About Us

Welcome from the Head of School

וְשִׁנַּנְתָּ֣ם לְבָנֶ֔יךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ֖ בָּ֑ם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֙ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּֽבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ׃ 

"Teach these [words of Torah] to your children, and speak of them when you sit at home, when you walk in the world, when you rest, and when you rise."

—Deuteronomy 6:7

Rabbi Daniel Nevins, Head of School

Education has been the foundation of Jewish life since Sinai. There we heard “a great voice that never ceased,” and it is our task to initiate each generation of Jews into the sacred experience of understanding ancient wisdom, and contributing their own distinct insights. Education is the foundation of all that we aspire for our children—that they grow into adulthood with strong character and deep learning, that they embrace Jewish beliefs and practices, and that they exhibit curiosity, kindness and responsibility for the needs of others. At Golda Och Academy, our students benefit from the best academic opportunities from early childhood to young adulthood. They are at home here: known, cherished, and supported by an outstanding faculty and staff. At GOA, we organically integrate Jewish and general learning, preparing students to become upstanding citizens of America and leaders of the Jewish community.

Jewish education has been central to my own identity since childhood. I attended public schools in Bergen County through eighth grade, but a transformative bar mitzvah experience in Israel led our family to a Jewish awakening. At Camp Ramah, I discovered the joy of Jewish living with my peers; at the Frisch School, I dove deep into traditional Torah study; and at my Conservative synagogue, I learned to apply ancient values to the cultural and political challenges of our times. After graduating high school, I studied for a year at Yeshivat HaMivtar in Jerusalem, where my interest in Talmud study became a passion. At Harvard College, I concentrated in history, writing a thesis about the mandatory period (1920-48) in Palestine, and cultivated an interest in bioethics that has continued to be a research focus in my rabbinate.

Rabbinical school at JTS offered me the best blend of continued study, professional growth, and the opportunity to serve the Jewish community. My five years as a student at JTS, including another year in Jerusalem, were a chance to deepen and broaden my Jewish knowledge, aided by the best in modern scholarship. After earning my MA and ordination, we moved to Michigan, where I served Adat Shalom first as assistant and then as senior rabbi.

As Lynn and I built our own family, I expanded my Jewish education portfolio, reading stories in preschool, teaching at our Schechter middle school, and helping found a new day high school. Working in experiential education, I organized large teen trips to Israel, ran family camp for our synagogue, and taught each summer at Camp Ramah in Canada. Our three children attended Jewish Day School from kindergarten through 12th grade, finishing up at the Heschel School in NYC after we returned in 2007. During these years I joined the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, working to expand access to Jewish life and protect the dignity of all people.

For 14 years I had the honor of working at JTS as the Pearl Resnick Dean of the Rabbinical School, helping also in the administration of our Cantorial School and sharing in the founding of our Center for Pastoral Education. These were active years for my scholarship, allowing me to author many responsa, divrei Torah, essays and book chapters related to Jewish belief and practice. A sampling of my writings can be found here: www.rabbinevins.com.

I am honored and delighted to lead Golda Och Academy, a school with an extraordinary faculty, beautiful campuses, supportive families, and spectacular students. Not even the most gifted teacher or student working in isolation can achieve the goals of Jewish education. That takes a community. We at Golda Och Academy have the mission, resources, and commitment to allow every student to grow into an accomplished adult, a competent, kind, curious and compassionate person. I look forward to greeting you soon at Golda Och Academy.

Head of School Messages

List of 7 items.

  • February 13, 2024: Head of School Message: Boys Basketball Game Follow-Up

    Dear GOA Community,
    Following up on my note from Friday about the incident with the basketball coach from Newark Lab School, I want to inform you that we have now received sincere letters of apology from the coach himself, and also from the school leadership. These letters (and other calls and email exchanges between us) have indicated their strong sense of remorse for the offense caused. The coach, Joezer Antoine, acknowledged that his choice to wear that shirt, even after we explained its offensiveness, was hurtful and inappropriate. 
    In his note he wrote, “Please consider my deepest apologies for the harmful imprint I have left upon your community. I aspire to assuage all distaste by proving my great respect for Golda Och Academy, its students, staff, and the Jewish community. It is my hope that I can exemplify growth from this experience and continue to contribute safely and positively to your community.” 
    Interestingly, Mr. Antoine is a Haitian immigrant whose family was assisted following the 2010 earthquake there by the IDF, and he expressed gratitude for this assistance. He is also an English teacher who has developed a curriculum based on Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night, and has been preparing to share his program with the national KIPP network. In his letter to me, he wrote, “This incomparable text teaches us all about the atrocities of the Holocaust and asks questions centered around the human response to unthinkable horrors.”
    I plan to invite Mr. Antoine to visit GOA so that he may learn more about our school and its values, and to give him the chance to apologize in person. The best outcome would be to create an opportunity for teshuvah, for growth, and for reconciliation.
    Finally, I am aware that someone posted about this incident on social media. I’m sure that this was well intentioned, but it is stirring up enormous anger in the community—against the KIPP school, and also against GOA. If the response from KIPP and Mr. Antoine had been different, then we too would have taken a different approach. But given their remorse, we have the opportunity to turn this into something positive.
    Once again, I am proud of our students and staff for the strong, proud, and dignified conduct through this challenging episode. We will emerge stronger as a result.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • February 9, 2024: Head of School Message: Yesterday's Boys Basketball Game

