martial arts!).
Students learned that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation usually becomes involved in a case at the request of local government officials, such as law enforcement officials or judges. Agent George and Agent Norman explained the functions of various departments at GBI, and described several interesting and famous cases with which they had been involved. They also displayed a bewildering array of equipment, including bulletproof vests, protective equipment of all shapes and sizes, and enormous protective suits for clearing out homes that had been used as labs to create illegal drugs.
However, the most exciting part was when the students trooped out to the Crime Scene Truck, a mobile laboratory containing everything an agent might need to collect evidence from a crime scene, including a high-tech office with sophisticated lab equipment right in the back of the truck. Agent Norman explained how everything was, and even demonstrated one procedure by taking sixth-grader Joseph Arbiser’s fingerprints. “Now they’ve got my fingerprints,” Joseph remarked. He smiled. “If I ever commit a crime, they’ll know who did it!”
“The whole thing was so interesting, but the best part was seeing inside the truck,” said Eitan Linsider, a student in the Mock Trial class.
Teacher Christina Valenti, who arranged the visit, was delighted that the students enjoyed it so much. “The presentation was just fascinating,” she said. “Agent George and Agent Norman did a terrific job. I’m grateful that they took so much time to teach our kids about the great work of the GBI.”
Levi Zindler agreed. “I think that people don’t realize what amazing work they do,” he said. “Without them, we’d have a lot more crime in Atlanta.”
By Ben Ogden
It was the first practice of the GHA soccer season, and we were destined to win the championship. But there we were, a rabble of teenaged boys standing before Coach Gavi Abraham, expecting to play like we did at recess. We couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The practices were hard—really hard. By the end of the first few practices, four kids had quit. But it was all worth it when we played our first game against Intown. Although we were beaten handily, we came together as a team. We understood that the season would be a hard fight. We’d have to claw our way to victory.
So there we were on that Tuesday afternoon at Brandon Hall, ready to play against Atlanta Academy for the championship. As the loudspeaker announced our names and positions, I thought back to all the memories of our practices. I knew that our team would perform and pull through.
Every movement was flawless. And we won!
When the time ran out, we shared tears and laughs, hugs and pictures. I sank to my knees, dizzy with happiness. We had become the best soccer team in our division. We had gone from that rabble of boys to champions, and it was only possible with Coach Gavi’s support. We became more than a team; we became brothers.
It was one of the best experiences of my life.
By Devorah Chasen and Liana Slomka
Summer clinics, endless after-school practices, good sportsmanship, and commitment led the GHA Wolves Volleyball Teams A and B to our big tournaments. We had suffered injuries and complications over the season; but in the end, we were always able to pick ourselves up and work as a team. During practices, we exercised our skills, as well as our teamwork and habits. Our bumps, sets, spikes, and serves improved greatly throughout the season. Ms. Penny Eisenstein, GHA’s Head of Health and P.E. and Athletic Director, was tough on us when we started, but she drilled us almost to perfection.
A mixture of underhand serves, overhand serves, digging, calling, and cheering helped us win all of our games. Both A- and B-Teams were undefeated until the tournament. Ms. Eisenstein never forgot to remind us that "we are the team to beat".
B-Team's championship game took place on Monday, October 7th at Greenfield Hebrew Academy. Having been undefeated in their division, the B- Team took the number one spot and played McGinnis Woods, fourth place. After an exciting two games, the B-Team won, giving them a place in the Finals. Next, Atlanta Academy and Atlanta Girls School played each other and Atlanta Academy secured the other place in the Finals. In a tight, exciting match, GHA B-team won the championship!
A-Team had their championship game on Wednesday, October 9th at Torah Day School of Atlanta. GHA was undefeated and in first place, so they played the fourth place team, Heritage. With their heads held high, GHA beat Heritage in a quick two games, securing a definite second place. Then Atlanta Academy beat Atlanta Girls' School (and in a freak accident, they broke the second place trophy in the process!). The GHA Wolves Team A took last place in the championship against the only team to have defeated them—and in a very close match, Atlanta Academy won 1st place in the division by a very close two points.
In the end, what really matters is all the hard work both teams put in, and the skills we learned in the process. We learned teamwork and good sportsmanship, both valuable skills that we will take with us wherever we go in life. We are thankful to have had such an exciting season.
