Category Archive for "Leadership Blog"

Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Oh My!

Dear Parents:

We are in the midst of the busiest month of the Jewish calendar. A year ends and another begins, soul searching becomes intense and apologies are made and forgiveness is given, the Torah culminates and begins anew, and finally, Sukkot are built and dining al fresco becomes all the rage.  For many of us, this is a beautiful and exhausting time. We are granted the gift of time – time to be together with family and friends who are our chosen family, time to sit in shul to pray and think, time to have meals with everyone we’ve ever met and extra time at home with our families if we get to disengage from school and work. This is a luxury and can be overwhelming at the same time. Once the holidays pass, we welcome the mundane and yet feel the let down of it, as well.

Are we making meaning during this celebratory time? Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf has said, “Jewish holidays are rendezvous that incorporate not only the dimensions of time and place, but spiritual dimensions that go to the heart of the Jewish understanding of history, the soul, God, and what it means to be a Jew.”  Here at Adat Ari El Day School, we are trying to harness all of this. We are learning the special t’filot, the special readings like Yonah and the big fish, the themes like starting over, being better people, not making the same mistakes, bringing sweetness, freedom and temporary dwellings.

I hope you will get to either build a sukkah or at least enjoy a few meals in one. Perhaps this is the year for a Sukkot sleepover!

Speaking of time outside with your family celebrating, join our community at Camp Ramah for our 2nd Annual Day School Family Shabbaton on December 8-10. Registration is open now through October 27.  We had an awesome weekend together last year with 32 families and look forward to even more this year.

Wishing you a special end to this holiday season.

Chag Sukkot Sameach,

Jodi Lasker
Director of Jewish Life and Learning

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Welcome Back to School!

Dear Parents,

I am thrilled to officially welcome you back to school for the 2017-18 school year … and what an incredible first week it has been! Campus is finally back to how it should be – buzzing with excitement, filled with the sounds of young voices, teachers excited to meet their students and begin anew, and freshly-designed classrooms to spark your children’s curiosity and promote collaboration! We have a wonderful year planned for you and cannot wait to tell you all about it at Back to School Night on Wednesday, September 6. We look forward to seeing you there and to launching the year together with an informative and celebratory evening.

Speaking of celebratory evenings, last week, we held our K12 Lab Network Collaboration Launch Party in the ZDL. With over 60 people from the synagogue, ECC, and of course, Day School, it was so exciting to introduce this new collaboration to our community. Naturally, there was time spent explaining what this collaboration is and what it means for our school. (By the way, it is a collaboration with Stanford University’s d. school, which is the foremost institution in the field of Design Thinking. Their K12 Lab Network brings Design Thinking to schools through professional training and ongoing consulting services, so we are consistently learning from the BEST in this field and sharing that knowledge with our children.)

But, perhaps the best part of the evening was a Design Thinking project that every attendee had the chance to engage in … and they really did! Innovation and excitement was pouring out of the ZDL, and we could not be more proud of this collaboration and of all the attendees who were able to experience Design Thinking and its benefits first-hand. If you were not able to make it, don’t worry, we video recorded the whole event to share with you and you can check out some photos below. Throughout the year, you will also have a chance to hear more from our friends, Ariel and Devin, from the K12 Lab Network.

In the meantime, I want to say, on behalf of the entire administrative team, we are so happy to have you back! We spent much of the summer planning and getting ready for you to be here, and are excited to now share with you all of our plans to make the 17-18 year a truly memorable and successful one!

I hope it was a fantastic first week of school for your children and you!

Shabbat Shalom,


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Last Blog of the Year/Graduation Message

Dear Parents,

For one last time this year, I wanted to extend my thanks and gratitude to you for a wonderful school year. Though not without its challenges, I am thrilled that our students’ school year was arguably one of the best yet (according to those who have been here a LOT longer than I have!). And, I’m even more excited that the year has ended on such a positive note for all parents, students, and faculty alike! With that, I hope you will go into the summer with enthusiasm for the year that just closed and for all that is still to come in 2017-18. I will check in with you again over the summer, but until then, I hope you have a wonderful, restful, and safe summer break – filled with fun, family, and even a little learning, in whatever capacity that may be!

