Our “Way” at AJA
By Rabbi Pinchos Hecht, Head of School, Atlanta Jewish Academy
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times, August 1, 2014)
As many in the Atlanta Jewish community now know, the merger of GHA and YA—many months in the planning—is now complete. Our combined schools have a new name, Atlanta Jewish Academy (AJA), with a shared mission and board. The mission was developed in a collaborative fashion by the former boards of both schools, along with parents and leaders in our communities who worked tirelessly on behalf of our school and its new vision.
Atlanta Jewish Academy is a college preparatory, co-educational, preschool-12th grade, independent Jewish Day School, guided by modern orthodox values and principles. We embody the ideals of community, tradition, individual development and educational innovation. Atlanta Jewish Academy develops the whole person for college and life by fostering a love of Torah, Israel, and all Jewish people through an excellent secular and Judaic education within an inclusive, nurturing community.
I am excited to be the first Head of School to lead AJA, with a program encompassing infants and toddlers through high school seniors. Our unique position enables us to provide a world-class education in a full-service, caring community, never before available in Atlanta. The fact that our combined enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year exceeds the previous enrollments of both schools demonstrates the growing excitement generated in the greater Atlanta Jewish community by our merger.
We continue to offer the finest in both Judaic and secular education, integrating the proud traditions and achievements of our institutions in the new Atlanta Jewish Academy. We will graduate students who have experienced and excelled in the rigors of a 21st century education and are fully prepared for life in our constantly evolving, fast-paced world. Our graduates will be models of lifelong learning. They will possess the skills and resilience to constantly expand their knowledge and personal growth, and will thereby be equipped to triumph in a world that reinvents itself every day. Our new school will continue to strive for excellence in all areas alongside the very best Jewish educational experience in the Atlanta Jewish community.
Integration and students first is at the heart of our merger. Atlanta Jewish Academy prepares our students for life by allowing them the space to integrate their identity and education within their social context. At AJA, we foster a healthy balance and stability in a fast-moving world, always building on previous achievements, always refining and integrating what has been learned and experienced. Whether it is support or enrichment, we will be there to offer each of our students exactly what he or she needs throughout their time at Atlanta Jewish Academy.
A glance at the various studies, surveys, and statistics in recent years on the Jewish community sends a clear message: If you want your child to be an involved, proud Jew, your chances are vastly better if you send that child to a Jewish day school through high school. We continue the proud traditions of both our schools; our graduates will continue to lead lives of service to their community and to their people, active in their Federation, their synagogue boards, Israel, and Jewish community projects all over Atlanta and the world. Our students enter our doors as seedlings full of infinite promise; by the time they leave, we—in partnership with our parents—will have helped them up to grow straight, tall, and strong, ready to offer support to others: their family, their community, and their world. This is the Atlanta Jewish Academy way.
Dear Atlanta Jewish Academy friends,
I write to you from Jerusalem during a very tense time for the Israeli people. Rachel and I are here for three weeks’ vacation in the hopes of visiting our son Avi (a YA graduate), who is in the army (more on that in a minute).
The city seems a bit empty. In past years, I would walk down Ben Yehuda in the summertime, and it was packed with tourists and youth groups. Tonight, there were very few people, let alone tourists, out on Ben Yehuda Street—not that it's unsafe. It's just that everyone is staying connected....24/7. Even on Shabbat, the government has designated one radio station for people to leave on, with nothing played or broadcasted on it unless there's an emergency. Everyone is following the news, the internet, Facebook, What's App nearly all the time.
We are reading about incessant rocket attacks from Gaza. It's a constant barrage. One would think that at some point, Hamas would run out of artillery. The fact is, however, they have the Sudan and Syria and Iran supplying them with plenty of firepower. Somehow these weapons have no trouble getting into Hamas's hands.
Most Israelis are less frightened by the rockets, and more frightened by the tunnels. Hamas terrorists travel through tunnels (built by thousands of Gazans), emerge on Israeli kibbutzim disguised as IDF soldiers and start shooting. As of now, I believe 25 Israeli soldiers have been killed. Sadly, there are very few degrees of separation between the deceased soldiers and even non-citizens like us. We have two friends in Israel, both Americans, each of whom is connected to one of the 25. It's so sad.
