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.

  • October 11, 2021: Head of School Message: COVID-19 Update, October 11, 2021

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    We learned this morning that a student in the sixth grade has tested positive for COVID-19 and is recovering at home with mild symptoms, following CDC/NJDOH guidelines for quarantine. This child was not in school during their infectious period, so their classmates were not exposed while in school. Anyone who had direct contact outside of school will be notified by the family or the local Department of Health.
     
    We wish our student a speedy and complete recovery, and all of you good health.
     
    If you have any additional health-related questions or concerns, please contact Nurse Ilena/Nurse Roberta and/or your family physician.
     
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • October 3, 2021: Head of School Message: COVID-19 Update, October 3, 2021

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    This afternoon we learned that an 11th grade student has tested positive for COVID-19. This student is recovering at home following CDC and NJDOH protocols. All close contacts have been identified and asked to take a PCR test either Monday or Tuesday. Vaccinated students are not required to quarantine following an exposure unless they develop symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive. As is the case when anyone tests positive for COVID-19, the contact-tracing is handled by the local department of health in the town where the student is from. If anyone had close contact with these students outside of school, they will be notified accordingly about quarantine protocol.
     
    We wish a speedy recovery to our student and hope that all our GOA friends and families remain well. Once again I am grateful to the staff, students and parents of GOA for working closely together to mitigate the spread of this virus and disease.
     
    If you have any additional health-related questions or concerns, please contact Nurse Ilena/Nurse Roberta and/or your family physician.
     
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • September 24, 2021 - Head of School Message: Keeping GOA Healthy and Safe

    Dear GOA Parents,
     
    As we reach the end of the fall festivals and prepare for normal time, the need for continued COVID testing and remote learning days is frustrating to many parents and students, just as it is for faculty and administration. Many of you have reached out to me with questions and suggestions, which I truly appreciate. I have responded to each note individually, but imagine that many others have the same questions, and so let me say the following:
     
    Why not test on Friday instead of Monday? Wouldn’t that obviate the need for remote learning days? This is an excellent point which our Health Committee considered at length. The main counterargument may not be obvious—when we learn of a positive test for COVID, this affects not only the individual, but also all unvaccinated people with whom they interacted the prior two days. If we test on Friday, and learn of a positive result on Sunday night, then the entire cohort of the affected child would need to quarantine that following week. In contrast, if we test Monday morning and find a positive result by Tuesday night, then only weekend contacts are asked to quarantine. In addition, we are finding that test results are coming in a bit slowly, and so Friday test results might not be available until Monday (this was my own recent experience). Also, some of our students travel long distances home, and with Shabbat starting earlier, we have less time for testing after school on Friday. Finally, for the November 1 test date we already had a professional development date scheduled for November 2, so a Friday test wouldn’t really have gained us that extra day for instruction.
     
    News that the FDA is likely to approve Pfizer’s vaccine for younger children in October means that we will hopefully be able to cease regular testing after November, though of course this depends on full compliance with our vaccination recommendation, and on the general course of the pandemic. I have also heard from some parents who want GOA to test more often, specifically the older students and staff who are already vaccinated. This is not currently guidance from the CDC or NJ Department of Health, but of course staff are welcome to test more often, and should do so following any exposure to an infected individual. 
     
    Finally, I realize that the confluence of school starting in September and the Tishri holidays has been especially disruptive this year with late Labor Day, early Rosh HaShanah, and mid-week festivals. I am looking ahead to the next several years to make sure we have fewer disruptions and more instructional days. For now let’s prepare to hit the ground running in October/Heshvan and make every day count. Most important, let’s keep ourselves and those around us healthy and safe!
     
    Moadim l’simhah,
     
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • September 23, 2021: Head of School Message: October COVID Testing for Unvaccinated Individuals

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    We are so excited to see everyone back on campus. To that end, we will continue our partnership with PM Pediatrics for COVID-19 PCR testing for unvaccinated individualsto meet our 2021-2022 school year requirements. Vaccinated individuals do not need to be tested.
     
    The next round of on-campus testing will take place on Monday, October 4. Those participating in onsite testing on October 4 will not have to upload results to Magnus, as those results will be sent directly to the campus nurse by PM Pediatrics. 
     
    All those who are tested elsewhere or on a different date must upload their PCR COVID-19 result to Magnus by Tuesday, October 5 at 8:00 pm. Students will not be permitted to return to school without proper documentation uploaded to Magnus. Please remember that only PCR COVID-19 tests will be accepted; we do NOT accept rapid antigen tests.
     
    Please note, while we wait for results, all students in the Lower School and 6th Grade will switch to remote instruction in the afternoon on Monday, October 4 and on Tuesday, October 5. Depending on how long it takes to receives test results from the lab, we may need to have Lower School and 6th Grade students learn remotely on Wednesday, October 6; if that's the case, we will notify you as early as we can. 
     
    To begin this new process, you must visit PM Pediatrics’ personalized GOA website: 
     
     
     
    Registration opens today to book your Telehealth Appointment with PM Pediatrics, which will take place from 
    Sunday, September 26 through Sunday, October 3
     
    Only those students that had a telehealth visit through the above website registration will be tested on site. 
     