By Liana Slomka and Deborah Broyde
The other day, we walked into class and were met by our teacher, Mrs. Robyn Cooper. She was wearing a crazy detective getup, and she was inspecting everyone with a huge magnifying glass. She told us that there was a man named Guapo Arcsin robbing places all over South America. On the bulletin board were the names, pictures, occupations, and favorite numbers of six different people. One of them, we were told, was disguising him- or herself as Guapo.
Guapo had left a "cryptic text message," and it was our job to decode it. The text said,
omg u arent gonna figure this out my num is perfect
(n-Qn)^(G/P) - (SQRT(A-W)) - 3Qn
rofl Guapo Too Slick Arcsin.
By exploring six different crime scenes, we learned which numbers the letters were meant to represent. Each scene was described and had an attached letter from Guapo.
Each scene held clues, so that we could figure out each letter. Once we had plugged in all the numbers, we solved the equation, and the end result was the favorite number of one of the six personalities.
From this project, we learned the symbols for some equations that we hadn't known, like square root (SQRT) and exponents (^). We used square root approximation and other important life skills (we also learned some Spanish). It was a successful project and review.
(Appears in the Jewish Georgian, December 2013/January 2014)
By Leah Braunstein Levy
October, 2013 (Atlanta, GA) The Greenfield Hebrew Academy Middle School students waited expectantly in their seats, an undercurrent of uneasiness adding a certain nervous vibration to the air. Assemblies are always exciting, if only for the novelty of something different in a day; but they knew what they were assembled to hear. The memories of a Holocaust survivor can be confusing and frightening to the young. This Holocaust survivor, they knew, was George Topas, grandparent to GHA students. This made it an even more personal experience for them. This provided a little context.
Miriam Cann, the daughter of Mr. Topas and the parent of three GHA students—two of whom were in the audience—spoke first.
“I am humbled to stand here before you, the Greenfield Hebrew Academy Middle School,” she began. “You are very important people. You have been handpicked on high for an important mission. You are the last generation of Jews that will receive living testimony about the Holocaust.
“It will be your mission to remember what you hear, to teach your children and their children about it…Beyond that, as you listen to what my father has to say, and when you have the opportunity to hear or read other survivors’ stories, I also want you to imbibe a good dose of courage from their experiences, because that’s what it will take to complete your mission. To stand up to those who say the Holocaust didn’t happen, and to inspire those who become complacent and afraid to do what is right. And to continue rebuilding the Jewish life that was lost.”
George Topas took the stage, looking younger than his age—88, as he was almost fifteen years old when World War II erupted, only a year or two older than the middle school students listening to him speak. He shared his story simply and kindly, telling stories that were inspiring and amazing as well as tragic and heartbreaking. Students seemed comforted by the strength that was evident as he spoke, a strength of body, mind, and faith. He had suffered, but he was not broken, and he shared his story as a revelation of the way that the hand of God touched his life.
“Poland, where I come from, had the largest concentration of Jews in Europe,” he began. “There were six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, and three million were from Poland. Of those, half a million were from Warsaw, the city I lived in.” He described the bustle and flow of upper-middle class Jewish life in Warsaw—the day schools, the synagogues (including the stately Great Synagogue, where he had celebrated his bar mitzvah just two years before the war)—and the family-owned shoe company that comfortably supported his extended family.
Mr. Topas’ father, uneasy about increasing anti-Semitism in Europe, urged his grandfather to give up the factory and leave. He did not succeed. At that time, it was hard to believe that a community so large, so strong, and with so many solid supports in place could ever fall, and the Topas family continued to live in Warsaw. However, when the time came to choose a high school for young George, his father chose a Zionist agricultural boarding school in the country, in an attempt to prepare George for a life outside of Poland. Other countries would prefer their own professionals, he reasoned, but a farmer would always be able to support himself anywhere. This decision, as it turned out, would contribute a good deal to preserving George’s life.
In the course of his agricultural studies, Mr. Topas worked hard on the school’s farm, building his physical strength and stamina. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, he was young, strong, and had a valuable skill to supplement his own buoyant resourcefulness.
At the war’s beginning, he returned to the Warsaw Ghetto to be with his family. Only his grandmother had managed to leave for the U.S., on one of the last boats out of Poland.
