There is something special about hearing the shofar blasts every morning in our Lower School at Morning Meeting and during Tefillah in our Upper School throughout the entire month of Elul. In a year like this, we have almost a full month of hearing this powerful call to action. The sound of the shofar makes us all alert and readies us for the work that we all must do - both internally and externally - during the chagim that arrive in the month of Tishrei. It is so fitting to have this important time, at the beginning of a new school year, to celebrate the renewal and excitement that comes with - in the case of our students - getting a bit older, meeting new teachers and facing the challenges of the year ahead. Our team has been hard at work readying ourselves for 2019-20, and we look forward to sharing information about the work we are engaged in at GOA.
Our newly-adopted Strategic Plan is one filled with important goals for our institution. It is my hope that you will learn even more by reading News on the GO, speaking with teachers at Open School Nights and conferences, and through Head of School updates and communications from other members of our team throughout the year.
As we implement this new plan, we have made a number of important and exciting changes over the past few months in our school. There are physical upgrades and new members of our professional team that I am confident will have an enormous impact on the student experience and overall family experience as well.
Strategic Plan: Jewish Life and Learning
In our Strategic Plan area of focus entitled Jewish Life and Learning, our stated goal is a promise to “...create meaningful and intentional experiences filled with the joy of being Jewish centered around ritual, celebration and Tefillah.”
In our Lower School, this is very much anchored in our classroom learning and milestone events. When our students take the stage to receive their first siddurim and chumashim, when they stand proudly in the Horace Bier Beit Knesset in front of their parents leading a Rosh Chodesh service and when they prepare and teach words of Torah to their peers and parents. At each of these moments, their learning, poise and growth are on full display.
In our Upper School, this takes place both inside and outside of the classroom, whether it’s through deep and meaningful text study, during Tefillah, on Shabbatonim, while assisting the Jewish communities in Cuba and Puerto Rico or on our Na’ale (9th grade) and Neshama (12th grade) Israel programs. These are just a few examples of these values in action.
Expansion of GOA's Jewish Life and Experiential Team
As we look ahead to the coming year, we are thrilled about the changes we have made that will further enhance the work we are doing - Pre-K through 12th - as it relates to Jewish Life and Learning in our school. We’ve expanded our Jewish Life and Experiential Education team and have done so with the explicit goal of creating an even more impactful experience for our students. We are fortunate to welcome Rabbi Adir Yolkut (Tefillah and Jewish Life Educator), Mr. Ohad Porat (Senior Israeli Shaliach), Mr. Craig Resmovits (Golden Ochtaves Director and Music Educator) and Mr. Andrew Mittleman (Multimedia and Experiential Educator) to our talented team alongside Rabbi Meirav Kallush (Director of Israel Education), Ms. Jamie Mittleman (Arts and Experiential Educator) and Mr. Eric Fox (Student Activities and Experiential Educator). Ms. Lori Jaffe will be overseeing this group as the Chair of Jewish Life and Experiential Education team. Ms. Jaffe is well-respected by her peers and has created strong bonds with our students over the past two decades working in our school. I am confident she will successfully guide this team as they work to elevate our entire program.
This tremendous team has hit the ground running and has already impacted our students. Our 12th graders spent a meaningful Shabbat together last weekend on the Upper West Side for their Senior Shabbaton, our high school students returned from Camp Ramah Nyack on Thursday from their back-to-school Y’mei GOA Retreat and our 7th and 8th graders will travel to Ramah next week for their Y’mei GOA Retreat. Additionally, this morning all of our Upper School students gathered for their first weekly school-wide Kabbalat Shabbat.
Last week, our 5th graders began their work with senior Israeli shaliach Mr. Porat and over the course of the year will have the opportunity to learn more about Israel, its culture, people and beauty. Additionally, birthdays will now be celebrated monthly in the Lower School during an exciting and energetic Kabbalat Shabbat service. Students who have birthdays during that particular month will celebrate with their classmates at that time, combining Shabbat with their own personal simchas.
Introducing Special New Jewish Life & Learning Family Events
At Golda Och Academy, it is our explicit goal to create deep and meaningful experiences for our students and their families. We are currently planning two new special family events - a Havdalah program this fall and a Kabbalat Shabbat program in the spring. In addition, we will be starting a new tradition this year - beginning with our 7th grade students - to invite families into school during their child's bar/bat mitzvah week so that we can celebrate these special occasions together.
We look forward to sharing more and inviting you into school for a range of experiences - some new and some that have become GOA traditions - in order to celebrate the true essence of Jewish life and Jewish living that is the foundation of our school.
Looking forward to an exciting and meaningful 5780!