Naches for Days
By Robyn Lindenberg
Austin Jewish Academy is thrilled to report on our abundance of naches – pride and gratification – those at the school have experienced over the past few months due to the accomplishments of AJA teachers, students, family and community.
On February 9, AJA’s beloved fifth-grade teacher, Karen Hidalgo was taken by surprise. The whole school was gathered in the multipurpose room. No one, except a few administrators, knew why everyone had been called together. As the anticipation was building, Head of School Cheryl Hersh received a phone call on her cell. Soon Hidalgo was at the front of the room listening to a voice on the other end of that call. Shock fell over her face as she learned that she was being awarded the Kohelet Grant in the Real World Learning Category. She learned that she was the deserving recipient of $36,000 in recognition of her teaching expertise.
The Kohelet Foundation’s work focuses primarily on Jewish day schools and the institutions that support them. Those behind the organization believe that by creating and implementing programs that are replicable and accessible, and awarding a variety of unique and targeted grants, the foundation can transform what is possible for Jewish day schools and their communities nationwide.
Hidalgo has developed a project-based unit on sustainability that has become the hallmark of AJA’s fifth grade program. It has evolved over the past three years, culminating in a service-learning project meaningfully integrated with Jewish studies, presenting unique opportunities for students to become real world problem solvers.
Hidalgo said, “Teaching about sustainability is not only important but necessary, in order for students to take an active role in making a difference for our planet. They can be change makers today and future environmental Jewish leaders of tomorrow. I believe that by giving students real world applications on sustainability issues, they become environmental advocates in their everyday lives, leaving footprints of positive and lasting change.”
AJA leaders wish Hidalgo the heartiest mazel tov and offer many thanks to Development Director Robin Littrell and AJA parent and board member Chantal Caviness for their part in completing and submitting the grant.
AJA leaders also wish an enormous mazel tov to AJA’s eighth-grade class. High school acceptances rolled in early March and all students who applied were accepted to their first choice of competitive schools, including the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy, McCallum High School’s Fine Arts Academy, and Anderson High School’s International Baccalaureate program. AJA leaders cannot wait to see how they live out our mission to inspire a community of students to transform the world.
Austin Jewish Academy is proud to share the results of this year’s regional Private School Interscholastic Association competition. Twenty-four AJA students competed in 34 contests at PSIA. AJA students placed in 27 contests, meaning approximately 80 percent of the students came home with a ribbon.
Five students will move on to the state PSIA competition. A number of those students will advance in multiple contests. And while recognition is wonderful, AJA leaders are most proud of all the students who participated for their dedication and hard work, and thankful for coaches, parents and staff for making this opportunity possible.
The Austin and AJA community deserve enormous thanks as well for their help making Amplify Austin a success for the city and the school. AJA raised $3,141 with the help of 40 individual donors. Their Amplify Austin Day gifts provided scholarship funds to give access to families who wish to provide their children with a Jewish education. AJA leaders believe that when the community invests in Jewish education, communities of students are inspired to transform the world.
AJA leaders invite community members to jump on the naches train and celebrate the amazing Jewish community and school. On April 22 alumni, graduating students, friends, parents, teachers and staff will come together to rock out and support AJA at the Palm Door on Sixth. Chairs Joan Swartz and Noa Levy have put together a remarkable event honoring Sharyn and Mark Vane for their dedication and contribution to the AJA community. Come listen to Austin’s premier Prince cover band, Diamonds and Thieves, and get in on the live and silent auctions, dancing to 90s alternative and hip hop music, delicious food stalls, live graffiti, lawn games and more. ■
For more information about Austin Jewish Academy visit www.austinjewishacademy.org. AJA is now accepting applications to transitional kindergarten through eighth grade for the 2018-2019 school year. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a tour or attend an admissions event.