“Under the German occupation, every day there was a new decree. First Poles aren’t allowed to work for Jews, then only Jewish doctors can treat Jews, then no public transportation for Jews, until life was stifled. But the Jews managed to live,” said Mr. Topas. “Our shoe company, which was one of the largest in Poland, was confiscated; so we started a little bakery on the third floor of our apartment building. There were epidemics and poverty, and the people who ate only what the Germans allotted them starved in the streets.”
Young, strong, and trained in agriculture, George was sent to help with the harvest in the countryside. “Conditions there were, in many ways, better than at home in the Ghetto—at least there was enough to eat,” he said. He returned home that winter to find his family sitting shiva because his grandfather had died of typhoid fever.
“On Tisha B’Av 1942,” he said, “they started the ‘evacuation’ of Jews from the Ghetto. The first trainload of Jews was sent to Treblinka.”
Again, George was interned at a work camp near the Ghetto, Bielany. But he was desperately worried about his family. “So I told them that I could repair shoes, if only they let me go back home to get my tools. An armed guard escorted me to the Ghetto, but I disappeared into the maze of alleys and buildings.” Home again, he was happy to be reunited with his family, but then he heard rumors that the train station in the Ghetto was being repaired. George didn’t wait to get the report verified—“bad news, you can always believe.” He volunteered for another Luftwaffe work camp and was sent to an airfield outside of Warsaw. The work was hard, but the Luftwaffe soldiers weren’t as brutal as the SS. He was careful to recite morning prayers every day; once, a furious guard caught him wearing tefillin and destroyed them, but he continued his (abbreviated) prayers each morning before work.
When the prisoners heard that the camp would be ‘evacuated’ in 1943, George and a fellow named Moshe Kessel planned an escape. However, when they got up that night to leave, they found their shoes missing. “You can’t run barefoot,” explained Mr. Topas. “So we decided that we were meant to share the fate of our group.” The next morning, the shoes were back in place—but that day, all the workers were loaded onto a train headed for the death camp of Majdanek.
George and his group were unloaded from the train and marched off towards an unknown fate. At that desperate moment, George’s acquaintance Moshe Kessel produced a letter from the head of their previous camp that stated that they were trained laborers. The entire group of 88 men (and some 70 people who had the good luck to be following them) were immediately diverted from the line. As they waited for their next directions, a Jewish worker approached them. “Brothers,” he said, “you have just been pulled out of the ovens.”
The group was sent on to yet another labor camp, Budzyn, where George was a landscaper. One day, he was sent on an errand to fetch hot water for some visiting soldiers. He was startled to find that there were twelve officers in black uniforms; the extermination command! All the workers were confined to their camp, with double locks and armed guards. Mr. Topas expected the worst at any moment. But to his astonishment, the next day, their camp was unlocked and they were sent to work as usual. He never understood what had happened until nearly fifty years later, when he met a man named David Tannenbaum at a gathering of Holocaust survivors.
“He had been at the front office in the aircraft factory at that camp; he was just a boy, he lit the fires. He worked for the director of the factory, a German named Kindler.”
David Tannenbaum explained that Mr. Kindler had once modified an airplane for a secret Nazi mission to rescue Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator, and bring him to see Hitler in Berlin. The general in charge of the mission, Otto Skorzeny, had thanked Mr. Kindler profusely for his work, and told him to call if he ever needed a favor. That day, when Mr. Kindler found that his Jewish workers were about to be exterminated, he called in that favor and saved them all.
But as the war wound down and the Germans became increasingly pressed, they moved George to a camp called Flossenbuerg, inside Germany. When they asked the prisoners to register their skills, he claimed to be a chemist—though he knew nothing about chemistry. He was assigned to work on an invention.
“That shows you how clever the Germans were,” he said. “I worked in a warm office, I got extra rations, and I had no idea what I was doing. I found a copy of David Copperfield in the office, and I used it to teach myself English, for after the war.”
The end of the war was coming soon, and the Nazis knew it. They evacuated the camp on a death march, trying to get the prisoners away before the allies got there, to cover up the evidence of their crimes. After marching three days, George Topas was finally liberated from the horrors of the camps by the U.S. army, 11th Division.