As you know, Avi made aliyah shortly after high school. He did his gap year at Yeshivat Maaleh Gilboa. I am not currently permitted to share the name of his unit, as the army has asked everyone not to transmit information over the internet. What I can say is that he was almost finished with the first 18 months of his training, and was about to begin the next 18 months when the war broke out.
Evidently, he has trained sufficiently for something—because today, he called to tell us that he will not be in contact with us for the near future. Those who know about army procedures know what this means.
As it happens, July 21st was Avi's 21st birthday; not much celebration for him, but something nice may come out of this anyway. His unit needs to purchase a special boot that, for whatever reason, the army doesn't supply. I've been helping to raise money for these (total cost was about $12K). I mentioned something to my dear friend Rabbi Adam Starr, and he posted on Young Israel of Toco Hills’ Facebook page that it would be a nice birthday gift if people helped raise the remaining $3,000 needed so that the unit could be better equipped. Rabbi Starr wrote me that he has raised almost all of it in just a few short hours. I was also grateful to see that Rabbi Hecht, Head of School at Atlanta Jewish Academy, reposted it on AJA’s Facebook page as well. I know some of you heard about this and responded; thank you on behalf of Israel's soldiers.
Rachel and I have been looking for ways to get involved. Tonight, we spent the evening at the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center in Jerusalem and may volunteer there tomorrow. At the Center, there were lone soldiers, parents of lone soldiers, friends of lone soldiers, etc.... NBC happened to be there as well, and interviewed Rachel. There's a chance that it was on today's 6:30 p.m. EST NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. They wanted the perspective of a mom whose son made the choice to make aliyah and serve in the IDF.
Tomorrow, we're meeting someone from the Jerusalem Municipality who is organizing various initiatives to help the people of the south. We'd like to make ourselves useful. Next week, there is a group of rabbis coming on a JNF solidarity mission; I'll join the group because they're going south to volunteer, too.
If you want to help, I'm posting a list of possibilities below. I can only tell you that if you pick up the phone or do any of these things, the Israelis will be so grateful. Rachel and I called the pizza place in S’derot and gave them our credit card number to pay for a large purchase of pizzas to be delivered to anyone in need. The owner of the store was nearly in tears and could not stop blessing us.
Speaking about help, I just read about the funeral of one of the lone soldiers that took place two hours ago. Friends of the soldier were worried that there might not be a crowd in attendance, since he wasn't as connected as native-born Israelis are. The word got out about this concern. Over 10,000 people attended...a funeral at 11:00 pm!
I know all of you stand with Israel as you always have. I am proud to be part of the GHA, now AJA, and larger Atlanta Jewish community. Rachel is looking forward to re-joining you...even if it's just virtually, and in person periodically.
Let's hope all our soldiers return home speedily and that our country can soon live in relative calm.
Thank you to all who are praying that Hashem will watch over Avi and all of Israel's soldiers and citizens.
Rabbi Lee Buckman
Want to help? Here are some ideas.
We'll be updating this list as things come in. If you hear of something, share it with us at [email protected]
- Buy a pizza for IDF soldiers
- Donate money to help the families of IDF Reservists
- PLEASE PRAY FOR: List of names of wounded soldiers (in Hebrew)
- If you'd like to open your home to residents of the South, The Jerusalem Municipality will help match you up. Just fill out this form.
- Jerusalem Municipality opens center for supporting IDF soldiers
- Assistance for families of soldiers in Katamon area
- Moshe Molko was one of the 13 soldiers killed yesterday in Gaza. Help his family.
- Open your home: New App helps find accomodation for people from the South
- Donate to the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center
- Bring sweets and cakes for soldiers in Tel Aviv
- Chabad needs your help in the South!
- Help United Hatzala buy gear for volunteers
- Give money to the Jewish Agency's fund for victims of terror
- Get paired up with an IDF soldier, do chessed in their merit: http://shmiraproject.com
- Donate to disabled Israelis under fire with Aleh
- There's a list of projects you can support on the One Israel Fund web site
- More below...
