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 Nevins' Passover Message

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.

  • May 17, 2022 - Sweetness and Sorrow

    Dear GOA Community,
    Life often disorients us with a mixture of experiences, simultaneously exalting us with joy and deflating us with sorrow. This is the message of Naomi Shemer’s famous song, Al Kol Eleh–For All of These. And this was my feeling on Saturday night at the High School Shabbaton when we said havdalah with beautiful singing after a magnificent Shabbat. And then a few minutes later we heard of the horrific, racist massacre in Buffalo which left 10 victims dead, and three others badly wounded. 
    We have learned that the shooter was guided by a warped worldview known as the Great Replacement Theory, which has motivated acts of violence around this country and as far off as New Zealand. This theory is deeply xenophobic, blaming Jews and other “elites” for trying to replace white people with people of color. It has motivated attacks against Black Americans in Charleston and Buffalo, Latinx Americans in El Paso, and Jews in Charlottesville, Poway and Pittsburgh. While the most virulent forms of this theory are spread on obscure websites and social media channels, it is also amplified by mainstream media voices. I refer you to the ADL’s explanation of this topic. We at GOA are committed to identifying, confronting and refuting such hateful rhetoric, and to teaching our students the importance of defending the dignity and safety of all people. We invite parents to engage their children in age-appropriate discussion, explaining our Jewish belief that all people are created in the divine image, and that no one should be terrorized over their identity. 
    One additional step that we can take — actually many steps — is to march this Sunday in the “Together Again” Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan. As our seniors return from Israel on Thursday, we feel great pride and gratitude for our homeland. No country is perfect, including Israel, but no country has been attacked and delegitimated as thoroughly as Israel. This is a chance for us to push back at hatred, to celebrate Jewish peoplehood and Israeli statehood. Please register for the parade here. I look forward to joining many of you in Manhattan.
    There is much more to celebrate in our community — so many wonderful things are happening, from last week’s 1st Grade Siddur Celebration, 8th Grade DC trip and High School Shabbaton, to next week’s graduation ceremony. This is the sweetness of community life that we celebrate. Simultaneously, the Covid virus refuses to depart, and there has been a steady rise in infections in our region. At the end of last week the NJ CALI score rose from yellow to orange. 
    Aside from one spike in infections following the Teva trip, our GOA infections have remained modest (eight total last week; three so far this week), but we are monitoring the situation closely. All high school students were required to mask following their Shabbaton, just as we did following the Middle School trips. Given our region’s increase in transmission we encourage the entire community to upgrade mask practice. We will need to revert to a mask mandate if our numbers rise significantly, so let’s try to prevent that with preemptive practices. 
    Naomi Shemer sings, “over the bitter and the sweet, over our young children–please guard them all, our good God.” As adults, we bear the responsibility of facing the vicissitudes of life, of maintaining focus, vigilance and hope, so that our children can thrive in a confusing and often painful world. Fortified by Jewish faith and grit, our school community is strong — and for this I am truly grateful.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • April 5, 2022 - Announcing Our Middle School Excellence Awards

    Dear GOA Families,
    I am pleased to announce that our Board of Trustees recently authorized the creation of a new GOA Middle School Excellence Award. Open to new and continuing students, this award is meant to highlight the core values of our school’s mission: Love of Learning, Community, Respect, Love for Israel, Commitment to Repairing the World and Inspiring Jewish Life and Learning. Applicants will compose a brief essay describing how they exemplify excellence in one of these values and submit a letter of reference. Winners will receive awards of up to $10,000 per year, renewable through ninth grade. These awards may be combined with need-based financial aid. For more information, please see the program description below.
    Golda Och Academy is blessed with an extraordinary faculty, student body, families and facilities. Our GO Connect program helps students who are new to Jewish day school gain the Hebrew language and text skills needed to thrive here. We integrate general and Jewish studies, feature an extraordinary STEM lab, and incorporate project-based learning across our program. Robust offerings of competitive sports, theater, choir, clubs and travel round out our academic program. We are especially proud of our High School trips to Israel in 9th and 12th grades. 
    The GOA Board of Trustees has made recruitment and retention at the Middle School level an institutional investment priority. Our intention with this award is to lift up our school’s values, recognize our students who demonstrate our values with excellence and attract new students to join our program. If you know a prospective student who would be a good candidate for this award, please contact our Office of Admissions at admissions@goldaochacademy.org or 973-602-3645.
    Wishing you a hag sameah,
    Rabbi Daniel Nevins
    Head of School

