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.

  • May 3, 2024: Head of School Message — College Campus Unrest

    Dear GOA Community,
    This year’s celebration of Passover, “our season of freedom” was marred for many by intense anti-Israel activism on college campuses across the country, sparked by a student encampment and then building takeover at Columbia University. I live just three blocks from this Morningside Heights campus, and I walked the perimeter in dismay as the citadel of learned discourse devolved into an intolerant sea of angry chants. I wasn’t frightened for my safety walking about in my kippah, but I was shaken deeply. Amid the sound of helicopters overhead, the sight of young people wearing keffiyehs, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “free Palestine” was all around. In the closing hours of the holiday on Tuesday evening, we watched from our rooftop as the NYPD moved onto campus and arrested hundreds of students who had refused to evacuate — a sad, if necessary, outcome. 
    What are we at Golda Och Academy to make of this? As a school that proudly declares “love of Israel” as a core value, how shall we respond to those who demonize the Jewish state and ignore the horrific crimes of Hamas? As Americans who promote freedom of expression, how shall we view expressions of hatred for Israel, at times morphing into crude expressions of antisemitism? And as families that cherish higher education, how shall we regard the universities where so many students and faculty speak not of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, but of replacing one nation with the other?
    First, it does no good to create a mirror image of the hatred and intolerance expressed toward Israel by many of the protestors (some of whom are in fact Jewish). Hamas launched this war, Hamas committed horrific crimes against Israelis, and Hamas has used its own people as a shield. Yet, it gives us only sorrow to see others suffer. We are not full of hatred toward Palestinians or any other people, and we recognize their human rights. The suffering of non-combatants in Gaza is a human tragedy. The Jewish people self-identifies as rahmanim b’nai rahmanim, “merciful people, from merciful people,” and we should never give up this legacy. 
    Second, we cannot ignore the fact that the Palestinian leadership, lately of Hamas, but previously of the PLO and others, has employed grotesque violence against Israeli and Jewish civilians around the world, especially when there was a chance for peace. This was the case during the Oslo process of the 1990s, and this was the case again this year when talks between the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia were focusing on a peaceful resolution to the conflict. As Julian E. Barnes reported regarding the current hold-up in negotiations (The New York Times, May 1, 2024, “The Morning Newsletter”), “​​But some involved in the discussions — Americans, Egyptians and Qataris have been mediating — worry that Hamas appears willing to sacrifice even more Palestinian civilians. Its officials believe that the deaths in Gaza erode support for Israel around the world.”
    Third, we dare not disengage from the debate on campus, unpleasant and frightening though it may be. While some of the protesters genuinely hate Israel and want to see it destroyed, others are just appalled by the vast suffering caused by this war. I do not know why they were not similarly moved by the initial massacre of Jews on October 7, nor do I understand why they do not protest the deaths caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which are about 10 times as high (estimated at over 500,000). Still, if we who love Israel withdraw from the debate, then an entire generation of young people may conclude that Israel must be entirely to blame for this ongoing conflict and that America should discontinue its support for the Jewish state. 
    Fourth, we also must not concede our place at universities, research institutions, and the professions and corporations where the future is forged. Many of my close friends are Hillel rabbis and other campus professionals, and I am in awe of their work. This is a time to support the work of Jews on campus — students, staff, and faculty — to strengthen them and give them the resources needed to reach hearts and minds, not only of Jews, but of all people who genuinely care about a just and peaceful future for all people. Many Jewish families are asking whether a given campus is safe for their students. My advice is to speak with current students and Hillel staff at that school, to learn what the challenges have been, and how the administration has managed the conflict. We must be strong enough to encounter disagreement with courage, but no student should be expected to suffer harassment or intimidation for their identity or views. 
    Fifth, we should continue to reach out to our Israeli family and friends, some of whom are more worried about us than about themselves. One Israeli cousin of mine contacted me today from India to make sure that I was okay. The essential fact is that we rely on one another. We rely on the Israeli government to make difficult decisions to secure a more peaceful future for all. Our Israeli family and friends need our support and solidarity now more than ever. They rely on us for encouragement and to bolster their resilience.
    To do this, we must be well-informed, deeply rooted, and resilient. We must confront hatred — from whatever direction — with moral clarity. We must invest in Jewish education and recruit other families to join us at Golda Och Academy, so that their children may also have the benefit of a deep, joyous, kind, and proud Jewish identity. I am so pleased that our seniors on Neshama have nearly completed three months in Israel and that our 9th grade students are preparing to go on Na’ale. Our students return from these trips with a depth of knowledge and identification with Israel that allow them to advocate for a better future for Israelis, and indeed for all people who are willing to live together in peace. 
    Shabbat Shalom — May God bless Israel and all the world with peace.
    Rabbi Danny Nevins
    Head of School
  • 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


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