It is a true sign of the strength of our community that even in such challenging times, there has been an outpouring of support for Gann Academy. Students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members have all reached out to see how they could help our beloved school.
As soon as we made the tough decision to move Gann to online learning last week, our team had to pivot to ensure that a new plan could be put in place for students, for employees, for our business functions, for development, and for prospective students. Over a short period of time, I witnessed an abundance of creativity, teamwork, and agility across all departments at Gann.
Gann Academy students and teachers engage in character development as part of our Mussar program. Mussar is a Jewish spiritual practice based on the idea of cultivating inner virtues as a way to live an ethical and meaningful life. One of the key virtues in Mussar practice is savlanut (patience). In this age of multitasking, texting, and online shopping, we aren’t used to being patient. Instant gratification is the norm. If we need to make a decision, we have plenty of information at our fingertips.
There has been much community conversation about the rise of anti-Semitism as of late. Gann students in 2020 are confronting many more overtly anti-Semitic remarks and acts than I did when we were growing up in the 1980s. From swastikas in Newton, to the derogatory comments Gann students have received about their Kippot, our students face a different and more challenging reality.
Tomorrow, Gann students will join hundreds of Jewish teenagers for a community day of service to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Gann is proud to partner with Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI Boston), a network of nearly 1,000 local teens engaging in individualized educational and social justice projects in the Boston region.
Shavua Tov: Parashat Shemot - How Should Leaders Listen?
Pick up any leadership manual, and you’ll find the same suggestion for new leaders: spend your first several months listening and learning. Taking this advice to heart, I spent the past year meeting with dozens of current students, parents, alumni, alumni parents, teachers, staff, community members, and colleagues from other independent and Jewish schools.
This past Thanksgiving weekend, we hosted over 125 Gann alumni celebrating their 5th, 10th, and 15th reunions. We also convened the new Head of School Alumni Advisory Committee to help provide guidance on key strategic questions moving into Gann’s third decade.
There can sometimes be a fair amount of hand wringing when we confront changing Jewish community demographics. Jewish institutions feel anxious about the choices that twenty and thirty-somethings are making with regard to their Jewish affiliation.
This week, our Girls Volleyball and Boys Soccer teams advanced to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) semifinals. Both teams had impressive regular seasons, and the athletes were thrilled to make it to the postseason.
Gann's gym was full. The entire community was excited and proud. It was touching to see how many teachers came out to support our students. I watched our athletes give it all they had. They dove for the ball, slid, and ran. It was high stakes. Every point earned was a point toward survival. Yet our students were calm, supportive, and oriented towards the needs of the team. After every point in volleyball, our players came together for a big group hug. I was blown away by our students' sportsmanship, teamwork, and collaboration.
Having recently moved with my family to Boston, I have been thinking a lot about how we, as individuals, thrive during transitional moments of life. This week we read Parashat Noach, the story of how Noach traversed from one society to the next in his famous Ark. The Ark was his safe vessel, his incubator, and his home base in a world in turmoil. The Ark also was his transitional object, helping Noach and his family move from a corrupt, wicked society to a futuristic society where the righteous would flourish.
The festive harvest holiday of Sukkot started strong here at Gann. Unfortunately, due to a powerful early morning wind storm, we arrived during Chol HaMoed Sukkot celebration only to find that a vicious weather pattern had destroyed our beautiful Sukkah. We were disappointed because we had planned so many wonderful events and meals in our Sukkah. Our Jewish life teachers responded quickly and worked with students to erect a small, but no-less-worthy, Sukkah.
This past week, Gann Academy welcomed nearly seventy grandparents to our campus. Our grandparents studied Jewish texts, sampled fresh crops from Gann’s Farm, and learned Arabic from one of our World Languages teachers. The highlight of the day was seeing our students eat a delicious lunch with their grandparents in our dining hall. The ease and warmth with which our children and grandparents sat together and shared their experience was inspirational. Intergenerational exchange adds so much to the human experience, at all stages of life.