    GOA Middle School Excellence Award
    Golda Och Academy is pleased to announce our Middle School Excellence Award for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students who demonstrate excellence in the values on which our school was founded. Each of these values is described on our website. We ask applicants for this award to choose one of these values and explain its sources and significance in their life together with a letter of recommendation from a professional (i.e, Rabbi, teacher, coach).
    This generous scholarship of up to $10,000 is available for rising 6th, 7th and 8th grade students entering from other schools and is renewable for students in good standing each year through 9th grade. Students who are new to Jewish Day School thrive in our Go Connect program designed to assist students to successfully transition into our rigorous dual-curriculum. New students will apply for the award in conjunction with the standard admissions application (which can be found here or by contacting our Office of Admissions at admissions@goldaochacademy.org, 973-602-3645). 
    Current GOA students rising into our 6th, 7th and 8th grades in 2022-23 are eligible to apply for three (3) Middle School Excellence Awards of up to $10,000, renewable for students in good standing each year through 9th grade. GOA continues its generous program of need-based aid, which may be combined with these scholarships.
    All students who wish to apply for an Excellence Award must compose an original essay of about 500 words exploring the sources and significance of a GOA mission value that they feel they exemplify. This essay, together with a letter of recommendation from a professional (i.e, Rabbi, teacher, coach), must be submitted along with the admissions application for new students by June 17, 2022, or for current students by May 2, 2022. Please complete this form to begin the award application process. Current GOA students, once we have submitted your interest form you will receive instructions for submitting your Excellence Award application. Recipients will be selected by the Awards Committee.

  • March 28, 2022 - Moving to Mask Optional Protocol

    March 28, 2022 / 25 Adar II 5782
    Dear GOA Community,
    Thank you to the hundreds of staff and parents who responded to our questionnaire, sharing your plans and suggestions for the next phase of Covid policy. We have consulted once more with our medical committee, and they have reviewed data from national bodies such as Johns Hopkins, the CDC and the NJ Department of Health. Test positivity, case rates, hospitalizations and deaths have not changed significantly in either direction in recent weeks, despite the relaxation of mask mandates in many schools and businesses. The rate of transmission is flat and our CALI score is “moderate,” which is consistent with a mask optional policy. That said, we have registered a few infections this week, and are following news of the new Omicron BA.2 variant. Our experts expect to see a new wave of Covid in the coming months. If our region returns to orange or red on the CALI scale, we will once again update our policy.
    As such, we have determined that starting this Wednesday, March 30, masks will become optional for all students, staff and visitors, with the following exceptions:
    • Designated spaces such as the nurse’s offices and a few locations will continue to provide and require masks. Signs and announcements will indicate which spaces are mask-mandatory.
    • Because Ganon (Pre-K) students are not yet all vaccine-eligible, we will continue to mandate their mask use indoors.
    • Programs which involve students singing in close proximity indoors, such as rehearsals and performances for our many special programs this spring, tefillah, and high-density programs like the Science Fair will continue to require masking for students, staff and the audience.
    • Students and staff who have tested positive for Covid when returning to school after five days of isolation will need to wear a well-fitting, secure mask on days 6-10.
    • In the event of an outbreak of infections in a class or cohort, they may need to mask to prevent further spread. And as noted above, if the CALI score rises significantly we will have to reconsider our policy.
    Students and staff should bring a mask with them to school, and we will continue to stock a back-up supply. Moreover, because the risk is “moderate,” not “low,” we encourage all members of the community to consider precautions beyond what is mandated, both at school and in public.
    GOA will continue measures designed to mitigate transmission such as keeping desks three feet apart, making maximal use of outdoor spaces for eating and recess, and requiring proof of vaccination for all faculty and staff, students over 16, and visitors to our buildings. Vaccination will also continue to be mandatory for activities such as Funtracks/Aftercare, indoor sports, and overnight trips. We will still announce new infections on our dashboard and inform families when an infection is reported in their child’s class. In a mask-optional environment, contact tracing will not be conducted and individual students/faculty will not be identified as close contacts. Testing is always encouraged upon exposure and anyone symptomatic should remain home from school.
    We remind all members of our community to remain vigilant for symptoms of possible infection, and to test whenever in doubt. Before Passover we will update guidance and depending on circumstances, may request all staff and students to test the day before returning to school.
    This is a major transition for our school (and society) and we recognize that many new questions will be occasioned by our letter. Please direct questions of policy to us, and we will do our best to respond promptly.
    Many students and staff members will continue to mask, and it is important that unmasked individuals respect this decision and show sensitivity to the concerns of their neighbors. Likewise, it is important for the masked to respect the decisions of the unmasked and realize that they too are concerned with health and safety.
    Once more we want to emphasize the importance of Kehillah — our community — and the value of kindness and respect for one another. Living with the anxieties of a global pandemic for more than two years has taken a toll on us inside and out. Let us stay sensitive to the feelings and concerns of those around us, respect their needs, and show that we can fulfill the Torah’s great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself, for I am the Lord.”
    Shavuah tov,
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
    Keith N. Biebelberg
    Chair, Board of Trustees
  • March 17, 2022 - Shifting to Mask-Optional Policy