Hey! We have a organization eshet chayal and we are helping wives of soldiers in miluim or keva that are absent from home now bc of the war. We are offering a dinner delivered to you and to pay for four hours of babysitting and two hours cleaning. This is not for nizkakot or anything its for any of you just to lift your spirits and help a tiny bit with the bad feeling of being home alone. If you are interested please pm me your full name and address and phone number and ages of kid's. Feel free to pass on the word and check out our Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/idffamilies
YOU CAN HELP BUSINESSES and FAMILIES IN SOUTHERN ISRAEL:
Support business in Israel's south and express your support to the citizens taking the brunt of the rockets by ordering pizza from local vendors to be delivered to families and soldiers in the region. The following pizza stores are willing to take your orders and deliver them to families:
Pizza Kopidon in Ofakim - 011-972-8-992-6658
Pizza Netivot: 001-972-8993-0145
Pizza Roma in Sderot: 011-972-8-661-2007
Pizza Italkia in Ashkelon -- 011-972-54-942-4212
Pizza Roma in Ashdod - 011-972-8-866-7000
In order to gauge the impact and decide about adding vendors, please drop a line to the organizer of this project, about your orders just noting from which pizzeria an order was placed ([email protected]).
Feel free to pass this far and wide.
With hope for a lasting quiet soon,
All you need to do is:
1) Call one of the vendors below and place an order and say
"I am calling from the United States (say your city) and would like to order a pizza to be delivered to a family in the area as a sign that we are thinking of you. Can I place an order?"
"אני מתקשר מארצות הברית ורוצה להזמין פיצה למשפחה באזור שלך כסימן שאנחנו חושבים עליכם. האם אפשר להזמין?"
"Ani mitkasher me'artzot habrit v'rotzeh l'hazmin pizza lamishpacha ba'eizor shelcha k'siman sh'anachnu choshvim aleichem. Ha'im efshar lehazmin?"
2) Tell them that people in America are standing with them
3) Provide your credit card information (credit card number is called a מספר אשראי (mispar ashrai) and expiration date (תוקף tokef).
Yashar LaChayal- A non-profit organization that provides support and assistance to soldiers throughout Israel. As the situation gets more and more tense and thousands of soldiers are called up, we have increased our efforts and have been donating basic items(Such as: socks, shampoo, undershirts, underwear and more) Not only is it crucial that they have the basic items but it is a way for us to show we are thinking of them and care about them. They need our support.
For donations- https://www.yasharlachayal.org/donate/
by Leah Braunstein Levy
Greenfield Hebrew Academy was proud to present its second grade students with one of the most important books they will ever receive, and to honor them for their achievements over the school year.
On Monday, June 2, the second grade held their Chagigat Chumash for an audience of nearly 150 friends and family members. Organized by teachers Cheryl Kunis and Sharon Gendellman, the presentation took place entirely in Hebrew. The second graders demonstrated their knowledge of the five books of the Torah with handmade models of sifrei Torah, songs, and recitations.
Interim Head of School Leah Summers asked the students how the Torah might be compared to a GPS.
The second graders had many ideas. Daniel Leibowitz suggested, “It gives you directions to where you want to go.” Ethan Wolkin added, “It’s like a marker for the way.”
“That’s right, it gets you to your destination,” Ms. Summers told them. “Your new chumash contains all the information you need to solve the problems you encounter in life. It will show you the right way to live, the right way to behave. Now you can read it yourself, and discover what it’s trying to tell you.”
The second graders then received their chumashim, highly appropriate for just before the holiday of Shavuot.
“This holiday is also called Chag matan torateinu, the holiday when we received the Torah. And that’s what we did today!” Ms Summers said.
As a nod to the custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot, and to demonstrate the sweetness of Torah, the celebration concluded with ice cream for all.
by Leah Braunstein Levy
Greenfield Hebrew Academy celebrated commencement exercises for the class of 2014 on Thursday, May 29. Thirty graduates received diplomas this year from Interim Head of School Leah Summers.
The graduates took the stage for a Graduation Presentation that incorporated words of Torah, music, and video. In their presentation, they addressed thoughts from Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Forefathers, for guidance on the road ahead of them. They shared their memories of their senior trip to Israel, where “every step we took, every mitzvah we performed, every bit of history we learned helped us to fulfill the commandment to be holy.”
GHA President of the Board Judy Stolovitz charged the graduates to “treasure individuality and treasure community; each is as important as the other.”
Itai Tsur, Senior Endowment Counsel of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, explained that attending a Jewish day school is an investment in the future of the Jewish people, an indicator for further community involvement: “No matter where life takes you, you’ll be part of the Jewish community; and our community is all the richer because you will bring to it the things you learned at GHA.”