    Dear GOA Community,
    Last night our boys high school basketball teams distinguished themselves when they responded to a tense situation with pride, strength and skill. The coach from a visiting team in Newark arrived on our campus wearing a sweater that displayed a map of Israel in Palestinian colors (somewhat abstract, resembling a watermelon slice). Before the game we asked him if he would agree to take off the sweater, but he said he had nothing underneath and refused. During the game, which our team won, this coach stood underneath the Israeli flag on the wall of our gym.  
    I was present in the bleachers and consulted with other GOA leaders. We all agreed that this coach’s conduct was offensive, and I decided that we would lodge a complaint with the league. I also determined that in the current climate, to cancel the game and ask the coach to leave would lead to negative coverage that could harm our school on many levels. So, we played, very well, and we demonstrated pride in our identity as Jews.
    This morning after Rosh Hodesh services, I addressed the Upper School and praised our student athletes for demonstrating pride and dignity. This is the message of Adar and Purim — that we can reverse the tide of hatred and violence through our own actions. We will continue to work with all GOA students to educate them on how to combat antisemitism and anti-Zionism. 
    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • December 7, 2023: Head of School Message: The Light this Hanukkah

    Dear GOA Community,
    On Hanukkah, we gain courage and strength with the blessings of family and friends, with our sacred tradition of Torah, mitzvot, and deeds of kindness, and with the loving support of our community at Golda Och Academy. Our students and staff are the light that gives us strength during this period of war in Israel, and hope for a bright future.
    Click here to watch my video message as I wish our entire GOA kehillah a very Happy Hanukkah.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • October 19, 2023 - Head of School Message: GOA Response to War in Israel

    Dear GOA Community,
    I would like to update you regarding the ways that our school is responding to the complex challenges following the horrific October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel:
    • Showing loving support for our family, friends and alumni in Israel. On both campuses we continue to help students learn about the context of this latest attack on Israel, to pray for its safety, and to express their support for Israeli kids in our partnership region. Video messages and letters are being sent to our many alumni serving in the IDF; we are proud of their service.
    • Continuing to upgrade school security. We have added shifts for our security guards on both campuses and secured increased patrol presence from WOPD. Additional measures are underway as we are consistently reviewing and improving our processes and protocol to coordinate with the heightened needs of our community.  
    • Welcoming Israeli guest students. A significant number of Israeli families have asked our school to provide programming for their children on a temporary basis, and we are proud to do so. A special program has been designed to provide a warm Jewish, Hebrew-intensive environment for these kids until they are able to return to their schools in Israel. 
    • Rescheduling the Naale trip. Given the current war between Israel and Hamas, we have determined that it is not possible to run Naale in early November. The new Naale dates, and our Neshama trip in the spring, are understandably contingent on the security situation improving.
    The suffering of Israelis has understandably been top of mind for us. They are our family; they were attacked in the most barbaric fashion and on a scale not seen since the Shoah. Over 200 Israelis are being kept captive, and we pray for their speedy and safe return to loved ones. As Jews we consider all life to be sacred, and are also concerned for the suffering of Palestinian children and other civilians. They, too, are victims of Hamas’s evil actions. 
    We pray that Israel will succeed in removing the threat posed by Hamas, that other enemies of Israel will refrain from attacking, and that God will soon bless the land with peace. 
    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • October 12, 2023 - Head of School Message: Safety and Security

    Dear GOA Community,
    Many of you have sought reassurance about security arrangements at school, citing reports of a “Friday of al-Aqsa Flood” called by Hamas for tomorrow. We are working with the Jewish Security Alliance (JSA) to understand and respond to this threat. In consultation with the Federation chief of security and our private security company we have reviewed our protections and implemented several enhancements. 
    The security professionals have assured us that there is no specific threat against our school and urged us to remain open and operational. Indeed, we are in contact with Jewish day school leaders across our region and the entire country, all of which are staying open tomorrow with added precautions. We are doing the same. Our children benefit from being in school — emotionally and spiritually — and we are committed to protecting them with all our abilities.
    You may have noticed the increased presence of the West Orange Police Department (including one officer who is a Jewish day school graduate). We have increased our own security guard coverage, too, tightened access protocols, enhanced camera operations, and taken other measures. Our security advisors are in regular contact with state and federal officials to monitor threats to local Jewish institutions. The advice from JSA to us is very clear — keep school open and operational tomorrow. They have offered a checklist of measures to take to enhance security, and we are following their guidance closely. 
    This experience is emotionally draining for parents, staff, and students alike. Many of us have personal connections to people who have been harmed or are in harm’s way in Israel. Some of our staff have children and close relatives currently serving in the IDF. While our faculty continue to teach with love and pride, please remember they too are carrying an extra mental burden as they navigate through these extraordinarily difficult days.
    We invite GOA parents to join us for a Zoom at 11:00 AM tomorrow morning, Friday, October 13. We will discuss school security arrangements and take some time to strengthen one another in this challenging time as we prepare for Shabbat. Here is the Zoom link.
    Thank you for being part of this remarkable community. May God bless and protect us all in this time of deep sorrow.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School 
    Steven Klinghoffer
    Chair, Board of Trustees
  • October 10, 2023 - Head of School Message: Attack on Israel Follow-up