    Dear GOA Community,
    Greetings from Jerusalem, where I have joined our spirited Neshama students for a week exploring Jewish and Israeli history. Purim costumes are all around. Of course the classic Purim costume is the “maseikha” or mask, and our students prepared plaster face masks for each other to celebrate the festival. This year there are also still surgical masks on many faces as Israelis enter buildings, buses and trains. Hopefully this is the last year when serious masks will contend with the silly, both in Israel and in America.
    While I am far from New Jersey, I have spent much of my time here listening to the voices of our community that are concerned with our school’s COVID-19 policies, especially related to masking indoors. We have heard strong opinions, some that are in conflict with one another, but all motivated by love and commitment to the well-being of our students, faculty and families. I have also spoken with our medical advisers and reviewed the latest Covid data with them.
    As pandemic numbers continue to improve, we are preparing for our next update, which will include a shift to mask-optional policy. For some of you, this shift is already overdue, given that the NJ mandate was lifted 10 days ago. For others, the coming shift brings deep concern, especially for those with significant health vulnerabilities. 
    GOA has reported zero positive cases in over a month, and we should celebrate that accomplishment. In contrast, we have received reports of spikes in infections in some of the surrounding districts after their shift to mask-optional. We take our health responsibilities seriously, and know that many families and faculty appreciate our taking the time necessary to assess the impact of the shift before implementing it.
    We are including a questionnaire to get a broader sense of sentiment among our families and faculty. We want to learn about the individual plans of parents and faculty in a mask-optional environment. After we collect the data next week and review the infection rates one more time, we will prepare for a mask-optional policy to be implemented soon. Please complete the questionnaire here by Monday, March 21.
    Changing policy is one thing; changing social dynamics is quite another. One of our greatest Jewish imperatives is to show respect for one another. Many students and staff will continue to mask indoors for the time being, myself included, and the unmasked should be sensitive to their concerns. Likewise those who unmask should be supported in the same manner. I would like to encourage parents, teachers and students to go out of their way to show kindness and inclusion to people whose practice differs from their own. Only in this way can we live up to our values and fulfill our mission. 
    Wishing your family a joyous celebration of Purim,
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
  • February 25, 2022 - Standing with Ukraine