“And the very next day…” He paused. The students waited breathlessly.
“I joined the United States Army!”
George Topas immediately began serving as a translator for the army; in fact, he translated their terms of surrender to a group of German officers.
After World War II, Mr. Topas worked in intelligence for the U.S. Army, pursuing Nazis for trial. He testified at a Nazi war crimes trial. He went to college on the GI bill, becoming a successful electrical contractor and building a life in Lakewood, where his grandmother had settled. He was a religious man, who contributed to his community and made sure his children had Jewish educations. Later in life, he went back to school and earned a master’s degree in history, and he wrote a book about his experiences, The Iron Furnace (University of Kentucky Press). None of his immediate family in the Warsaw Ghetto survived.
After the presentation, a student asked, “What helped you keep your faith in God?”
Mr. Topas answered simply, “I was brought up that way. I prayed every day. When the war began and the Germans came marching past, my father told me, ‘Someday, you’ll see these soldiers, and they will be a miserable bunch,’ and that’s exactly what happened. The most important thing I learned was to believe in God and act accordingly. And He protected me.”
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, October 16, 2013)
By Devorah Chasen, Leah Bader, and Liana Slomka
The eighth grade at Greenfield Hebrew Academy recently spent Shabbat at the beautiful campus of Ramah Darom. It was an experience that brought our grade together through services, textual learning, activities, and games.
We began our exciting weekend by touring the camp and getting ready for Shabbat. The women and girls welcomed in the Shabbat with candlelighting. That night we had services, and we learned about the Parshat Hashavua. Our new B'not Sherut, Sarah, Linoy, Maayan, and Sara, taught us songs and cheers to bring the spirit of Shabbat into our souls. We ate an enormous camp-cooked meal together, which filled us up both physically and spiritually—because we know that true Judaism is based on Torah, mitzvoth, and food!
The next morning, we slept in and enjoyed the beautiful North Georgia mountain views and a sweet breakfast. We davened the shacharit prayers and read from the Torah. We were divided into groups, and each group was assigned an aliyah and asked to imagine how they would "tweet" about it in 14 words or less. #fun! We completed our tefillah and at Kiddush, we enjoyed some more…FOOD!
In the afternoon, we had time to wander around the camp and enjoy the facilities, including relaxing on the giant "Spider Web" hammock. This was followed by a Shabbat walk to the beautiful waterfall inside the camp.
We returned to the center of the camp for more davening and Talmud study. Then more food, glorious food! Shabbat came to an end with a Havdallah service under the stars. We started the new week and ended the Shabbaton by watching the movie Pay It Forward, which related to our earlier activities about making ethical decisions.
The weekend was a blast and brought the teachers, the B'not Sherut, and our whole grade much closer. We all had a great time!
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, October 4, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
August 2013 (Atlanta, GA) The Greenfield Hebrew Academy Middle School has just introduced a new electives program, and fifth through eighth graders are reveling in their new freedom to choose from eleven new educational options.
“So often, education focuses so intensely on covering the Common Core subjects that children have no opportunity to pursue their own interests, explore their own passions,” said Interim Head of School Leah Summers. “At GHA, we feel it’s very important for our students to feel like they’re taking ownership of their education.”
At the beginning of the school year, the middle schoolers chose their top two options by strolling around an Electives Fair. Here, the tables were turned: the teachers constructed display boards to explain their subjects, and the students chose their favorites. Results were tallied and students were assigned to a class that was certain to interest them. And there truly seems to be something for everybody; options included robotics, psychology, philosophy, cooking, business ethics, forensic science, sign language, mock trial, studio art, journalism, and technical theater.
“We felt that it was important to have the widest variety of classes possible, to be sure that every single student can learn something that really fascinates him or her,” said Mrs. Summers. Some students had a hard time deciding, but others zeroed in on their top two choices immediately. Eliana Goldin faced a tough decision: there are two careers she might someday like to do, and both were represented.
“I’ve wanted to be a reporter or a lawyer since last year, so I’m glad to get a chance to learn about both in my own school,” she said.
A group of potential entrepreneurs clustered around the business ethics presentation. Based on the popular “Shark Tank” television series and taught by Rabbi Ari Karp and Jonathan Farazmand, it combines Mr. Farazmand’s business expertise—he’s already sold his first start-up—with Rabbi Karp’s thorough knowledge of the Jewish business ethics of the Talmud.
