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.

  • August 28, 2023 - Head of School Message: Welcome to the 2023-24 / 5783-84 School Year

    Dear GOA Students, Parents and Staff,
    Welcome to the new school year! I hope that your summer break was enjoyable, allowing you time to relax with family and friends, to explore the world, and to prepare for another year of learning. I treasured days of hiking and paddling in the Adirondack Mountains, and then a remarkable heritage trip to Poland with my father and other family members. If interested, you may read my reflections here.
    There are many exciting developments at GOA for 2023-24 / 5783-84. Enrollment has grown by 5% since last year and we are thrilled to welcome more than 80 new students to GOA this fall. This growth reflects well on our entire community — faculty and staff, students, parents and alumni — who are committed to making our school outstanding in every way. Welcome to all the new students and families — we are so glad that you came!
    Today is orientation day for new faculty and staff — we have been joined by people of extraordinary talent, and I look forward to seeing how they enhance the learning experience of our students. The entire team is working together this week to make our school a supportive and safe center for growth in all areas of life. We appreciate all of our faculty and staff — exceptionally capable and dedicated professionals to help young people grow in skill, character and spirit.
    At our Wilf Lower School campus, learning spaces have been reconfigured to accommodate the growing Kindergarten, we have also added a new Livnot Lab, a cutting edge maker space, and the Greenhouse is coming soon. We have extended the STEM focus from Upper to Lower School, adding staff and equipment to nurture the imagination and skill of our young inventors. 
    All summer we have been renovating the Eric F. Ross Upper School campus. The entrance has been beautified, the main restrooms on the first floor completely rebuilt, and a new all-gender, accessible restroom added. Our gym ceiling is fully refurbished, and new digital displays will celebrate student achievement. The new observatory is operational, and we are ready for our students to reach for the stars!
    I am especially excited about a new banner that will now greet everyone who enters the Upper School. It quotes the Torah’s core message, “Love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18). This verse reminds us that kindness and compassion for one another is the very heart of Torah, and the greatest commandment from our Creator. Do not assume that this is an easy ask! If it were easy to treat each other with respect we wouldn’t need a command. I am proud of our GOA students, and of the staff who help them grow on the social and emotional as well as academic levels.
    Enjoy your final days of summer — I look forward to seeing you very soon and to learning together in the coming year.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
  • June 9, 2023 - Head of School Message: Pride

    Dear GOA Community,
    Our school is blessed with diversity, including members of our staff, students and parent community who identify as LGBTQ+. We all have important people in our lives — family, friends, colleagues, teachers, students — who identify as such, and we venerate the Torah’s core commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” For this reason, Pride Month is a time when we at GOA support the dignity of all people and LGBTQ+ pride. 
    Every Friday night in the prayer Lekha Dodi we sing lo teivoshi (“do not be ashamed”), and quote Isaiah’s exhortations to rise up from the dust and let our light shine. According to Jewish law it is forbidden to humiliate another person (boshet), and mandatory to support human dignity (k’vod habriot). As such we teach the importance of respect and kindness toward each other. We are sponsoring a booth at the Maplewood Pride Parade this Sunday. If you are around, please stop by and say hello. 
    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
  • May 23, 2023 - Head of School Message: Jewish Identity at GOA