One last thing – yesterday we celebrated the graduation of our 6th grade class – a class that was truly extraordinary in many ways. Though for many of you, graduation is several years away, I wanted you to have a chance to read the words I shared with this wonderful class, as we bid them farewell (see below).



Head of School Graduation Address

Sixth graders, I like to think of our school as a nest (I know that we have THE Nest, but no, I’m not talking about the babies in the ECC). Your teachers have been here for you in every way you’ve needed as you’ve grown up, here to give you a hug when you had a bad day, to help you learn from choices you made what weren’t the best (although you didn’t have many of those). And as you’ve grown up, your teachers have slowly scaled back their support and protection, so that by the time you have reached today, you are ready for the first step you’re going to take on a middle school campus as a 7th grader. I have confidence in you. You’ve got this. And I have some advice to continue to help guide you, so please, please remember what I’m about to say.

You all have a very strong sense of right and wrong. Some people call it a moral compass. Please, always listen to your moral compass, even if it doesn’t seem like the popular thing to do. You have to trust yourself— if you are uncomfortable about something that’s happening, whether it be choices being made by people around you, or words that someone is saying that leaves you with an uneasy feeling in your stomach… or something that should be happening that isn’t— if someone isn’t being included, if no one is saying thank you, if no one is helping someone who is struggling… BE THE PERSON who steps in to help. Be the person who stands up for others. Because you know what’s right.

I want you to take a moment and reflect on the humongous gift your parents have given you by providing you with this education. You do know that there are schools out there in this world that are free! But your parents wanted a particular type of childhood for you. I’m going to describe some of this to you because, if you have been here your whole life, you might not realize how truly special this place is in comparison to some other schools in the world.

Your parents wanted you in a place where you wouldn’t be just a name on a roll sheet, but where you would be known. Where teachers had small enough classes that they were able to give you any help you ever needed— even if that meant that they were writing back to your emails at 9PM so that you wouldn’t stress out about the test the next day. Your parents wanted a community for you that was steeped in Judaism. Where you would learn about your heritage in a way that would allow you to truly understand what it means to live a meaningful, Jewish life. Your parents didn’t just want a school for you, they wanted you to feel like you were being raised in a village by a community that looks out for each other, and that’s not easy to find in a place as big as Los Angeles. Your parents sacrificed to make sure that you were able to have this, and you should thank them. Not just today— today is an obvious day to thank them— but every time, in the future, you find yourself thinking of a lesson you learned here, thank your parents. Every time you think about this community as an example of what community can be, thank your parents. Every time that you hear that moral compass pointing you in the right direction, thank. your. parents.

Just because you have graduated, does not mean that this connection is over. You want to make any of your teachers really happy? E-mail them with a question from a 7th grade math class, for help studying for an 11th grade US History test, or to ask one of them to edit your college application essay. They will be honored that you thought of them, and thrilled to hear from you. Stay connected with the synagogue for our B’nai Mitzvah and teen programs. Come by and visit when you’re in the neighborhood because you’re home visiting from college.

Know that we are here for you forever. We’re proud of you always. And we miss you. Already.

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It’s Cheesy, But We Love Shavuot

Shavuot needs a new PR agent! This is THE holiday when we celebrate receiving the Torah from Mount Sinai.  We received our central text – our history, our laws … what could be more important?  Shavuot is also one of the Shlosha Regalim, the three pilgrimage festivals, when we brought our first fruits (bikkurim) to the Temple to show our gratitude for things growing as they are supposed to. This is a two-day Chag that includes synagogue, Hallel, and yummy dairy foods that do not work well with most Jewish stomachs!

Why is it that most Jews don’t make a big deal of this important holiday in our tradition? Is it the time of year – always late May to early June?  Does it get lost between celebrations of mothers and fathers and start of summer BBQs and pool parties? I will always wonder as any chance to celebrate with blintzes and cheesecake sounds like it would be wildly popular!