    Dear GOA Community,
    The eyes of the world have been focused on Ukraine as it was first threatened and now invaded by the Russian Federation. Kyiv is under siege, and Ukrainians are fighting for their lives. This is the largest military conflict in Europe since the Second World War, and it threatens the entire premise that countries are entitled to elect their own governments and live without fear of invasion by their neighbors. 
    Many members of our GOA community have ties to Ukraine. Our faculty member Jamie Perrello told me yesterday that her son Max was on a train heading west toward Lviv. We pray for his safety. Our senior class is well across the border in Poland as they start their Neshama program with an exploration of the Jewish experience there (click here to see photos and blogs from their experience). They are safe, but this sudden escalation of conflict feels close to home. 
    Our Chief Financial Officer Julia Malaga wrote a powerful article about the Jewish community of Cherkassy after celebrating her adult bat mitzvah there in 2018 as part of a delegation from our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest’s Jewish Peoplehood project. Cherkassy is our partner community, and our teacher Danielle Greene has served as counselor at their multigenerational summer camp since 2013. No doubt, many of you have ties as well. 
    Speaking personally, 103 years ago this week my grandfather Irving (Yitzhak) Brower survived a pogrom in his Ukrainian hometown of Felshtin. There was a civil war in Ukraine after WWI and their town was possessed in turn by Mensheviks, Bolsheviks and then finally by the Ukrainian nationalists led by a modern Haman named Simon Petlura. Petlura’s Cossaks massacred Jews in town after town, including members of my grandfather’s family. Fortunately he was able to hide on the snowy roof of their house, and later to escape west to Lviv, just as so many refugees are doing this week. 
    My thoughts today are with the people of Ukraine, and with their President, Volodymyr Zelensky, who is a political reformer, and a Jew. Indeed, there is a large Jewish community in Ukraine, including a Masorti congregation in Kyiv—I am friendly with their rabbi, and recruited a woman from Kyiv to JTS 5 years ago. She is about to be ordained as a rabbi this May and hopes to head back to serve the Jewish community of Ukraine, though that plan is suddenly in doubt. Another friend who is a Chabad rabbi notes that they have 52 communities across the country, all in harm’s way. Ukraine had been emerging as a bright spot of Jewish renewal until now, and I am terribly concerned for the lives of our extended family there.
    What can we do? Sadly it is not within our power to stop the invasion, but we can follow events closely, pray for the people who have been invaded, and support the needy. I have donated to a special campaign of the Joint Distribution Committee to help the Jews of Ukraine, and I encourage your family to find appropriate ways to lend support. This Shabbat is known as “Shekalim” because we read about the ancient obligation for every Jew to donate a half-shekel to support the public needs of our community. Think about what you can do to help those in harm’s way, and let your voice be heard through words and actions.
    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Nevins
  • February 23, 2022 - February Covid Policy Updates

    Dear GOA Community,
    We have fortunately arrived at a more hopeful stage of the pandemic when it is appropriate to review policies and loosen some controls within a responsible framework. Our vaccination rate is about 97% in the Upper School and 85% in the Lower School, and infections have dropped significantly inside our school and in the community at large. To be sure, infections continue, and we are aware that a new variant could yet emerge. Policy should reflect conditions, and if viral load surges again, God forbid, our policies will need to track that development. As always, our first goal is the safety of our students and staff, followed closely by support for our school mission to provide the best education for each student. We understand this second goal to indicate in-person instruction to the maximum possible extent.
    A third goal is worth dwelling on—building a sense of unity and mutual respect in our community. This means truly listening to divergent voices and recognizing their value, even when we think differently. GOA has named the values of Kehillah (Community) and Kavod (Respect) as central to our mission. It is important whether we find ourselves in the majority or the minority on any given issue to respect the views of others and to recognize that they may have legitimate concerns even if we have reached different conclusions.
    With these values in mind, we have consulted with medical experts, peer institutions, our faculty, administration and board, and arrived at the following policies, which include several significant updates. 
    • No longer required for outdoor activities, regardless of vaccination status.
    • No longer required of parents dropping children off or picking them up outdoors.
    • No longer required for competitive sports, including indoors, during active play.
    • Still required on school buses by CDC Federal mandate.
    • While the New Jersey State mandate for masking inside school buildings is set to expire on March 7, many schools are waiting for further guidance from the Department of Health and, we have learned, to get past their spring break. Similarly, we plan to wait until Passover recess in April before finalizing a transition to mask-optional policy inside our buildings after the holiday. This will allow us to assess the impact of the change in other schools and help our community prepare for Passover gatherings with more protection from viral spread. We will of course continue to monitor conditions and modify policy accordingly.
    • Even when the school enters a mask-optional state, we must continue to demonstrate sensitivity and care for the medical concerns of others around us. This is part of being in a respectful community. 
    Daily Screening
    • No longer required for staff.
    • No longer required for K-12 students.
    • Still required for Pre-K, as mandated by the NJ Department of Health for childcare centers.
    PCR Testing
    • No longer required on a weekly basis for staff and students regardless of vaccination status.
    • Required for special programs such as overnight retreats and trips.
    Vaccination (initial series)
    • Mandated for all staff, except with approved medical or religious waiver. 
    • Mandated for all students 16+, except with medical waiver.
    • Mandated for all participants in competitive sports and overnight field trips.
    • Mandated for participants in Aftercare and Funtracks, since cohorts are blended.
    • Mandated for all adult visitors to campus, who must show vaccination record for first visit.
    • Highly recommended for all students covered by the FDA and CDC Emergency Use Authorization. Under current circumstances we do not intend to extend our 16+ mandate for Covid vaccinations to younger students until the State of New Jersey lists it among required immunizations for school children.
    • Mandated for all staff, except with approved medical or religious waiver.
    • Highly recommended for all eligible students.
    • Requested for all adult visitors, but not mandated for brief masked visits, for example, to attend a ceremony or meet with a teacher or administrator.
    Quarantine and Isolation
    • Unvaccinated and unboosted (booster eligible) individuals who come into close contact with a person who tests positive for Covid are required to quarantine for five days after exposure, and test negative before returning to campus on the sixth day. According to the NJ Department of Health, individuals returning from quarantine or isolation must mask during days 6-10.
    • Individuals who develop symptoms associated with Covid must isolate and PCR test.
    • Any student or staff member who tests positive for Covid shall inform their campus nurse, isolate for an additional 5 days, and not return to campus until they are symptom free for 24 hours, including no fever without use of fever reducing medications.
    This is a lot to process, we know. Please let us know if you have any questions. Wishing you good health.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
    Keith N. Biebelberg
    Chair, Board of Trustees
  • February 1, 2022 - Updated COVID Policies

