Letter from our Principal, Daniella Pressner

Dear Akiva families,
Welcome back! One of my favorite weeks of school is the first week after the summer break. Summers are often filled with excitement, opportunity, and space…space to think, to envision, to dream. It is this precise mixture that provides us with a fresh spirit and revived curiosity as we enter our new school year.
At Akiva, we have spent time this summer preparing physically, mentally, and intellectually.  Our school has undertaken a physical makeover, led by Tony McLarty, our Executive Director. Our main offices are more welcoming and professional. Shipments are coming in for our new Makerspace and we hope to be able to welcome you in soon. Led by Tammy Parrish, our School counselor, our teachers have begun to think more deeply about mindfulness and its potential impact on students’ achievement and their approach to their worlds. Led by our STEAM lead teacher, Susan Eskew, the Akiva faculty has prepared for The Akiva Blackout 2017.
On Monday, Akiva students will be joined by members of the greater Nashville community and 3 Jewish Day Schools from Memphis and Knoxville to experience the viewing of a Total Solar Eclipse. Our children will be rotating through educational booths, dancing to music about the moon and the sun and learning with each other, our faculty, and a NASA representative about this unusual phenomenon.  It is remarkable to think that we will all be watching the moon completely pass by the sun; in the middle of the day, we will be able to look up into the darkness to see the stars. Most awe-inspiring is that our children will get to experience the workings of our magnificent universe first-hand, not in a text-book, or a computer-based simulation but outside with the Universe.
Our tradition teaches that on the 4th Day of Creation, God created luminaries. These luminaries were to serve as “signs” to help us identify days and seasons and years. Some of our Jewish sources view the notion of the eclipse as a warning or even a bad omen, as these signs are no longer functioning as they were intended.   But we are also taught to view these warnings as reminders of our substantial responsibility to this world. Unlike the Greek tragedy, our tradition teaches us that our actions do, in fact, impact this world. We are not helpless; in fact, it is our right and responsibility to be helpful. The eclipse serves as a reminder that while we may not be the ones in charge of the entire Universe, sometimes we must engage it as if we are, in whatever capacity we are able.
As we stand under the stars in the sky and alongside our stars, our children, I will take a moment to pray that this year each of us feels embraced by the striking world we were given. May each of us find the fortitude and bravery to engage our world with refined responsibility and may each of us be willing to give our children and each other the space to be curious and to build fresh spirit.
Shavuah Tov and Chodesh Tov (to a good new week and a brave new month)