Here in our Day School, each class worked on a specific component of holiday learning – names of the holiday, customs, and references in Torah and Rabbinic texts.  Then some classes either participated in an art project or cooking project.  At the end of the day we all got our dairy on.

In honor of Shavuot and our dedication to community, we are asking parents to complete this Shabbat survey. We welcome your thoughts, feedback, and enthusiastic ideas for new “Friendly Shabbat” programming! The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

A special Shabbat Shalom at this special time of year,

Jodi Lasker
Director of Jewish Life & Learning

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Plug That Summer Learning-Leak!

Just like a drippy faucet, parents must find a way to plug the crack that forms when children leave school for a long break. The fact that academic and social-emotional learning “leaks out” over the summer is held up by much research.

It is essential to make sure children read. Every year I give a special gift to students in grades 3 through 6 who read at least two books over the summer. I am always surprised when a few students return to school telling me they did not have time to read at all over the ten-week break. That means those students have to spend a great deal of time at the beginning of the academic year playing catch-up instead of being able to move forward with others in the class.

As always, I will be providing a suggested reading list for summer. There are also summer reading programs at local libraries. In fact, the children’s librarian from the Studio City Library came to our school this week to introduce herself and explain the program to our students.

I am sometimes asked why ADAT does not assign specific books for reading during the summer. The answer is that we at ADAT know from experience that students will be more willing to read and will read more when they are allowed to choose their books. Once again, research backs this approach up. Erin T. Kelly, M.D. writes, “Is that going to be the best literature in the world? No. But if it’s something that the children will actually read, then it’s going to lead to positive outcomes.”

Now what about math? There is no equivalent of a summer reading list or summer library programs for math. It is easy to understand why less enticing packets for summer math practice often go undone. I challenge you to recognize the math in every day life and include your children. For example, decide with them how much time you should put in the parking meter and figure out when is it time to get back to the car. Children can help you look for an address. Even numbers are on one side of the street, odd on the other. The grocery store is my favorite math classroom. Think about letting your child count out 5 bananas, doing price comparisons, noting grams of sugar per serving, checking change from the cashier (if you pay in cash). There are also many computer games and apps that review and teach math.

Much social-emotional growth has taken place during the school year, and it’s important to continue that throughout the summer months. Promote continued growth with camp, playdates, and family trips. Provide challenges like trying new experiences or taking on a new hobby. Is your child interested in learning a new instrument or advancing with the one they are playing? How about making time to tinker in the garage? Summer can be an ideal time to take on something fresh.

Instead of letting learning fade, make the sunshine of June, July, and August be months that gleam with momentum. In a blink your children will be back here at school and we will be ready for them to blast off to the next quest.

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Thank You to Linda Spivack

Another wonderful week is in the books at ADAT, and we’ve got another exciting week ahead. We look forward to you joining us next Thursday for Open House – to visit your children’s classrooms and seeing first-hand the breadth and depth of learning they are engaged in every day at our School.

As many of you know, we spent the last week celebrating our amazing teachers, but this week, we want to pay a special tribute to our very own Linda Spivack, who will be retiring at the close of this year. Here is an interview we conducted with Linda – our beloved teacher, colleague, and friend to give everyone a chance to learn a little bit more about her:

Tell us about your background in education –  When did you start teaching, and what made you decide to become a teacher?
B.S. in Education from Temple University
M. Early Childhood Ed. from Florida International University
CA Clear Credential

I began teaching 1971 in NJ and then MD, FL, and since 1982 in CA. I loved working with children and becoming a teacher was my goal since high school.

How long have you been teaching at Adat Ari El?
When we moved to LA, I taught in our ECC 1982-1986. I returned to teaching as a Teaching Assistant in the Day School in 1995.

What grade/s and subjects have you taught? Which was your favorite and why?
I’ve enjoyed working in K, 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade. I’ve also been responsible for planning all our school trips for the past 10 years as well as substituting in most grades.I enjoy teaching in the lower grades. Seeing children’s glee and recognition that they can read a book or write a story is magical. It’s so rewarding to see their growth through each grade.