“For example, the cooking class has a MasterChef theme, but it incorporates information about nutrition and focuses on traditional ethnic Jewish cuisines from all over the world,” explained Mrs. Summers. “All our electives are of real academic value; we don’t offer them options that are more appropriate for after-school programs. These are serious classes; they’re just not part of the standard curriculum.”
Certain patterns became apparent—it turns out that, among 5th through 8th grade boys, a large percentage selected robotics as their first or second choice. However, the robotics elective is not exclusively male and everyone was content with his or her placement. Students who didn’t get their first choices will have another opportunity during second semester, when the procedure will be repeated and the placements reshuffled.
“I am excited to be doing Mock Trial,” said Gideon Levy. “I hope that we get to do some kind of crime case. I’d like to try being the prosecutor.”
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, September 24, 2013)
By Leah Braunstein Levy
September, 2013 (Atlanta, GA) Greenfield Hebrew Academy’s first grade M’silot class is lined up on the rug, expectant, eager. They’re a small group, but they have big energy. They want to demonstrate how they do the “doubles rap.”
“Ready?” teacher Gail Skolsky asks.
They are more than ready. They are about to turn addition facts into a song-and-dance number.
“Zero plus zero is zero, oh!
One plus one is two, oooh!
Two plus two is four, more!
Three plus three is six, kicks!”
(Here, they all kick like a chorus line.) And so it goes, up to “ten plus ten is twenty, that’s plenty!”
Then they take out their needlepoint, because “the whole first grade is studying Colonial America—and needlepoint is amazing for coordinating fine motor skills,” Ms. Skolsky explains. The children are not interested in educational technique; all they know is that they love to learn in Ms. Skolsky’s class.
Fourteen years ago, Phyllis Rosenthal, a director at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy, identified something missing here in Atlanta. Where could children with learning differences find a program tailored to their individual needs while maintaining their Jewish culture? With the support of GHA administration, Ms. Rosenthal traveled around the country, observing other programs for children who learn differently; she and her staff searched the US for the latest methods to best teach these students. They developed their own curricula to apply the new styles of education to core curriculum subjects as well as Judaic Studies and Hebrew language. After a year of exhaustive preparation, GHA’s Matthew Blumenthal M’silot program prepared to launch with its first eight students in 1999.
“The parents of our first eight students were really pioneers,” Ms. Rosenthal remembers. “The program didn’t exist; there was no one for them to observe, no experienced parents to meet. Our first teachers were working with me to invent whole new curricula. When I was developing the program, there was nothing out there like us…so I guess I was a pioneer, too!”
Today, the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot program reaches from kindergarten through eighth grade, teaching students with learning differences who need a specialized learning environment.
“Our students have average to above-average intelligence, but before they come to M’silot, they find that they are not responding to traditional instruction. They’re just not making the progress that they should,” explains Ms. Rosenthal. “These are children who need specialized instruction to succeed. They may have deficits in language, in visual processing, in auditory processing, in memory. They may have issues with motor skills. They need extra support, or just different techniques to become the lifelong learners we know they can be.”
To this end, every student in M’silot has his or her own customized IEP (Individual Education Plan). There are small classes, to enable students to get individual attention; all their teachers have expertise in the field of learning disabilities, including the Judaics teachers. The Orton-Gillingham approach to reading is one of the approaches M’silot uses for instruction, and teachers stay up-to-date on the latest thinking in education. First-rate technology is available for the students, with literacy support software, a SMARTBoard in every classroom, and a laptop for every student in the third grade and above.
Speech and language specialists are a built-in part of the program, including the recent addition of a Social Thinking counselor to coach students in social communication, known to be linked to language skills. There is also an occupational therapist with a state-of-the-art OT gym on the premises. All this makes integrating all the pieces of the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot education easy and seamless.
Of course, as part of the Greenfield Hebrew Academy, M’silot students also learn to embrace their Jewish heritage with the study of Torah and Jewish customs. GHA’s love for Israel is a vital part of its mission, and children learn reading, writing, and conversational Hebrew using differentiated instruction.