    For families testing on Monday, October 4 with PM Pediatrics, please arrive at the Wilf Lower School campus based on the first initial of your last name:
     
    Student Testing, Monday, October 4
    Wilf Lower School Campus
     
    Last name A-H
    8:30 am-9:30 am 
     
    Last name I-Q
    9:30 am-10:30 am
     
    Last name R-Z
    10:30 am-11:30 am
     
     
    While we are pleased to have this partnership with PM Pediatrics and provide this easy-to-use option for our families, it is not a requirement to be tested with them. Families can feel free to consult with their primary care physician for additional options and/or visit another testing site in the region.
     
    **Please note that, per state reporting guidelines, 
    all positive results will also be provided to the NJ Department of Health.**
     
    If you have specific questions for the PM Pediatrics team, or help with registering, you can call them at 516-620-8700.
     
    For all up-to-date information on 2021-22 COVID policies and procedures, please click here.
     
    Bivrakhah,
     
    Head of School
  • September 19, 2021: Head of School Message: COVID-19 Update

    September 19, 2021 / 13 Tishrei 5782
     
    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    In the continued interest of transparency, I am writing to notify our community about an additional faculty member who reported a positive COVID-19 result. This person is following COVID-19 protocol guidelines, no close contacts within the school have been identified and contact tracing has been initiated. This faculty member is recovering from some mild symptoms and poses no exposure risk to any of our students or teachers.
     
    If anyone had close contact with this faculty member outside of school they will be notified accordingly about quarantine protocol. Let us take this opportunity to recall how transmissive the virus has become, and to realize the importance of our layered approach to preventing infections. Please check our COVID-19 protocols page on a regular basis.
     
    If you have any additional health-related questions or concerns, please contact Nurse Ilena/Nurse Roberta and/or your family physician.
     
    Wishing you a Chag Sukkot Sameach,
     
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • September 17, 2021: Community Torah Corner: Shabbat Ha'azinu/Sukkot 5782

    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
    Shabbat Ha'azinu/Sukkot 5782
     
    The earth is alive! Topsoil teems with microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. These tiny life forms make it possible for plants, animals and people to thrive on the surface. We don’t always remember the life beneath our feet, but our GOA gardeners have used it to produce prolific fruits from seeds and soil.
     
    Would you believe that the earth also has a spiritual life? The Torah often personifies the land, specifically the Land of Israel, which rewards the righteous and expels offenders. Our Torah reading this week, Ha’azinu, begins with the land “listening” to the song of Moses. If the people likewise heed his words, then they will be blessed to live long on the land. 
     
    Sukkot is a harvest festival, as we read in Deuteronomy 16, “After the ingathering from your threshing floor and your vat, you shall hold the Feast of Booths for seven days. You shall rejoice in your festival…” The Torah emphasizes the joy of Sukkot, and who doesn’t love the harvest? Yet our sages have noticed that the Torah does not say, “you shall rejoice in your harvest,” but rather, “you shall rejoice in your festival.” There is pleasure in the fruits of physical labor, but something deeper is going beneath the surface. The Torah is reminding us to find joy not only in physical pleasure, but also in spiritual purpose.
     
    The new year 5782 is a sabbatical or Shmita year. During this sacred year, farmers in Israel are not supposed to work the land, but rather to let it rest. Any fruits that grow on their own belong to anyone who is hungry. The Torah explains in Exodus chapter 23 and Leviticus chapter 25 that the sabbatical is designed to remind us that we do not truly own the land. God is the owner of the land. Just as the weekly Shabbat reminds us not to be defined by our work, so does the sabbatical year remind us that we have a higher purpose in life.
     
    Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook was the first chief rabbi of Israel. He wrote a beautiful book about the sabbatical year, which he believed could elevate the soul of the people:
     
    “What Sabbath does for the individual, shmita does for the nation as a whole. The Jewish people, in whom the godly, creative force is planted eternally and distinctively, has a special need to periodically reveal the divine light within itself with full intensity”
     
    I often wonder if there really is something special about being Jewish. Many people have religious faith and traditions, and indeed I respect them all. The distinct idea of Judaism seems to be our faith that God places us on the earth with a special purpose, to be vehicles of light to inspire and enlighten all people and places. When we remember this purpose and live up to its potential, then we are blessed with long life and great happiness. The shmita year reminds us that physical success is only the beginning of blessing. Spiritual depth and devotion are the true purpose of being a Jew. I wish you and your families Shabbat shalom and hag sameah, a truly joyous festival.
  • September 17, 2021: Head of School Message: COVID-19 Update

    September 17, 2021 / 11 Tishrei 5782
     
    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    I am writing to notify our community about a faculty member who reported a positive COVID-19 result. This person is following COVID-19 protocol guidelines, no close contacts within the school have been identified and contact tracing has been initiated. This faculty member is in otherwise good health and poses no exposure risk to any of our students or teachers.
     
    If anyone had close contact with this faculty member outside of school they will be notified accordingly about quarantine protocol. Let us take this opportunity to recall how transmissive the virus has become, and to realize the importance of our layered approach to preventing infections. Please check our COVID-19 protocols page on a regular basis.
     
    If you have any additional health-related questions or concerns, please contact Nurse Ilena/Nurse Roberta and/or your family physician.
     
    Shabbat shalom,
     
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School

Head of School Welcome Message

Health & Wellness Update for August 17, 2021