What will you miss most about ADAT? Why?
I’ll miss my Adat friends most when I retire. We have the most capable and supportive staff. We help each other through the hard times and rejoice together in the joyous ones.

How do you plan on spending your retirement?
The first thing I’ll do when I retire is turn off my alarm clock. After that my #1 task is to declutter my house. My husband and I also have some travel plans too.

If you could give any advice to teachers new to the profession, what would you tell them?
Adat is the perfect school for new teachers. Their innovations and creativity will be welcomed. They’ll also have experienced teachers available for guidance. I hope they pack flexibility, patience, and a sense of humor in their backpacks as they begin their teaching careers.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a teacher?
The most rewarding moments of being a teacher at Adat occurs on Shabbat mornings when I see our former students become Bar or Bat Mitzvahed. Those moments combine the skills they’ve learned in our general studies and Judaic studies programs. It brings families into our Adat community and puts our students on the path of continuing Jewish traditions. I love seeing my former 1st graders who are now college graduates and successful professionals. One of them is even a Teaching Assistant at Adat now. Teaching at Adat has been a wonderful professional and personal experience.

Thank you, Linda, for all you have given to Adat Ari El during your time here. We are so grateful to you for your years of service, hard work, and dedication to our students – past and present. We wish you lots of luck and fulfillment in the years to come and hope you will visit often!
Shavua Tov,
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36th Maccabiah Games, But Who is Counting?

Today, we enjoyed a day full of fun, teamwork, sportsmanship, and competition, as we participated in our annual Maccabiah Games in the spirit of our A.C.T F.A.I.R. philosophy.  The entire school was divided into ten teams with a few students from each grade level per team. In the spirit of Lag B’Omer and the hero of that time, Bar Kochba, these teams of students worked together for a common goal, helping each other to gain maximum points and trying to win the day.

Values of hard work, fair play, and sportsmanship are at the core of the games. Weeks before the games, we decide on the activities from a list of about 50 games. Sometimes we make up our own games, but true to our school’s philosophy, we always keep a teamwork strategy in mind.

The preparations for the Jump-a-Thon and the Maccabiah Games highlight the importance of collaboration, staying physically active, and having proper nutrition. To give it even more validity, we look at quotes from the book of Deuteronomy and the Rambam. And, mixing the grade levels from TK to 6th grade brings our ADAT community together – all while recognizing each other’s contributions to the overall team effort.

Today, we all played to have fun, be challenged, and win – with the understanding that some of us do better than others, but all of us are respected for the effort and talent we contribute to our team.

We closed by recognizing all our students’ efforts at Jump-a-Thon and the Maccabiah Games. The top jumpers in each grade received a “Top Jumper” trophy and teams in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place received a special medal that was designed and printed with our 3D printer.

I want to offer a huge thanks to Haim for playing such an important role in this incredible day. Thank you also to all the teachers and parents whose presence and support made this a truly awesome day!

Shabbat Shalom,


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Roots to Grow, Wings to Fly…

Dear Parents:

“Roots to grow, wings to fly…”

As we are just weeks away from celebrating our 2017 Gala celebrating lifelong learning at Adat Ari El, I can think of no better phrase to represent our honorees and our School.  On Sunday, May 21, we will join together as an Adat Ari El community to celebrate the incredible educators of ADAT – Jeri Dubin, Rabbi Mark Goodman, Julee Snitzer Levine, Shulamit Levitch, and our very own, Robin Solomon. These educators define what it means to nuture the roots that allow all learners to grow and, eventually, soar! I have seen first-hand the impact Robin has had on our current Kindergarten, all of her former students who think back fondly to her class, our 5th grade through her leadership with our Israel Twinning program, and also on our entire school through our weekly Oneg Shabbat celebrations.

I know you will want to come celebrate Robin, as well as the other honorees, at what promises to be a fun evening of cocktails, dinner, and dancing. But, I hope you will also take a moment to consider what your participation means for our community. First, it symbolizes your commitment to nurturing and growing our community right here at ADAT. Second, it represents the importance of education and lifelong learning in your life and that of your children. And lastly, it celebrates the future of ADAT by adding another layer of roots to help our community continue to flourish.