One of the unique characteristics of the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot program is that although it is a school within a school, M’silot students are also very much of the school. For everything other than their specific classroom lessons, the M’silot students are completely integrated with, and a full part of, the rest of their grade.
Ms. Rosenthal stresses that one of the most important things the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot program does is teach their students that there are “All Kinds of Minds.” Students learn to identify their own learning styles, their own strengths and weaknesses, and identify strategies and techniques to help them achieve their goals. This makes their transitions back into mainstream education much smoother.
“A child who knows what he needs is a child prepared to ask and to become successful,” Ms. Rosenthal said.
Because of the individual attention, M’silot students are evaluated and considered for transition every year. This support continues throughout their years at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy; to smooth the entry to high school, a M’silot team even visits all the local high schools to evaluate their suitability for individual students.
The Matthew Blumenthal M’silot program also offers the Running Start kindergarten, a program designed to boost at-risk learners. With early intervention, by teaching techniques for each learning style, some of these issues can be addressed before they become problematic for the students.
“Our Running Start kindergarteners might start first grade in the mainstream class, with or without support, or in the M’silot first grade, or they might attend a year of mainstream kindergarten. We use that year as a diagnostic tool, and work with parents to determine the best path for each child,” says Ms. Rosenthal.
Several schools have come to observe GHA’s Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program, which is nationally known for its excellence. Most recently, a day school in California and a New York school for students with language differences have consulted with Ms. Rosenthal, planning to use M’silot as a model for their own programs.
“Here at GHA, we believe that every child is capable of learning. It’s an essential part of our mission to nurture all our students, to give them the support they need to grow as learners and achievers,” says Ms. Summers. “We actualize the adage Chanoch hana’ar al pi darko, ‘teach each student in his or her own way.’ It is our job as educators to figure out the best way for them to learn."
The Matthew Blumenthal M’silot program is named for a Greenfield Hebrew Academy alumnus. In 1999, Matthew’s grandparents, Saul and Adele Blumenthal, z”l, donated the seed money to start up the M’silot program in his memory. In 2011, Matthew’s parents, Elaine and Jerry Blumenthal, continued the work that their family started with a sustaining gift.
Graduates of M’silot express their gratitude for the support, the skills, and the nurturing they found there. One graduate explains, “I was always determined to do as much as I can and reach for the highest goals. M’silot gave me the tools to do that.”
Another graduate rattled off the names of colleges that had accepted her. “Had I not been in a program like M’silot, I might not have made it into schools like this,” she says. Her father agrees, and credits the foundation she received from M’silot for making her an organized, efficient learner.
“’M’silot’ is the Hebrew word for ‘pathways,’” Ms. Rosenthal explains, “and we have always stressed that, although different children take different pathways to learning, they arrive at the same place in the end.”
by Leah Braunstein Levy
September 2013 (Atlanta, GA) It has been said that GHA has the biggest sukkah in Atlanta. This claim can’t be verified, but the Greenfield Hebrew Academy’s sukkah is certainly among the biggest… and busiest.
During Chol HaMoed, the GHA sukkah welcomed all its students for lunch, as usual. They seem to enjoy eating in this al fresco version of the cafeteria, with decorations brightening the walls and light dappling down through the bamboo mats and paper chains. However, the sukkah was also the scene of some very special holiday activities.
B'not Sherut Linoy David, Maayan Dror, Sarah Tannenbaum, and Sara Yisrael developed and implemented activities that included singing and dancing for the ECD through second grades, a jigsaw puzzle race for the fifth grade, and a scavenger hunt entitled "The Amazing Sukkah Race" for the sixth through eighth grades.
Finally, GHA’s third and fourth graders welcomed over a hundred guests to a special day of learning. The weather did not cooperate, and the event did not take place in the school sukkah as planned; however, the spirit of joy and study still permeated the Homburger Commons. Rabbi Adam Starr, the posek for the Greenfield Hebrew Academy, spoke about how the holiday of Sukkot teaches the Jewish people about "Joyous Jewish Journeys."
Interim Head of School Leah Summers was delighted with all the Torah studied and the joy celebrated at school on Sukkot. “What a wonderful way for us all to begin the routines of the rest of the year!” she said. “We will take the message of Sukkot and commit ourselves to working together to make our students’ educational journey one that is filled with joy, pride, and accomplishment.”