    Dear GOA Community,
    Each day since the Saturday attack on Israel by Hamas has felt like an eternity. Many members of our community are directly affected, some tragically. We have school families who were in Israel during the attacks, and many, including alumni and children of staff, who are serving in the IDF as Israel responds to this calamitous attack. May God protect them all. 
    I wish to address the security situation at our two campuses. There is no known threat against our school, but the West Orange Police Department has intensified its monitoring of both campuses. I have consulted this week with the chief of the Jewish Federation’s Community Security Initiative and with the president of our private security company (used by other Jewish schools and organizations) and have been reassured that we are well protected. Misinformation to the contrary is harmful and should be disregarded.   
    Together with other Jewish day schools, we are warning parents to disable social media apps such as Instagram, X, and Tiktok from their children’s phones. Graphic and often misleading information is flowing freely, augmenting the fears of our students. There are reportedly plans by Hamas to flood these media with videos of captives. Parents should discuss the dangers of these platforms and ask their children on a daily basis about what they are seeing, even if they have deleted the most unfiltered apps from their phones. 
    We want to remind you that there are many resources available for parents to help discuss this frightening situation with their children. In particular, we recommend the Jewish Family Service of Greater MetroWest NJ, which is offering opportunities to come together this week to explore thoughts, feelings, and reactions in a safe and supportive atmosphere led by a licensed mental health professional. Please see earlier email for more details.
    Since the beginning of the week our students on each campus have engaged in age-appropriate discussions and prayers for the safety of Israel. Older students have studied the historical context of the conflict and focused on the mitzvah of redeeming captives. Our staff have been provided with resources for navigating these confusing and upsetting situations with their students. 
    Finally, there are many ways to contribute financially to support Israelis in this hour of great need. One such example is the Jewish Federation of MetroWest Israel Emergency Fund, to which I have contributed. I applaud efforts to gather various supplies to ship to Israel, but think that financial support will be the most effective way to help Israelis with whatever goods and services are most needed. Please do what you can, and as I wrote previously, continue to reach out to Israelis to offer them emotional support in this time of extraordinary danger. 
    Rabbi Daniel Nevins
    Head of School
  • October 8, 2023 - Head of School Message: Attack on Israel

    As the great medieval poet Judah Halevi wrote, “My heart is in the East, even as I sit far away in the West.” All of us have been following the dreadful news in Israel for the past 36 hours with a mixture of horror, fear, anger and resolve. The unprovoked attack by Hamas, targeting Israeli civilians and taking children and the elderly hostage, can only be described as evil. The deaths of over 700 of our beloved people, and the injury of thousands more, leaves us reeling. The knowledge that Israel is once again forced into a war not of its own choosing gives moral clarity and resolve. 
    We stand in solidarity with Israel. Many of us have spent the past day and a half checking in with family and friends, and reports of losses are already staggering. Many in our community will be gathering at the rally tonight at 8:30 at Temple B'nai Jeshurun in Short Hills. Others have joined rallies in their shul communities, turning the festival of Shemini Atzeret from a time of joy to one of sorrow and stern resolve.  
    Even as our hearts are in the East our bodies are here, and we have a shared obligation to keep them safe. I have been in contact with the West Orange Police Department, with our GOA security team, and with the Jewish Community Security Initiative to make sure that our students and staff have every protection possible. 
    We will of course engage in age-appropriate programming for our students tomorrow and in the days to come. I know that there are already questions about our Israel trips. I am scheduled to fly with the ninth grade on November 5, and am eager to do so, but that conversation will need to wait a few days while the situation develops. For now, we will focus on supporting our Israeli family and friends, and care for the physical and psychological wellness of our school community. 
    I encourage all of us to make extra efforts to reach out to our contacts in Israel, that they should know our hearts are with them. To paraphrase Judah, speaking of his father Jacob and his missing brother Joseph, nafsheinu keshurot b’nafsham, our souls are bound up with the souls of the captive and the slain of our people, and our prayers are with the defenders of Israel. May God bless them with courage, strength and success in this time of great danger.
    Rabbi Daniel Nevins
    Head of School


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