Leah Summers, Interim Head of School, shared an analysis of the phrase, “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,” always recited at the close of a book of the Torah. “Be strong, and let us strengthen ourselves. We must learn to rely on our own inner resources to feel capable and strong… Just as you close this chapter in your life and open the next, our school is closing a chapter and opening the next. We, too, will need to grow and develop, and strengthen all our resources to create the new school that will contribute to our community.”
By Leah Braunstein Levy
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times May 16, 2014)
Students at Greenfield Hebrew Academy acknowledged the great gift of the State of Israel and the price paid for it over the last 66 years during their observance of Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day).
First, sixth graders paid tribute to two young IDF soldiers, brothers, who were killed in action in the defense of Israel. Lt. Uriel Peretz fell in battle in Lebanon, and his brother Major Eliraz Peretz was killed in a clash with terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The sixth graders remembered all the soldiers and the victims of terror who died for the State of Israel with songs and poems in Hebrew and English.
Ron Brummer, Deputy Consul General for the Israeli Consulate of the Southeast and GHA parent, addressed the students. “Israel is your state,” he told them. “On this day, we honor those who gave their lives for it. As long as we have Israel, you can feel safe. You can feel sure that the atrocities of our past will never happen again.”
Two visiting IDF soldiers attached to the Shimshon transport plane project at Lockheed Martin, Lt. Col. Ido Sudry and Pilot Adam Rosen, conducted a question and answer session with the Middle School students about the new military plane. In answer to a student question, Lt. Col Sudry told them, “In Israel, most of us know a family that has lost a son, a father, a brother, someone who was killed in one of Israel’s wars. We feel that we have no choice but to pay the price that we’re paying in our dead and wounded. But I feel stronger knowing that we have a state; that these deaths are not for nothing.”
The mood lifted the very next morning with the excitement and celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. The festivities opened with an assembly conducted by the seventh grade and GHA’s B’not Sherut, Linoy David, Maayan Dror, Sarah Tannenbaum, and Sara Yisrael. There were songs and a flag drill, with a performance by the elementary school Israeli dance elective class, and some beautiful singing by the first grade. There was even a surprise flash mob! The assembly was followed by the morning tefillot, made special with the recitation of Hallel.
Students then rotated through several Israel-themed activities designed and operated by the Hebrew teaching staff and the B’not Sherut. They enjoyed a gala barbecue, and watched movies about Israel. There was also a fascinating presentation by GHA alumnus and current GHA parent George Birnbaum, who was Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Birnbaum discussed his collection of antique maps of Israel.
“It’s always interesting to me to see how people saw Israel four or five hundred years ago,” Mr. Birnbaum said. “Most of the people drawing these maps weren’t Jewish, but they all recognized Israel as the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people. They understood how central Israel and Jerusalem are to us.”
There were many types of Israeli crafts and foods for all students, including the youngest in the Infant and Toddler Village, throughout the day. Little ones made flags and left notes in their very own version of the Western Wall, bigger ones played games and created a Israel-themed mural. In a joint Yom Ha’atzmaut project orchestrated by GHA art teachers Devi Knapp and Anita Stein, students from GHA and Yeshiva Atlanta, who are combining to form a new infant-12 school, created a beautiful collage made of all of their combined handprints. Throughout the day, Israeli flags waved triumphantly all over the school.
Asked what their favorite activity was, no two students seemed to have the same answer. “Making pitas, and eating them with chocolate spread,” said Miriam Burmenko, a third grade student. First graders Zac Agichtein and Micah Baron yelled, “Army!” in unison (referring to the “IDF obstacle course” set up in the gym). Fourth grader Sophie Knapp liked the Israeli dancing; sixth grader Eliana Goldin was a big fan of the Hebrew karaoke. “I didn’t sing by myself,” she clarified. “I just sang along.” Ari Slomka, another sixth grader, had the most fun in the Trip to Israel room, where there were Israel geography-themed games and activities. Kindergartner Eli Jutan liked “the popsicles that we ate outside.”
