Academies at GBDS students do more than learn about Judaism — they live its rhythms and values every day. Our school is committed to presenting Jewish experiences to our students as positive, substantial, varied and accessible sources of personal values and strength. We affirm our identification with the Jewish people at the same time that we recognize and acknowledge our involvement in contemporary American society. We encourage a positive identification with Judaism while providing our students with the tools to be educated Jews and citizens. Students are always encouraged to ask questions as they begin their personal Jewish journey filled with meaning and value. In an inspiring and joyful environment, students study Jewish texts and become knowledgeable about Jewish ritual practices through hands-on experiences that create cherished memories.
Mitzvot and Religious Practice:
Academies at GBDS welcomes students from diverse Jewish backgrounds and embraces families with a broad spectrum of observance. We are enhanced by a population whose varied backgrounds, experiences and perspectives enrich the school community. Parents and grandparents are encouraged to take an active interest in their children's Judaic education, and adult education opportunities are offered throughout the year. Whether experiencing the warmth of Kabbalat Shabbat service, receiving a first Siddur, or celebrating B'nei Mitzvah with classmates and family, Academies at GBDS students embrace Jewish values and take pride in their heritage.
As Jews, we believe that mitzvot—statutes from our Torah and Rabbinic tradition—help sanctify the world around us. Academies at GBDS students engage with the “practical” mitzvot of religious observance as well as the “relational” mitzvot between individuals, such as tzedakah (charity) and chesed (kind actions). More than merely good deeds to perform as we may see fit, mitzvot are part of halacha, an evolving system of Jewish observance. They enhance our daily routine and remind us of the higher purposes to which we are dedicated.
The Jewish virtue of Derech Eretz translates as “the way of the land/world.” Creating a positive culture of school pride, achva (camaraderie), kavod (respect), and high academic achievement is the result of many different factors, the most important of which is Derech Eretz. It is the core of our behavior code at Academies at GBDS. To help our students work together to build a caring, respectful and responsible community of learners, we teach each child the meaning of Derech Eretz and the values of menschlichkeit.
Shabbat, Yom Tov (Festival), and American Holidays:
The observance of Shabbat and Yom Tov (Festival) are mitzvot. The school provides a gradual and graded introduction to the concepts, practices, rituals and prayers which traditionally mark Shabbat and holiday observance. Educationally, we place a greater stress on the active rituals (e.g., candle lighting, Kiddush, prayer, Oneg Shabbat, synagogue attendance, family gatherings, zemirot), than on proscriptions, particularly in the younger grades. Model Seder, Sukkah building, dramatics, choral singing, and simulations are used as informal educational methods.
Academies at GBDS affirms that its students, as residents of the United States, share the American heritage and tradition. An understanding and appreciation of that tradition are important elements of the school curriculum. American holidays such as Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day are recognized as part of the heritage shared by Americans and will be taught and treated as such in the school. All holidays, both American and Jewish, are presented to students in a meaningful way. The school is committed to presenting holidays as regular occasions for celebration. We approach Shabbat and holidays from both intellectual and experiential perspectives, and we support each family’s choice of observance in their own home.
Tzedakah and Gemilut Hasadim:
The concept of Tzedakah (charity) is considered integral to the curriculum of the School. Instruction emphasizes the broadest possible ramifications of this concept, including Gemilut Hasadim (acts of personal kindness). Through classroom projects, hands-on service learning and school-wide holiday collections, we instill the value of caring for those in our own community as well as the universal aspect of tikkun olam, repairing the world beyond us.
Tefillah (Prayer) and Brachot (Blessings):
Tefillah is infused with mindfulness and is core to the life of our school. We devote time and space to the spiritual growth of our students in the course of our very full days. Graduating students are skilled at participating in and leading daily, Shabbat, and festival prayer services and family celebrations; equally important, they establish meaningful and lifelong connections with those experiences.
Tefillah takes place every day at Academies at GBDS, either for Shacharit (morning) or Minha (afternoon). This reflects recognition of the traditional role and value of Tefillah in Jewish life and a desire to make Tefillah a viable and meaningful mode of expression. The commitment to prayer is also an educational one. All religious and synagogue roles at Academies at GBDS are assumed by both boys and girls. Our school respects and honors the traditions and observances of each family. Brachot (before meals) and Birkat Hamazon (after meals) are recited every day.
Becoming Bar / Bat Mitzvah is an important milestone that is celebrated both in school by the Academies at GBDS community and in synagogue by family and friends. Rabbi Micah Liben works closely with the family to arrange for an in-school Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration, where the student is called to the Torah during Middle School Tefillah and a presentation is made. Typically, the parents of the celebrant sponsor a breakfast for Middle School. Academies at GBDS encourages the celebration of the simcha by the student’s classmates, teachers, Rabbi, administration, and immediate family and close friends. After becoming B’Nai Mitzvah the practice of wearing Tefillin during morning prayers is required for males and for any females who choose to take on this mitzvah, as well as wearing a Tallit (or tzitizit/tallit katan if this is the practice of the family).