Friday, August 25, 2023 [Elul 8, 5783]

Dear Harkham GAON Families,

It is my pleasure to be writing this first of many Friday Messages to our community! I would like to express my sincere gratitude to each and every one of you for sending your children to us for their first week of the 23-24 school year! Each week, I will be sharing about 500 words, focusing on three of many schoolwide accomplishments. 

I am happy to report that we ended this first week with a sense of confidence in, and renewed commitment to, our mission of providing a comprehensive, personalized and accessible Jewish and General Studies program to middle and high schoolers in the West Los Angeles-Beverly Hills area. We are excited about what we will build together this school year.  

Our first objective was to declare a set of common values for the school. I attempted to boil down our many shared values from the Torah to just four main tenets: respect, kindness, honesty and gratitude. I won’t deny it; we had some growing pains the first three days, but we genuinely began to feel - as early as Thursday of this week - that we had set about not just saying, but demonstrating those values.

Speaking of these values, we are grateful. Thank you to everyone who has been so kind in sharing your appreciative words about the new school year! On this note of kindness and positivity, a highlight from Rabbi Jawar’s Parsha topic this week is, “King David said it all when he wrote, ‘The world is built on kindness.’ Our entire existence, both individually and universally, depends on it.”

Another accomplishment was the effort we made to “try on our schedule for size.” I was impressed by the remarkable patience and flexibility of our students, our faculty and our administrative staff in this process. As at any school, the first few weeks are often a time of making adjustments based on enrollment and teacher assignments, which are necessarily still in flux. By the start of school next Monday, we will have settled into our “regular” schedule, which we know might be interrupted occasionally by good things, like holidays, special guests, field trips. We’re also used to fielding curve balls by now; we’ll continue to catch them adeptly!  

Finally, I would like to direct everyone’s attention to our website. While it is still under construction, it is transforming into an interactive, constantly updated, state of the art communications mechanism. Our new website was instrumental this past Sunday, when there were questions about whether we could stay open for our first day of school during the hurricane! We will increasingly use our website to push out timely information, while improving our ability to respond in an ever more timely manner and also to build a database. An example of this: many students do Chesed (Community Service) hours over the summer; now there is a form available 24-7 to fill out and feel confident that their hours will be recorded, and preserved.

As we prepare now for Shabbat, we thank you for your support of Harkham GAON Academy. See you next week!

Shabbat Shalom,

Ruth Morris