“Yom Ha’atzmaut is very special here at GHA, because our love for Israel is one of our defining characteristics; it really makes us who we are,” explained Interim Head of School Leah Summers. “I was admiring the handprint mural that we made with Yeshiva Atlanta, and I noticed that one of the decorated handprints has a wonderful saying written on it. It says, ‘I’m not in Israel, but Israel is in me.’ I think that GHA student said it all—for all of us.”
by Shayna Shapiro
On our class trip to Wahsega I learned a lot. There were many different classes and activities. We learned about reptiles, amphibians, and even got to catch them. I learned and grew closer to my classmates and during free time we played together.
The chaperones were so fun and the directors of the class made the learning so interesting. We got to play games while learning in classes. I enjoyed sharing the cabins with my friends and loved the card games with the B'not Sherut.
I would definitely want to go back again!
by Leah Braunstein Levy
(appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times May 30, 2014)
On Wednesday, April 23, most of the students at Greenfield Hebrew Academy enjoyed the last day of the Pesach break. But the eighth graders headed to the airport for what proved to be the most exciting field trip of their lives: sixteen days in Israel. And just to make sure that GHA friends and family could share their experiences, the seniors posted a daily blog.
Today was the beginning of the trip of a lifetime for me and my friends...When we got off the plane, I was in a state of shock. I immediately felt connected to the land of Israel. This trip has already been such a blessing for me, and I can’t wait to do all the exciting things we have planned! --Levi Zindler
Years of lessons came alive for students as they toured the country. They began by visiting Beit Shearim, burial site of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, a familiar figure from Mishnah class; they went to K’far Kedem for a Talmudic experience.
Today, we went to Kfar Kedem to experience life as it was 1800 years ago… While some of us were crushing seeds into flour, the rest of us were making dough into flat circles and flinging them onto a black stove. When they were ready, we all enjoyed our homemade pitot. –Jael Azani
Students enjoyed riding in ATVs, followed by Shabbat at Kibbutz Lavi.
Singing “Lecha Dodi” with Jews on the other side of the earth and still being able to use the same tunes was simply inspiring. –Ben Ogden
After Shabbat, students enjoyed listening to stories around a roaring bonfire.
The activities for the next week included hiking Jilaboun, a beautiful mountain stream.
While we were hiking on the narrow trail over rocks and the stream, we could see the waterfall and a lot of mountains. The view was AMAZING! –Liana Slomka
Students observed Yom Hashoah at a youth village called K’far Chassidim.
A rabbi began to say the Yizkor prayer, but was interrupted about 2 minutes in by the siren. The stillness that fell over the crowd was both eerie and amazing. –Shira Duke
They continued on to visit Atlit, the British detention camp that was the destination for so many European Jews seeking refuge after the Holocaust.
Unlike the pictures of people in concentration camps during the Holocaust, the people in these pictures were happy because they knew they were Israel. –Leah Bader
The eighth graders hiked through the breathtaking sights of Nahal Netziv, then visited the grottoes of Rosh Hanikra. The day ended with a surprise visit to the northern city of Tiberias.
Moving south, the students visited the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi, where they hiked, splashed in a waterfall, and admired the natural beauty all around them.
We also learned that in the times of the Tanach, King David hid in En Gedi because King Saul was trying to eliminate him. Again and again, David hid in En Gedi, and he described his hiding place as G-d spreading his wings. The water was as pristine as glass… –Jonah Esworthy
The next stop on the itinerary was K’far Hanokdim, a Bedouin village. Students arrived at the Bedouin camp riding on camels and enjoyed their food and hospitality, learning about their lifestyle and customs and spending the night in a tent. The next morning, they left for Masada, climbing the Roman siege ramp used by the invaders to overcome the Jews making their final stand at the top. As the sun rose, the eighth graders davened Shacharit and read from the Torah in the stone ruins. The next day began at the Ramon Crater.
Our grade started off into the desert in our four wheelers. The hills and mountain were all ancient…from the times of creation. It was really amazing to be standing on such simple rocks but knowing that there is so much meaning behind them. –Nicole Dori
The eighth grade continued their journey up to Jerusalem, visiting the City of David, where they learned about the water tunnels used in ancient times. At Emek Tzurim, students learned about archeology on the Temple Mount and had a chance to sort artifacts. But what could compare to Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel, the Western Wall?