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, September 18, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
September 2013 (Atlanta, GA) The Greenfield Hebrew Academy remembered the tragedy of 9/11 with a special assembly for the Middle School.
Judaics teacher Debbie Bornstein began the program at the school’s flagpoles, which were ceremonially lowered by students Matthew Chen and Levi Zindler. After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the national anthem, students gathered in the auditorium.
Mrs. Bornstein opened the discussion by sharing the original mission statement for the World Trade Center memorial, which stresses remembrance, honor, and respect. She asked, “What do you think a memorial is? What should a memorial be?”
The students pondered the question.
“It’s a group of people coming together to remember,” said Isabelle Jacobs.
“It could be a plaque, but a memorial is an action taken by the people who are closest, something they do,” offered Noah Chen.
Leah Bader added, “It’s something dedicated to memory.”
Mrs. Bornstein talked about her feelings as a former New Yorker.
“When I drove past Ground Zero, seeing that empty space hurt,” she said. “All I could think of was what was lost. But more recently, as I drove by and saw the new building going up, I felt a glimmer of hope rising inside me, too.”
The Middle School then watched a short film called Rebuilding Ground Zero and recited “El maleh rachamim,” the traditional memorial prayer.
“At this time of year, the aseret y’mei t’shuva—the ten days of repentance—we cast away our sins with the custom of tashlich, throwing our sins into the water. Yechezkel 18:31 says, ‘Cast away your sins and create for yourselves a new heart, a new spirit.’ What does that mean? It means that we must reinvigorate ourselves…that we must rebuild. We must always rebuild.”
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, September 11, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
August 2013 (Atlanta, GA) Greenfield Hebrew Academy has been preparing for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with activities all through the school, from the Infant and Toddler Village through the Middle School. First graders enjoyed making their own shofars at the Shofar Factory run by Rabbi Ari Karp, Judaics teacher in GHA’s Middle School.
The elementary school constructed beautifully decorated New Year’s cards with the help of GHA’s new b’not sherut, their assistants from Israel. The b’not sherut also opened a little post office for Middle School messages of thanks, appreciation, and apology to their classmates—and thank you cards for the hardworking soldiers of the IDF.
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, August 30, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
August 2013 (Atlanta, GA) The Katherine and Jacob Greenfield Hebrew Academy recently welcomed this year’s participants in the school’s B’not Sherut program, now in its third year. Eighth graders, as well as staff members and GHA’s B’not Sherut—Sarah Tannenbaum, Sara Yisrael, Maayan Dror, and Linoy David—enjoyed a bagel breakfast as they got to know one another.
B’not Sherut are young Israeli women who have chosen to perform one or two years of national service in lieu of service in the IDF. These young women serve as volunteers in many different capacities in Israel; they work in education (including special education and helping at-risk teens), administration and law, medical assistance (including hospitals, geriatrics, nursing homes, and health clinics), internal security, disadvantaged communities, immigrant assistance, environmental issues, and other related non-profit organizations.
After one year of service within Israel, the best of the B’not Sherut may volunteer for an additional year of service in the Diaspora countries. These B’not Sherut extend their time of service and travel far from home for a year, and are a precious gift to the communities they serve.
This year, GHA will be doubling the number of B’not Sherut from two to four, which will allow them to spend more time in the Early Childhood Department, as well as freeing them to do more community outreach. In addition to their work at GHA, the B’not Sherut will be involved with youth programming at area synagogues. Maayan and Sarah will be helping to run the B’nei Akiva youth program at the Young Israel of Toco Hills, while Linoy and Sara will be assisting at Congregation Beth Tefillah in Sandy Springs.
“Our B’not Sherut are an invaluable resource,” says Interim Head of School Leah Summers. “It goes without saying that they do a tremendous amount to help our students and our school—they arrange special programs and activities, they tutor in Ivrit, they help out students, teachers, and staff. But more importantly, they bring energy and spirit, ruach, to our school; they bring our love for Israel to life.”
All four young women are fluent in English. Maayan explained that her mother is Canadian; Sara “just has a lot of American friends.” Linoy said that she learned to speak English in school. Sarah cheerfully admitted that she was born in California; her parents made aliyah when she was twelve.