To encourage your participation, Adat Ari El Synagogue is offering a discounted rate of $100 per ticket for Day School parents. Submit your RSVP card or contact Jerry Krautman in the Development Office.

We hope – whatever your reason – that you will join us on this very special evening for Adat Ari El, our wonderful honorees, you, and your children.

Shavua Tov,


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From Yom Hashoah to Jump-a-Thon

Dear Parents,

Yesterday, we rejoiced in the fun and excitement that is Jump-a-Thon! We are grateful to the many parents who came out to cheer our students on and for all of your generosity in supporting our school and your children. As you probably know by now, the Jump-a-Thon proceeds will benefit the development of a very important space in a Jewish day school. Although this will be no ordinary space, the new Judaic Studies lab is symbolic of so much of who we are at Adat Ari El Day School. It also represents a commitment on the part of our leadership, as well as all of you, to build a space that embraces the love and life of Judaism, Israel, and our tradition.
It is pretty fortuitous that Jump-a-Thon came at the end of a week that was much more solemn. On Monday, we commemorated Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – vowing to never forget the millions of lives lost in the shoah. It is hard to imagine a time when Jews were forbid from having a home of their own, or even to identify as Jewish without the fear of persecution. But on this day, our 4th-6th graders remembered, lit candles, prayed, and reflected in nature – doing what Jews before them could not and honoring their memory.
So today, as we reminisce about yesterday’s fun and what the fruits of our students’ labor will produce, we also remember and are grateful for the ability to freely develop a place exclusively for celebrating and being Jewish. As Anne Frank so poignantly wrote, “Go outside…amidst the simple beauty of nature…and know that as long as places like this exist, there will be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.” I can only hope that our new Judaic Studies Lab will be a shining light for our students, our community, and Jews around the world.
Shabbat Shalom,
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Strengthening Community at Our Shabbaton

Dear Parents,

Our community continued to strengthen as 32 Day School families came together for the first ADAT Day School Shabbaton last Friday. With the ECC simultaneously holding their Shabbaton at Camp Ramah that weekend, it was quite an incredible showing of ADAT families.

Our goal was to create a weekend that brought the community together in a casual environment – in ways that were both familiar and that were outside one’s comfort zone and atypical. With the backdrop of the beautiful Ojai Valley, our families had an opportunity to hang out with long time friends, meet new ones, and have some quality time with their own families. We held Kabbalat Shabbat services, took a family hike to the treehouse and beyond, participated in the ropes course, swam in the Olympic-sized pool and water slides, made spice bags, celebrated Havdalah, and closed with an art project.

Beyond the activities and fun, perhaps the best part of the weekend was the feeling – that intangible something that we knew would happen when our community came together. We have already begun to plan for next year and hope for even greater participation.  The families who attended had a truly special experience.  Check out some of the comments from our Day School families who attended:

“It was a wonderful and impactful experience for the whole family. I truly feel relaxed and energized. I loved being a part of this memorable event.”

“The freedom that the kids had with the combination of togetherness with their family was great! The mix of activities for parents and kids was the perfect amount. I loved the shabbat morning service with Zachary and the woman I think her name was Naomi – the interactive activities she did were super fun.”

“My husband had never been to Havdalah before, and boy, did this set the bar high!”

“Thank you for allowing our community to enjoy such a special weekend at Camp Ramah. It was truly a magical time for both parents and kids and such a special community builder. Our family would love to be part of such a great weekend again.”

I am thrilled to share that you will not have to wait as long for the next Shabbaton, as we have already set dates for the next two years. Save-the-date now for December 8-10, 2017! We hope you will join us. In the meantime, thank you again for your enthusiastic participation and an extra special thank you to our donors who so generously supported our School’s commitment to bringing community together in this way.

I am so grateful to have shared in our School’s first Shabbaton with all of you.

Shabbat Shalom & Chag Kasher V’Sameach,




ramah2    ramah4

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