Dear faculty and staff,
I have enjoyed my four plus years here at TanenbaumCHAT. Admittedly, from this past March to September wasn’t a party, but I am happy to see that the board appointed Dr. Levy to be my successor. If I was someone who was always trying to shake things up and wondered whether or not things could be done differently, Jonathan is someone who calmly brings stability to this great school. He is a teacher’s teacher and, amidst all the pressure that is brought upon our students today to focus on marks, Jonathan will make sure our school doesn’t become a graveyard where the intellect is buried, but a vibrant center of learning.
Surrounding him is a most talented team. With Renee greeting everyone with her effusive smile, Avital’s tireless willingness to help, Eli’s dedication and talent at ensuring that systems remain in place, Frances fearless courage to ask even the most oppositional donors for money, Laurie’s warm reception of new students, Zoe’s efficiency in watching over our facility, Rhona’s attention to data and details, and a staff and faculty that are second to none, TanenbaumCHAT is in a healthy position to thrive.
It is almost trite to say that we/you have a daunting task in that by the time our students graduate university, they will be seeking jobs that have yet to be invented and where many of today’s jobs will become obsolete.
The best survival skill that we can impart in our students is the ability to learn how to learn. The best way to learn how to learn is to love to learn, and the best way to do that is to have great teachers who inspire.
Our students are fortunate that they have teachers who inspire them to love to learn and who, because of you, are learning how to learn. Today I had lunch with a Grade 9 parent who spoke about his daughter’s Talmud teacher who is doing this, and last night I was with a Grade 11 parent who said the same about her son’s math teacher. Inspiring a love of learning is a precious gift that all of you are giving our students.
To the extent I have been successful here at TanenbaumCHAT, I attribute much of this to Carly. I had a close relationship with my former assistant in Atlanta; and when I was hired here, I asked her to interview the candidates for the assistant position here at TanenbaumCHAT. Indeed she did, and she recommended that I hire Carly. I have been so grateful ever since. No one is more efficient, unflustered, organized. She anticipated my every need. She always knew when I was looking for a tea bag even before I had asked. She always knew when to knock on my door to announce the equivalent of “times up” in order to extricate me from an uncomfortable meeting. Carly figured out how to re-organize my entire schedule when a spontaneous meeting was requested by one of our board presidents or a teacher or a parent or a donor. She had the magical ability to coordinate the schedules of ten different people from different organizations from different locations, all with their own idiosyncratic meeting preferences. I loved getting together with colleagues and members of the community who would sing the praises of the person whom they described as my gatekeeper, manager, social secretary, diplomat, greeter, and organizer. Of all people, I want to publicly say to you, Carly, thank you!
I’m off to Israel now. This Sunday is our flight. Making aliyah has been a dream I’ve had since I read a book called Letters to an American Jewish Friend by Hillel Halkin in Grade 11. I am fortunate in that my wife has shared that dream for just as long.
If you had asked me a year ago when I announced I was leaving what my plans were in Israel, I would tell you that I had none. I would look for a job like all olim, new immigrants, and likely would remain unemployed for quite some time or end up sweeping the streets of Jerusalem, which frankly, I’d enjoy since I like cleaning. However, I am fortunate that I have a full time job working for a man named Rabbi Benny Lau who is working on a national project with the Ministry of Education called Tanach 929 which is meant to connect Israeli adults of all backgrounds to what should be a common cultural asset and foster conversations between Israelis across the religious and political divide.
To say it differently, it’s a project meant to transform the State of Israel into TanenbaumCHAT, a place where people of all backgrounds can come together to learn about their heritage in a civil and respectful manner and together work to improve Israeli society.
We will be living in Jerusalem, not far from our son Avi who is studying engineering at Ben Gurion University. We bought a three bedroom apartment and would be delighted to host any one of you if and when you visit Israel.
I’ll end by referencing a famously quoted passage of the Talmud which notes that there was a time that there were two distinct customs on lighting the Chanukah menorah. There was the School of Shamai who lit eight candles on the first night and decreased by one each day and the universal custom of Hillel which we do today, to light one on the first night and increase. The School of Shamai’s custom is meant to mimic what some believe was an empirical truth. There was a certain amount of oil at the start and that amount depleted day after day for eight days. The school of Hillel rejects that custom and believes that we should always increase in holy matters, not decrease. Hence they add another candle each night.
The school of Hillel says we should never let what is define what could be. We should always carry a dream with us. We should always aspire to do more and be more.
My hope is that with the tumultuous past behind us, you will begin to dream again. You will think about what the next big idea is for TanenbaumCHAT. You will continually ask yourselves if our school is actualizing its potential and reaffirming its significance and value to the Jewish community, the Jewish people, and the Jewish future.
I will miss you. I thank you for the privilege of working with you. I hope to see you in Israel one day.
I can be reached on my private email firstname.lastname@example.org and my local telephone number is 059-611-7501.