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A Message From Our Head of School and Reflections from our Board of Trustees President

A Message from Zvi Weiss

Tomorrow will be our first day welcoming new K-5 students to our campus! Then, over the next several weeks, more students from all grade levels will begin to return to  our beautiful campus. It will feel differently, that is for sure, with  many new protocols and procedures that will need to become second nature. In watching the opening of our ECC, I saw  many of these protocols successfully  in action. We are intentionally having students return to campus in phases so that we can focus on doing it properly (see our FAQ page for more information about this  approach). In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo,  Moses tells the Israelites that the purpose of their 40 years of wandering is for them to have the heart and knowledge necessary to enter the land of Israel. While I am glad that we don’t have to wait 40 years to return to campus, we have also not had the benefit of 40 years to prepare for this. I imagine that there will be some glitches and things that we will learn on the job, so I do appreciate everyone’s support, understanding, and patience. 

We are responsible for the safety of our students. Some families may not understand the magnitude of this responsibility, some even question the extent of the severity of the virus. Recently, someone presented me with statistics that indicated that many who have died from COVID had other conditions in addition to their COVID infection. The fact is that death rates have increased overall significantly, and we have a community beyond our students to consider as well, many of whom have a variety of health issues. No matter what statistical analysis we use, we need to behave responsibly for the sake of our extended families and community. PLEASE have your child tested for COVID in the days leading up to their return to campus.  If you have not registered for the GMLS student/family testing being held on our campus tomorrow, there will be a second community testing on campus for MUS students/families offered soon that you can join. There are  also other ways to accomplish testing that should be covered by your family’s health insurance, and there are many labs available, including free testing sites operated by San Diego County. To help us best track our community’s numbers, please email test results to covid@sdja.com, where they will be kept confidentially.

And while much of the work these past months has focused on COVID, our senior leadership team joined our board of trustees to look beyond COVID at the bigger picture of SDJA and its mission at a virtual retreat last weekend. Our talented board president, Heidi Gentwerk, shares some reflections on that event below. 

Whether your child will be continuing their SDJA experience virtually, or joining us on campus, I wish us all continued success, safety and health.

Shabbat shalom, Zvi

A Message From Heidi Gantwerk

For Jews, the fall is a time rich with ritual and meaning, and a time for reflection, review and renewal. We step back and take an overview of our lives, examine our decisions, our relationships and our purpose. If you have ever had the opportunity to serve on the board of a Jewish organization, you know that fall, usually a few weeks prior to the high holidays, brings its own unique ritual: the board retreat. And this ritual too provides a chance to reflect, take a high level view and think collectively about an organization’s purpose and the impact it leaves on its community and the world. This past weekend, your board of trustees and the Senior Leadership Team together held our first ever fully virtual retreat. 
We started the morning by checking in with one another; truly listening and sharing in some of the personal challenges and silver linings the past six months have brought.  For the remainder of our time together we did not talk at all about face coverings, cohorts, re-opening timelines, virtual platforms or any of the day-to-day issues we have all been so focused on. Instead, we took a collective several steps back and a fresh look at SDJA’s  mission statement; what it says about the kinds of students we want to inspire and develop, and the role we want to play in the community. We discussed how that mission directly connects to the decisions we make every day at SDJA. With Zvi Weiss jumping headfirst into his new role as our Head of School, the biggest enrollment we have had in ten years, and an educational world flipped on its head, the timing for this conversation could not be better, nor the outcomes more consequential.
The retreat was the continuation of  an important and multi-faceted dialogue about how SDJA moves forward and builds on the strong foundation we have.  You will  hear more about these plans  in the months to come. As we shared our takeaways from the retreat , I was struck by several things. First, we simply have an outstanding board. Every single trustee engaged thoughtfully, passionately and respectfully, and even though we do not all always see things the same way, we found much common ground in our vision for the school and our students. Second, we have an equally outstanding Senior Leadership Team; we are truly blessed to have such excellence throughout our campus, and every member of the team cares deeply about our students and our families. And finally, a good time to review, reflect and renew is when you are in a position of strength, and as trustee after trustee pointed out in our check-out, SDJA is beginning this reflection from a position of strength on all fronts.  I know that it has been a start to the school year like no other, but I am amazed by the resourcefulness and resilience of our community, and I am excited about working together to go from “strength to strength”.

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