The four B’not Sherut are delighted to be here in Atlanta. Sara said that she chose Atlanta because “I heard what a warm and friendly place it is, so welcoming…and they were right!” These young women are from all over Israel—Jerusalem, Haifa, Bet Shemesh, and Efrat—but they have come together in Atlanta because, as Linoy explained, “it’s so important to get to know other Jewish communities, and to build a bridge connecting us all together, all over the world.”
“It is such an honor for our school to be chosen by these amazing young women,” said Leah Summers. “We wish them a successful year, a satisfying year, a year of laughter and fun. We are overjoyed to welcome them into our GHA family.”
The program that brings these B’not Sherut to Atlanta is made possible through the generosity and efforts of community donors, including Congregation Beth Tefillah, the Young Israel of Toco Hills, and the Greenfield Hebrew Academy.
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, August 20, 2013)
by Leah Braunstein Levy
The Katherine and Jacob Greenfield Hebrew Academy has started off the new school year with excitement, enthusiasm, and a brand new electives program in the Middle School.
GHA’s Back to School Event and Open House was a great opportunity for students and their families to meet new teachers, check out new classrooms, sample treats from the school lunch program, buy used and new uniforms, and reconnect with their GHA family.
The following day, Monday, August 12, was the first day of school. And while some of the younger, newer students may have been a little nervous, the older, more experienced students were glad to make all “newbies” feel right at home. In the Middle School, fifth and sixth graders got used to their lockers with a Locker Race, and the whole Middle School heard about the new elective classes, spanning topics from engineering to psychology—and lots more in between.
On the whole, whether learning, playing, eating lunch, or standing in line, smiles blossomed everywhere at GHA.
(Appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, July 26, 2013)
by Leah Summers, Interim Head of School
As Greenfield Hebrew Academy students and parents enjoy the steamy days of summer, teachers and administrators have been busy making plans for the coming school year. Exciting initiatives are underway!
Among those developments on the horizon are more enrichment programs for students at all grade levels; the “Thinking Maps” approach to speaking and writing; and blended learning efforts, among others.
- Expanding ETGAR into the middle school – ETGAR (from the Hebrew for “challenge”) is GHA’s enrichment program, which will expand into the Middle School this year. The students have already been assessed in reading and math, and we are committed to challenging each child to reach his/her potential.
- Enriched reading program – Based on the success of the lower-school reading program, GHA’s curriculum will now extend several key elements into fifth and sixth grades. This entails guided reading according to assessed levels in homogeneous groups and Book Club reading in heterogeneous groupings according to interest.
- Focus on speaking and writing – All students in kindergarten through sixth grade will benefit from the powerful writing program developed by Dr. Lucy Calkins of Columbia University’s Teachers College. This rigorous, cutting-edge approach focuses on units of study in opinion, information and narrative writing. The work will culminate in the eighth grade with both a research paper and creative writing.
In addition, all the teachers will be exposed to an approach to teaching higher-order thinking tools that lead to better expressive language, both oral and written, through the system of “Thinking Maps,” developed by David Hyerle. It is a system of structured thinking using powerful visual tools based on the way the brain organizes information in networks and maps.
- Blended learning – Several administrators spent the spring formally exploring best practices in blended learning, an instructional model that seeks to customize (or “differentiate”) student learning. Utilizing online tools combined with face-to-face teaching, teachers can optimize the opportunities to teach to various styles and levels.
Many middle school teachers have already committed themselves to learning more about this model and spent the summer creating pilot courses and units of study for this coming year.
- Middle school choices and leadership – Two highlights that will be instituted in the middle school this year are electives and peer mediation. With the former, students will once per week be able to explore passions and interests that may not be covered in the structured curriculum; electives such as psychology for kids, a podcast newspaper and technical theater are just some of the choices.
And with the latter, each child in the eighth grade will be trained in protocols of peer mediation during the first week of school by Sylvia Miller, school counselor. The students will then be given the option of serving on a panel to arbitrate issues that arise in the middle school.
Such a program that affords students responsibility and practice in leadership will only enhance our identity as a “NO Place for Hate” school.
GHA is proud that the school graduates confident and prepared students. As the educator John Dewey said:
“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, then we rob our children of tomorrow.”