When we arrived at the Old City of Jerusalem, I was in awe. I had to stop mid-step to take it all in…but by far the most powerful thing was going to the Western Wall prayer plaza for the first time. When we got past the entrance, we all went to kiss and pray at the wall. Almost everyone teared up, and we all stood there praying… –Levi Zindler
Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel was amazing. There are so many people who come together to celebrate Shabbat…It was very spiritual, and it was an amazing experience – one I will never forget. –Aaron Gordon
After Shabbat, the eighth grade explored the colorful storefronts and street theater of Ben Yehuda Street; Sunday morning included a visit to Holocaust museum Yad Vashem and the Supreme Court building.
Today we visited Israel’s Supreme Court. We learned about how the system works and how it is different from the US system...It was very interesting to see how they combine the secular law with ideas from Jewish law. –Sammy Frankel
Yom Hazikaron, the day Israel remembers the soldiers who died to create and defend the land, was observed at the small village of Neve Illan and at Har Herzl, the cemetery for fallen soldiers. Students spent the remainder of the day at Latrun, the tank museum and memorial.
When we went to Har Herzl on Yom HaZikaron, there were probably tens of thousands of people there to commemorate the soldiers who died and lost their lives on behalf of Israel…When the siren rang today, I was in mid-sentence, and all of a sudden everything just stopped and everyone in the country was as silent as it was on that mountain... –Ariel Sirota
Along with the rest of Israel, the students’ gratitude for all those who sacrificed everything for the Jewish people burst into celebration at nightfall with Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. The streets came alive with joyous celebrants.
There were tons of people everywhere, walking around, dancing, banging people on the head with blow up hammers, or spraying foam everywhere…So many people were dancing and having an amazing time. –Devorah Chasen
The eighth graders visited the famous hidden bullet factory in the Gush Etzion, where a Laundromat hid a concealed munitions factory for the liberation of Israel. They also saw Independence Hall, where Ben Gurion announced that the UN resolution acknowledging the new State of Israel had passed.
Since Jerusalem was under siege, they read the declaration in the Dizengoff house in Tel Aviv (aka Independence Hall). The whole nation rejoiced! –Sarah Lewyn
The final day of this adventure began at an army base for paratroopers, the very same base at which Molly Peled, one of GHA’s Hebrew teachers, had been stationed when she did her army service.
After a tour and lunch, the group moved on to the hot springs of Chamai Yoav, and finished the day with zip-lining. Then it was off to the airport for the very long trip to Atlanta.
“At GHA, our love for Israel is so much a part of our school culture,” said Interim Head of School Leah Summers of the annual trip. “Through all their years here, our students learn so much about Israel as our spiritual homeland. It is the perfect culmination to their eight or more years of studying Torah here to visit the place where it all happened, the source of so much of who they are as young Jews.”
Back in the United States, the eighth graders are tired and glad to be home; but all of them were touched, and some of them maybe even transformed, by their journey.
by Helena Asherian, Noam Laufer, and Sela Ratner
GHA’s tennis team was definitely very small, with only seven people on the team. We weren’t the typical school team. We didn’t have a uniform, nor did we all arrive together; we played at different times, but we still made our way around to ask each other, “Did you win? What was the score? Great job!”
For us, the goal was to go play with our best foot forward and try our best. For some of us it was our first time holding a racket, or even just the second time playing. It was scary for us at first and a little intimidating, but once we saw how fun tennis was, we knew we belonged.
The tennis team, already scheduled for a short season, found the season shortened even more when the snow came along. We had to pull together as a team, and give 110% of our commitment and support. That definitely didn’t bring our confidence down. That made us work even harder, and just like any sport, tennis is hard work. The tennis season was brief but effective, hard but fun. Most important, we tried our best and couldn't have asked for a better experience.
Even though there weren’t very many of us, we felt that the spirit of the whole school was included in our group. And isn’t that what all the GHA sports are about?
by Nicole Dori
At Greenfield Hebrew Academy, sports are taken very seriously. We have teams, coaches, uniforms, games, and practices to make sure that we get the best physical activity out there.
Track and field isn’t always considered of the utmost importance in the world of school sports. But throughout the years, GHA has definitely improved in this category, especially this year! All 12 members of our track team trained hard, and we pushed ourselves to the limit. With all the effort our coaches put in to help us rise up, we soared in the championships. As a team, we all encouraged each other and helped one another out so we could succeed. Being part of a team has its ups and downs but this year in track, I really felt the positive environment overpowering everything.