    Dear GOA Community,
    We look forward to celebrating graduation tomorrow and many other end-of-year events and milestones in the coming weeks. Simultaneously, our faculty and staff are gearing up for the 2023-24/5783-84 school year. There are exciting plans for every grade, but I would like to take a moment to address questions related to our community’s religious practice. 
    GOA is unusual among Jewish day schools in how we intentionally create an inclusive environment in which families of different denominations, or no denomination, can come, learn, live and flourish as Jews. GOA was founded in 1965 as part of the Solomon Schechter movement, affiliated with Conservative Judaism, and this is part of our legacy. We are committed to promoting traditional Jewish practices such as kashrut, tefillah and Shabbat in the most welcoming and non-judgmental manner possible. Rabbi Solomon Schechter himself sought to create Jewish structures that would transcend denominational boundaries, and our school has always done the same.
    Our school is clear about its values—we support the study of Torah, the performance of mitzvot, and active engagement with the Jewish community in America and in Israel. We promote the pursuit of justice in fulfillment of the Torah’s mandate, “Justice, justice shall you pursue!” (Deut. 16:20). We make our school a gathering place for the wise, warmly welcoming diverse perspectives for the sake of deepening mutual understanding. GOA regularly invites clergy from across the Jewish community to teach our students, bless them at important moments, and support their development in school, in shul, and at home. 
    The dignity of our students and their families is always top of mind, and we take to heart the Torah’s command to, “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord” (Levit. 19:18). This mitzvah may be the most challenging of them all–it teaches us the importance of self-respect, and the extension of that same regard to others. Much of our work at school relates to improving relationships between students and families. When we succeed, it is as if the divine presence dwells among us.
    Please take special note of the following clarifications to our ritual policies:
    One way that we balance traditional norms with inclusive practice is through our Kashrut Guide. This new document explains what our community can expect of the school when it serves food, and what the school expects of the community when our students and staff bring food onto campus or serve it at their own events. One timely note: Students may not order any food deliveries (even kosher) to the school throughout the school day. Upper School students who remain after school hours may order kosher foods. Please see the Kashrut Guide for more information.
    Another way that we seek ritual balance is in our tefillah options at the Upper School. After running a pilot this past winter, we will implement new tefillah structures in the fall. Every family will be asked to speak with their Upper School children about these options, and then inform the school of their choices. These choices may be revisited mid-year. 
    A second tefillah discussion between Upper School parents and students relates to the use of prayer garments, tallit and tefillin. Some parents expect their children to don one or both of these items for morning prayers, while others do not. We will keep a list of family preferences for our students. If a student who is expected to wear tallit and/or tefillin is missing them, we will remind the student the first time, and inform the parents on the second occasion so that they can reinforce the decision and ensure that their student brings the requisite items to school. 
    There are many additional areas of Jewish practice and belief that merit discussion as we continue the sacred work of building our community. Our school rabbis and Judaic Studies faculty are wonderful resources for students and parents alike. Some families have long-established practices, while for others many of these traditions are new territory, simultaneously intimidating and exciting. We welcome all students and parents to engage with our sacred traditions with curiosity and kindness for one another.
    In the final days before Shavuot, the anniversary of the Revelation on Mt. Sinai, I invite all of us to view the Torah as our precious inheritance, to experience it anew as if given just today, and to allow its commandments to sanctify our lives. I send blessings to you and your wonderful family.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
  • January 5, 2023 - Head of School Message: Reenrollment is Open!

    Dear GOA Families,
    What is the recipe for raising children to grow into kind, responsible, successful and happy adults? There are several essential ingredients, starting with family and friends who model personal integrity, curiosity, growth, and love. School is the other essential ingredient – this is where students spend most of their waking hours, learning information and skills, developing their character, testing themselves, interacting with peers, all with the expert guidance of dedicated teachers. Not every school can provide such steady and individualized support, but we at Golda Och Academy are truly blessed by a partnership of families, faculty, staff and students who share our core values. This includes our commitment to teaching Torat hesed v’emet – the Torah of kindness and truth. 
    When we model kindness for our students, when we teach them critical capacities for discerning truth, and when we guide them to integrate these qualities into their lives, then we raise children to become adults and builders of a flourishing future. These qualities are universal–they play out wherever we learn, whether in social studies class, in STEM, on the basketball court or in the street. They are also divine. In the book of Proverbs (3:3), we are told, “Kindness and truth will not forsake you. Bind them around your neck, write them on your heart’s tablet.” Those who learn to act with kindness and pursue the truth add holiness and happiness to the world. This is the power of a GOA education.
    I have many dreams for the future of GOA as a school dedicated to practicing kindness and pursuing truth. We will continue to enhance the arts and sciences at every level of learning, and we are establishing new structures for enriching Judaic Studies, Tefillah and volunteer experiences. With our expanded resources for student learning support and guidance, we will create a healthy ecosystem for our students to thrive. Our school is recognized nationally for its many innovations, and we should all be proud of our role in this achievement.
    Physical improvements on our campuses will make them more beautiful and fruitful environments for student learning in 2023-24 and beyond. The Wilf Campus will soon sprout a greenhouse, a living laboratory for our students to study biology and to support food pantries in our region. The Eric F. Ross Campus will be enhanced with a reimagined student-centered first floor. 
    We have minimized tuition increases without sacrificing the outstanding quality of our program. Newly expanded financial aid and our Golden Path Grant are intended to build enrollment from Pre-K to 12th grade, benefiting all students with robust academic, extracurricular and social opportunities. 
    Re-enrollment is now open. Those awaiting financial aid decisions should wait until receiving that information before enrolling. I look forward to sharing the journey ahead with your students and family. Please follow the directions below to register for the 5784 / 2023-24 school year. Thank you for partnering as we raise today’s students to be tomorrow’s teachers and leaders.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
    Click here to begin the re-enrollment process: 
    Re-enrollment must be completed no later than March 1 to secure your child’s spot at GOA for the 2023-24 school year.
    Please don’t start the process if you are still waiting for financial aid.
  • December 11, 2022 - Head of School Message: Financial Aid