    Dear GOA Community, 
    As we enter the months of February and Adar we reach another inflection point with the Covid pandemic. The good news is truly good — infection rates in the past two weeks in NJ have dropped precipitously, down more than 70%. Covid is not over, but the Omicron wave is receding, thank God. As a society we find ourselves conflicted between the urge to maintain vigilance, and the urge to normalize. I have been speaking with as many doctors as possible and asking them to review the latest studies to give us the best guidance. 
    On a daily basis, I hear from families requesting modifications of policy in one direction or the other; these requests are often reasonable. For example, is it truly necessary to have a booster shot following a breakthrough infection? If so, then how soon? In many cases, data and quality studies are still incomplete, yet we have received solid advice reflecting the mainstream of expert opinion.
    As always, we seek to find balance — to keep our community safe while allowing our kids to have the best possible educational experience, in person, at school. We are proceeding with two previously announced changes this month, starting the week of February 6: 
    • Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to submit a PCR test every week unless they are participating in a GOA program such as team sports that require weekly testing. More details:
    • Fully vaccinated is defined as having completed both the primary series of Covid vaccinations and the booster once eligible, and having uploaded all records to Magnus.
    • Individuals who are either unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or booster-eligible yet unboosted are still required to submit test results weekly. 
    • Any student or staff member who develops symptoms consistent with Covid is required to stay home from school and get a PCR test, returning only after a negative result is reported. In addition, we recommend that all members of our community continue a vigilant approach to preventing and detecting viral transmission, including voluntary weekly testing. 
    • We are adopting CDC guidelines to permit a shortened 5-day isolation or quarantine protocol, returning to school on day 6, with the following stipulations:
    • The day of a positive Covid test or the emergence of Covid symptoms is day zero.
    • The student must then complete 5 full days of either isolation or quarantine, and be entirely asymptomatic at least 24 hours before the sixth day.
    • On day 6, the person must still be asymptomatic and complete a negative rapid test, as well as the SchoolPass screening.
    • In order to return to school, the parent must arrange for their student to meet with the school nurse, review their symptoms and test history, and show that they are wearing a well-fitted medical grade mask. Teachers will be asked to ensure social distancing, especially when eating, and report any observation of symptoms to the school nurse.
    • On days 6-10, participation in extracurricular activities will be limited to situations in which masks can be worn consistently and correctly. 
    Thank you for staying engaged in this extended process, for partnering with the school in creating a healthy and joyous environment for your delightful children.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School

Head of School Welcome Message

Health & Wellness Update for August 17, 2021

A Thanksgiving and Hanukkah Message from Rabbi Danny Nevins