Practicing hard three times a week paid off at our meets. Going to the meets and seeing all the teams with their professional equipment was intimidating! Even though our team is one of the smallest of all the school teams that compete, we still managed to finish strong.
At every meet, at least one of us tried something new that we had never done before. At one meet, my coach told me that I should try doing the high jump. I was against it because I had never done it before. Turns out that I did exceptionally well for a beginner, and I continued doing it all the way through the championships. The encouragement from our coaches and the belief they had in us played a huge role in our accomplishments throughout the season. When we were told to try something, it was because they had immense belief in us that we didn’t have in ourselves. Almost every time, they were right in pushing us to try it out.
Being on a team can be one of the most memorable experiences ever. I was on the GHA track team for three years, and don’t regret a moment of it. Without the help of my teammates and coaches, I wouldn’t have been able to succeed like I did. As an eighth grader, my journey through GHA sports in track and field is ending; but it will definitely leave a mark, and a good one for sure. Not only did we grow as individuals, we grew as a group; and that is the best thing that can happen to any team.
by Leah Braunstein Levy
Greenfield Hebrew Academy students threw themselves into the spring sports season despite the often-uncooperative weather, which made practices impossible (chance of snow?!!?) and forced many games to be rescheduled. However, all the Wolves teams had a wonderful time playing and improved in their sports both individually and as a team.
The Girls Soccer team, coached by Gavi Abraham and Todd Sentell, learned the value of commitment, endurance and teamwork. They also took a second place trophy in MAAC Division 2 soccer.
“The girls have had a wonderful season,” said Penny Eisenstein, GHA’s Head of Health and P.E. and Athletic Director. “They have learned the value of commitment, endurance, and teamwork—and they played really well!”
The Boys Baseball team, coached by Danny Frankel, David Frankel, and Dean Zindler, showed great strength and tenacity, starting the season with most of their practice sessions cancelled by inclement weather and unsafe field conditions. Despite this, and with multiple team injuries, the team played hard and provided stiff competition.
“The boys played well, and even more important, worked together beautifully,” Ms. Eisenstein said. “I am incredibly proud of them.”
The co-ed Tennis Team, coached by Natasha Lebowitz, also made great strides forward despite their snow-impaired practice times and the small number of players.
Ms. Eisenstein felt that the tennis team improved a great deal over the course of the season, “and they played with great heart, which was so wonderful to see.”
The co-ed Track and Field team, coached by Stevyn Carmona and Adrienne Clark, also performed well, with the boys taking 9th place overall and the girls in 10th place overall.
“Our Track and Field team members produced some very impressive individual statistics,” Ms. Eisenstein pointed out. “We had several first-time athletes who did a great job, even though they had never competed in track and field before.”
- Nicole Dori won the bronze medal in the high jump, took 5th place in discus, came in with a time of 18.3 seconds in hurdles, and anchored the girls 4x100 relay team to 6th place with a time of 1:05.
- Avi Spector won two ribbons, winning his heat in the 800 meter run with a time of 3:02 and placing in the 4x400 relay team. He also ran the 1600 meter run in 6:12.
- Ariel Sirota came in 6th in discus, and ran a :33.5 in the 200 meter dash.
- Jonah Esworthy ran 1:09 and won his heat, and anchored the boys 4x400 relay to 6th place with a time of 5 minutes flat. Jonah also jumped his personal best in the long jump, at 12 feet, 10 inches.
- Jacob Saltzman jumped a 5’8" high jump, having never jumped before. He ran the 100 meter dash with a time of 13.5 seconds.
- Aaron Gordon ran 1600 meters in 6:58.
- Nadav Yeglin threw the discus 59 feet, and his shot put toss was 23 feet, 3 inches.
- Jacob Lieberman ran the 100 meter dash in 15.8 seconds.
- Sophie Jones ran the 100 meter dash in 16.8 seconds, and tossed the shot put 13 feet, 1 inch.
- Jillian Gerson ran a 16.9 second 100 meter dash.
- Ariel Cann ran the 800 meter race in 3:47.9
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 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 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!”
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 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.”
GHA Learns to Code for Computer Science Education Week
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 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 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!”
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.
(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.”