    Dear GOA Parents,
    It is in the interest of every student and family at GOA to attract new mission-appropriate students to our school. With increased numbers come increased opportunities for continuing students in the academic, extracurricular, and social areas of their lives. Building enrollment ultimately helps GOA expand its tuition base and thus keep our beloved school strong and secure for generations to come. We therefore encourage all GOA parents and students to help us recruit new students to enhance our community and strengthen our school. 
    Like all schools, we devote great efforts to recruiting and enrolling mission-appropriate new students at every level. The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest Day School Initiative already offers two incentive programs — Smart Move and Smart Switch — to encourage students to enroll in Jewish day school. Public school families represent 88% of school aged children in our region, and may see the value of Jewish day school education but feel constrained. As such, the GOA Board of Trustees has approved a proposal called “The Golden Path Grant” (Shvil HaZahav). Students who transfer to GOA Middle or High School from a public or independent school will qualify for a first-year grant of $18,000, and a second-year grant of $9,000 (unless their need-based aid would be greater). 
    Meanwhile, we continue to prioritize generous financial aid for all students in need, and are indeed expanding eligibility for assistance to make an outstanding GOA education accessible for all families. If you have questions about financial aid, please contact our CFO, Julia Malaga.
    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School 
  • September 15, 2022 - Head of School Message: Remote Learning Policy

    Dear GOA Families,
    Classes are up and running on both campuses, and I have witnessed the high level of enthusiasm and joy among students and faculty alike. We are thrilled to be back together and have every intention of continuing in-person instruction without interruption. That said, we realize that some students will experience Covid infections that will keep them out of school for several days. In such cases, we will make remote instruction available to the affected students with these conditions:
    1. Teachers will need a full day’s notice before they can include the student remotely.
    2. Remote access is limited to students who are isolating in response to Covid.
    3. Remote access may not be offered for all settings given our diverse learning activities.
    4. The maximum number of remote access days for any given student will be four —starting the day after their isolation begins. For example, if a student tests positive on a Sunday and informs the school, then remote access would be offered Tuesday through Friday. 
    Hopefully there will be no need for this back-up for your students, or any students, but we want to be prepared just in case. If your student encounters other health challenges that affect their school experience this year, please contact their guidance counselor.
    Wishing your families a healthy and happy new year. Shanah tovah!
    Rabbi Daniel Nevins
    Head of School
  • September 9, 2022 - Head of School Message: Operations Update

    Dear GOA Families,
    As we complete the first week of school, I want to offer gratitude for the remarkable people who work on our two campuses with skill, resilience, and great commitment. From the faculty and administration to the staff, security, and maintenance teams, we are extremely well served. When things go smoothly it is possible to forget how much effort went into that calm experience. But circumstances often conspire to test our team, and then I stand in awe at their capacity to adapt and reorganize operations for the sake of our students.
    This week we had two such sets of challenging circumstances:
    • Over the course of this week seven staff members at the Lower School tested positive for Covid. We immediately took measures to protect the other staff and our students from infection, but that was only part of the task. Our administration and faculty needed to step up and cover for their missing colleagues so that the first week of school would be wonderful for our students, as indeed it was. We wish refuah sheleimah (full recovery) for our staff, and thanks to all who stepped up and covered for them.
    • The second major issue challenging us, and schools across the nation, relates to school transportation. At the last minute in August, two of our major bus providers canceled their contracts, leaving us scrambling to find coverage. We have been in contact with many transportation providers in the state, and were miraculously (and expensively) able to line up replacements for all our routes. But the agencies that handle background checks on drivers did not go into overdrive, and we still have numerous routes in Bergen, Union and Middlesex counties that are not covered. This has caused terrible challenges for many families. We are well aware that other schools are in the same situation, but this awareness does not help. Internally, the challenge is exacerbated by a three-week gap between the service of our beloved outgoing Manager of Operations, Crystal Hopkins, and our much-anticipated new Manager, Catie DeSista who will begin later next week. Other members of our administration, especially CFO Julia Malaga and Registrar Lauren Iannia, have stepped into the breach, working late into the night and early in the morning to address challenges very much beyond our control.
    My purpose in this note is not only to express gratitude to our staff, though it is very much deserved. Many of you have already showered praise and thanks on our team, and we appreciate that. But I know that frustrations caused by these logistical challenges are real and cannot always be resolved with a smile. So, if you have an urgent issue related to school transportation, please do not contact our staff, but rather go directly to the transportation companies: 
    • SOMA families should contact Lulu at NYNJ Bus Charter, 551-306-9992, or use the WhatsApp group to contact the driver
    • Livingston families contact Lisa Marazzo, 201-704-5981.
    • West Orange families contact dispatcher Gloria, 973-324-1897.
    • RideAlong Now families contact either Manny Ferraro, 551-25-3521, or Chris Torres, 703-720-7314.
    Thank you, as always, for your partnership. I wish you and your families a Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Daniel Nevins
    Head of School


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