Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Rock Shabbat 2017

Last week we celebrated our annual Rock Shabbat at The Davis Academy. Rock Shabbat continues to be one of the most poignant examples of how The Davis Academy is unique among Jewish communities and Jewish Day Schools.

This year's Rock Shabbat featured our typical blend of traditional and modern Jewish songs (including a few of our original melodies from our latest CD, "Menschology") as well as "secular" songs. I write, "secular", because there's an argument to be made that there's a spark of holiness in almost all music, at least when it comes to our Rock Shabbat repertoire. For example, one of this year's secular songs was, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" by CCR. There's something really profound in the main idea of that song. We've all seen the rain, but have we ever really seen it?

Typical of Rock Shabbat, transitions that would be abrupt or non-sensical elsewhere, make perfect sense. So CCR follows the Shema, which leads into a MiCamocha Drum Circle which leads into a medley of Jewish classics performed on accordion and so on.

Part of the magic of Rock Shabbat is that it shines a spotlight on our talented student body without making their talent the focus of the experience. It is Shabbat. And like any true Shabbat, it is a reflection of the people in the room and the magic that is created when people come together in a spirit of respect and love.

Here are some pictures as well as a video!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Tree of a Good Name

If you find yourself with a little bit of free time on a Thursday morning you should really come and check out a typical Thursday Tefilah service at The Davis Academy Middle School. There, you'll find a community of teachers and students coming together to celebrate Jewish life by honoring those students that will become B'nai Mitzvah during the upcoming weekend.

During the Tefilah service there are many touching and poignant moments. We hear the Torah read aloud. We invite younger siblings to help dress the Torah. Often there are alumni, who we invite to give an "Alumni Update," and there is always a heartfelt and inspiring D'var Torah shared by one of our faculty members.

While each of these moments is special, there is one additional moment that stands out in my mind. At the beginning of the service, each student honoree presents their Keter Shem Tov project. Keter Shem Tov means, "The Crown of a Good Name." It's an old Jewish idea that basically points out the importance of being a mensch as we journey on the path of life.

Under the careful and thoughtful vision of their 6th grade Jewish Studies teacher, Ilan Weismark, students create a leaf that is decorated with a Jewish teaching that relates to their name. Perhaps it contains a verse of Torah that has their name in it. Perhaps it's a particularly meaningful teaching from the week's Torah portion or the week they were born. Perhaps it's something that they studied in class that spoke into their lives in a profound way. This is the Keter Shem Tov project.

Each leaf is accompanied by a short description of what the leaf symbolizes. And it is this short speech that stands out and deserves special recognition. Invariably, words of mature, thoughtful, spiritual wisdom are shared by each and every student. It is impossible to deny that we are in the midst of great Kedusha (Holiness) when students present their Keter Shem Tov.

The richness of the Keter Shem Tov project led The Davis Academy to work hand in hand with our incredibly talented PE Coach, Sean Coffey, to design a tree that we could use to display these leaves during the months following their presentation. Below is a picture of the tree as well as a few samples of some of the leaves that will shortly adorn it.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Words of Torah for Grandparents and Special Friends Day

This morning and afternoon, Amalia Haviv, our Davis Academy Student Government president, shared these beautiful words of Torah in honor of our annual Grandparents and Special Friends day. Not only are these remarks incredibly thoughtful, resonant, and inspiring, but they were delivered with tremendous poise and pride. Amalia is a shining example of the values we teach at The Davis Academy as well as the kind of leader that we help to grow here. Mazal tov to her for this Dvar Torah.

Good morning(afternoon) and welcome! I am Amalia Haviv, student government president. Today it is my honor to share a Dvar Torah, or short speech based on this week’s parsha or Torah portion. This week's parsha comes from the book of Genesis. It is called Vayera and tells a well known story of Abraham and Sarah. In Vayera, Abraham sees three men walking towards his tent. He welcomes them into his tent and Sarah starts to prepare a meal. These three men turn out to be angels and bless Sarah with a child. Abraham and Sarah went out of their way to make people they didn’t know feel comfortable and welcomed. One main idea from this parsha is hospitality. Being apart of a community means having many responsibilities, one of which is welcoming guests. We see Sarah and Abraham welcome the three men just like the Davis community today is welcoming all of you. In 2009, the Davis community welcomed me with opened arms to Mrs. Israel’s kindergarten class. And for the next eight years I would make lifelong friends and meet teachers that would help me become the person I am today. This was all done in the warmth and security of our kehila. We have carried that tradition for thousands of generations, l’dor v’dor. Today is about celebrating our grandparents and special friends who have continued the act of passing our traditions and values from generation to generation. I am grateful for all who have come before me, even if they are not in my family. I am grateful for everyone who has supported the Davis Academy so that I am able to go to our wonderful school today. Recently, I was given the opportunity to sing with the Davis Decibelles, our middle school show choir, in front of a large group of Atlanta area Holocaust survivors. This is another way that I was able to show gratitude to my Jewish ancestors and to all of our righteous ancestors who came before us. I am even grateful to Abraham and Sarah for laying the foundation of these cherished Jewish values that guide us still. All of them and all of you have passed down traditions that we still see in our community today, such as welcoming guests. I am grateful to everyone here who has kept our jewish traditions and family traditions alive in your lifestyle so that they can be passed down to future generations. Throughout my years at the Davis Academy, I have learned the value of helping others, building community, and a true love of learning. Before I finish my speech, I would like to leave everyone with a question. Which person are you grateful for who has passed down Jewish and family traditions and values that you still use in your life? Take a moment to picture that person in your mind. Take a moment to thank them for helping you be the person that you are today. Have a good grandparents and special friends day and Shabbat Shalom.