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. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wonderful Alumni D'var Torah

Attendees of a recent Board of Trustees meeting were fortunate to hear a wonderful D'var Torah delivered by Mya Artzi, Davis Academy class of 2016. In addition to Mya's remarks, which clearly demonstrate the deep impact of her Davis Academy education, board members noticed Mya's poise, confidence, genuineness, and sense of responsibility as she shared her remarks. Imagine for a moment, that you are one of the teachers that Mya identifies in her D'var Torah. Isn't that what all of us in education hope for? To be the kind of teacher that leaves a permanent imprint on our students...

D’var Torah

Good evening!
My name is Mya Artzi and I am an alumnus of the Davis Academy. I went to Davis from Mechina until 8th grade. I graduated 2 years ago and am now a sophomore at North Springs. There is no better feeling then walking into the double doors of the Davis Academy. Passing Ms. Janis or Mrs. Dubovsky feels like coming home. Then walking through the familiar hallways and seeing the artwork of hardworking students brings me back to the feeling of pride I had seeing my own artwork up on the walls. The faces of teachers who shaped me into the person I am today brings me joy and gratitude to be able to have a place like Davis to call my home.

This week’s Torah portion is called Lech L’cha. In this portion, God says to Abraham, “Go forth from your land, your birthplace, your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” God makes a covenenant with Abram, who later becomes Abraham, and all the Jewish people. God tells Abram that all his descendants will be known as the chosen people and explains that the sign of the covenant is the Brit Milah, which takes place on the eighth day following a male babies birth. God also instructs Abram to be a blessing.

Just as God prepared Abraham to leave his home, so has Davis prepared me and the hundreds of graduates, for the next stage of life. Leaving home was not easy. The years I spent at Davis hold some of my best memories, especially eighth grade. Every part of that year from the teachers and the friendships to the learning and the laughing, made an impact on me and contributed in the preparation for high school.

Leaving Davis was difficult for me, and I missed the everyday Jewish experiences. But, Davis prepared me to seek out these experiences in different places. I needed to fill this gap, and so, I began my search for a similar community. I had no idea that I would miss my Judaics class, Hebrew lessons, and weekly Kabbalat Shabbat so much, but Davis prepared me for how to find meaning in other places. It has taken me some time, but I finally feel like I am starting to gain the community again. I joined the confirmation class at Temple Sinai and look forward to Sunday morning bagels, Torah, and discussion with my fellow classmates, some of which are also Davis alum. Because of my background, I feel comfortable participating in a Jewish setting where I can express my opinions on various Jewish topics. However, I do not feel I have learned everything I could know about the Jewish religion, and therefore I am eager to learn more. One thing Davis has taught me is to always continue my Jewish learning and to be an activist in my community. I applied for and was chosen to be a part of the American Jewish Committees Leader’s For Tomorrow program, which is a program focusing on history and current topics in the Jewish world with an emphasis on support for Israel. Along with 25 teens from Atlanta, several of whom are also Davis alum, LFT meets monthly to have discussions on how to make a difference in this world.

Just as God instructs Abram to be a blessing in the world, so has Davis allowed my teachers to be a blessing in my life. Part of what makes Davis so special is the relationships made between the students and the teachers. I am a witness to this in two different ways: from my own perspective and the perspective of having my mom as a Davis 4th grade teacher. Those relationships and bonds made between my teachers and I helped motivate and inspire me even today. Mr. Barry and I shared a special bond unlike any other student-teacher duo. By the end of the school year, Mr. Barry was not only my teacher but someone I was able to rely on. Mr. Barry taught me way more than just American History. He taught me that I can overcome my stress. He believed in me which helped me believe in myself. He always said just the right thing to make me feel better. Along with Mr. Barry, a few other special teachers helped me learn a lot about myself. Mrs. Friedman, my 3rd grade teacher, made and continues to make a huge impact on me. She was my biggest motivator to work hard and convinced me to try my best in everything. She was the one who sparked my love for writing. Every time I see her, no matter if it is in school or not, she always makes sure to check up on me. Something she always says is that she is so proud of me. Being the emotional people we both are, you can see us both tearing up. It is always good to see her because she is a big reminder of the good memories I have from Davis, and motivates me even today. Another person who impacted me tremendously from my time at Davis and still today, is Ms. Edison, my teacher and coach. She was my assistant teacher in 2nd grade, my volleyball coach for 3 years and my soccer coach for 1. She always pushed me because she believed in me and knew I could do better.  Only at Davis could someone impact me from such an early up until 8th grade. This is not part of the job description for a typical teacher, it’s just something Davis teachers do. Mr. Barry, Mrs. Friedman, Coach Edison, and many other teachers at Davis are blessings in my life, and something only the Davis Academy could bring me. What is special about Davis is what the teachers do so naturally; care for their student.

In Lech L’cha, God prepares Abram to leave his homeland by giving him instructions on how to lead a good life, and that is just what the Davis Academy has done for me. Davis will always be my home and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I will continue to take the lessons I learned and the people I met with me, as I grow.

Thank you very much! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cafe Europa 2017

This week, The Davis Decibelles, our middle school performing choir under the direction of Ms. Kendrick Phillips, our director of visual and performing arts, participated in one of the most cherished performance experiences imaginable: singing at Cafe Europa.

A program of JF&CS, Cafe Europa is a monthly gathering of Atlanta area Holocaust survivors. The Decibelles' visit is anticipated not only by our students, but by the entire Cafe Europa community.

Each year, The Davis Decibelles open their performance with The Pledge of Allegiance and Hatikvah. Imagine the feeling of connection, hope, and pride that fills the room as everyone lifts up their voices in song.

I attend Cafe Europa not only as the Davis Academy's rabbi, but as the accompanist for The Decibelles. That means that I have a front row seat, alongside Kendrick, for this special performance. From where I sit, I can see clearly, the sense of purpose, respect, and understanding in the eyes of our students as they introduce songs and perform their hearts out. It is so clear, in that moment, that this performance is not for them, but for the Cafe Europa community. Our Decibelles would do anything to bring joy and beauty into the lives of these amazing individuals. As a rabbi and educator, it is absolutely awesome to witness.

While the concert aspect of Cafe Europa is celebratory and special, the most significant part of Cafe Europa takes place when our students join the Cafe Europa community for lunch. Within minutes, the conversations are flowing in all directions. Our Davis kids are talking about their lives, their hopes, and their dreams, and before you know it, Cafe Europa guests are sharing their stories, old and new, devastating and inspiring, personal and universal. Our students understand that they are the last generation that will have the opportunity to sit alongside those who witnessed, survived, and rebuilt after the Holocaust. And it is clear that they will do anything they need to do in order to be fully present for this sacred responsibility and honor.

Kendrick Phillips sums it up this way, "There's a unifying spirit of music that brings both young and old together. I am most proud of our students who have such a deep understanding of their Jewish identity that allows them to connect with compassion, curiosity, care, and genuine interest. Watching our kids connect with these heroic survivors, there's something truly magical about their ability to be fully present to receive and help honor the precious gift of this unique moment in time."

At Cafe Europa all of the richness and the complexity of the Jewish story comes together. The triumph and tragedy, the past and the future, the sound and the silence. It is a remarkable experience and one of the most important projects that I have ever been a part of.