May 24, 2018
9 Sivan 5778
Dear AJA Community,
I have learned that anything in life that is worth having doesn't just happen by chance. The things that mean the most to us are results of sacrifice, reminders of our values, determination and a strong willingness to overcome adversity or obstacles. If graduating from high school or college just “happened” it’s meaning and value would be diminished. If we just woke up on the day our child was to become a b’nai mitzvah without the work, the learning, the devotion and we just said to them “You’re a Bar/Bat Mitzvah!” - the milestone would simply not be as meaningful. What creates meaning and makes these truly milestones, is the focus on the manifestation of the values, time and effort that leads to make each accomplishment a crescendo.
I’ve written about that which makes AJA so unique (Connection to Israel and Academic Excellence). Here’s another one...we start focusing on values and grit from an early age and keep reminding the students about staying true to these values throughout their entire AJA journey. Living the values we hold so dear as Jews, is a thread that weaves through every grade.
This was clear last night as our Upper School held their Awards Night. Traditionally, an awards night is fairly basic. Students excel in various areas and are recognized for their accomplishments. At AJA, however, we took it a step further to make it even more meaningful. In addition to recognizing achievements of our students in areas including academic excellence, athletic success and dedication to the community - we connected each of these accomplishments to our school values.
The values we identified that highlight an aspect of life in which we can excel and that emphasize the ways we can each contribute to our community were:
Academics • Chesed / Service • Commitment to Torah Learning • Creativity / Passion
Leadership • Middot / Personal Integrity • Relationships • Sportsmanship
Because these are such cherished values, we know that for our Upper School students, their journey to live these values will continue long past graduation. They, like all of us, are not final products. We are each a work in progress!
In this week’s Parsha Naso, we read the famous priestly blessings the same blessing we offer to our children on Friday night at the Shabbat table. The Torah’s preamble to this blessing states: “Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying: This is how you should bless the children, by saying the following to them”.Why the seemingly superfluous words “to them”? Tradition teaches - modeling after the priestly blessing - that when we bless our children it must be about them and not about what we need or want from them. We should bless our children to identify right from wrong on their own. We should bless our children to lead value-driven lives because that is what they should expect for themselves and want for the world.y wish for our students of ALL ages is that they may understand and truly live the values that we constantly promote at AJA. These values are something that would benefit all of us to keep top of mind, to insure that we are worthy of being considered a sacred community.
Last night was a special celebration of our Upper School students and faculty, along with the values they live and will continue developing. If you were not able to attend, please click HERE to see the awards we presented, and more specifics about the values we used as criteria.
I hope you can join me next Wednesday, May 30 at 7:00 pm in our AJA Auditorium as we watch our Seniors graduate! It is an incredible milestone for these students - one that truly took sacrifice, focus on their values, determination and a strong willingness to overcome obstacles. Kol HaKavod, Class of 2018!
Rabbi Ari Leubitz