Atlanta Jewish Academy sent 30 eighth-graders on to high school Wednesday, June 6, with confidence that they have the tools to be “A” human beings as well as “A” students.
“You have all of the tools. You have the wisdom. You have the Torah. You have community, and you have values,” AJA Head of School Rabbi Ari Leubitz told the class at its recognition ceremony after he recounted a midrash about making something of the gifts you receive. “You have to take the skills, the knowledge, the Torah and wrestle with it, knead it, sift it, argue with it, make it relevant, fight about it, keep it alive and make it your own.”
The ceremony — the equivalent of a middle school graduation for AJA, which runs from preschool through high school — was more personal than usual for Rabbi Leubitz because it included his daughter Eliana.
“I can really say us this time,” he told his fellow eighth-grade parents about the emotions they felt about their children’s growing independence. “It’s empowering. It’s age-appropriate. It’s normal. And it’s scary.”
Members of the class demonstrated their readiness for high school.
Kiki Starr spoke of the success of community service organization Jaguar Jems, which raised more than $830 for CURE Childhood Cancer and more than $200 for the Weiss Family Foundation, which helps people overcome poverty.
Noah Kalnitz and Daliya Wallenstein drew lessons from Joshua and Caleb’s refusal to agree with the negative, fearful report the other 10 scouts brought back from the land of Israel in the week’s Torah portion, Shelach.
“Standing up for what you believe is right will ultimately be rewarded. It is important that we act as leaders and that we speak up when no one else is willing to,” even amid the increased pressures of high school, Daliya said.
Noah said their AJA education will help them do it.
He was one of half a dozen class members honored during the awards portion of the ceremony. Rabbi Leubitz named him the Davening Man of the Year among the eighth-grade boys.
The Kesser Shem Tov (Crown of a Good Name) Award went to Yered Wittenberg, the class gabbai, and Ella Goldstein. Jonah Gordon and Daliya Wallenstein got the Head of School Award. And Margalit Lytton received the Ephraim Frankel Award.
Rabbi Leubitz also recognized class members who played on the school’s MAAC championship boys soccer and basketball teams and Margalit Lytton and Shiraz Agichtein for their science fair success.
The head of school told parents that their children have learned what it means to be a human being and a proud Jew at AJA. “They didn’t always get it right, and neither did we. But we got here together, and we could not be prouder of this class.”
Rabbi Leubitz added: “May they always see in our face and hear in our language our unconditional love and support for them as they move forward and continue the next stage of their growth.”
AJA Middle School Class of 2018
The following are the 30 Atlanta Jewish Academy eighth-graders who were recognized for completing Middle School on Wednesday, June 6.