The Monthly Roar, May 2nd, 2014

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Letter From the Head of School

Dear Families,

I am certain that anyone who has spent time at AJA or, for that matter, at any educational institution will attest to the amount of work that goes into running a school. Yet relatively few are aware of those individuals who work quietly and anonymously behind the scenes…..the volunteers who serve on our Board.

Boards play a critical role in the success or the failure of a private school. Their input is important enough that there are blogs, books, and articles dedicated to the subject. Workshops and training sessions galore are offered.

After hearing personal horror stories about working with boards in the non-profit arena, I approached signing on with AJA with some trepidation. Thankfully, my experience has proven to be a positive one. I could, as I am known to do, gush with gratitude for the tremendous support that I have received from AJA Board members. It is definitely appreciated but, at this time, I would like to single out and shine a spotlight on one special individual, Sarah Porten.

Sarah has served as Board President for the past three years, graciously staying on an additional year to ensure stability in a time of transition. As her term comes to a close I want to publicly acknowledge her contribution to our success and personally thank her for her service.

As a strategist for HP, Sarah brought her expertise to the Board, helping to lay the groundwork for the school’s strategic plan. She has interacted with other campus organizations to formulate the usage agreement for our Education Building. In addition, Sarah is visioning a Board succession plan as we look to the future. Sarah has achieved much during her tenure and, thankfully, has agreed to remain on the Board.

On a personal note, I will forever be indebted to Sarah. She led the Search Committee for Head of School and I am grateful that she and her Committee selected me to lead AJA. For the past three years Sarah and I have met at least once a week. Whenever there was an impending situation or if I merely needed an ear or a shoulder, Sarah was available, even with the responsibilities of family and a full-time job. She has been my adviser, my coach, my cheerleader and most of all…my friend.

Sarah and her husband, Shooey, share a deep love of Judaism and a dedication to Jewish education. I offer my thanks to Shooey, Noa, Micha, and Tomer for sharing Sarah and her time with the Board and me. For this, we are all the beneficiaries. Kol Hakavod!

Sarah and Tomer 1

Shabbat shalom to all!

Cheryl Hersh

Mark Your Calendars
Sunday, May 4, 2014 – Sunday, May 11, 2014 Back by popular demand, this year’s Palette of Young Artists Exhibit is returning to the Texas State Capitol! The exhibit will feature work by all AJA art students. It opens Sunday, May 4th and ends Sunday, May 11th. Please join us Sunday, May 4th for a school wide picnic on the Capitol grounds 12-3PM.

Grey Bush

Thursday, May 8, 2014 6PM – 7PM AJA Music Showcase Featuring: AJA Music Students Kindergarten – 5th Grades. Taking place at the JCC Community Hall. Special guest appearance by the Middle School Band and Choir.


Friday, May 9, 2014 – Portfolio Day Cecelia will be sending out e-mails next week with your child’s scheduled presentation. In the meantime, if you have any questions, click here to e-mail Cecelia Stewart.

Monday, May 5, 2014 – Friday, May 9, 2014 Book Fair – The 2nd Book Fair of the year will be taking place in the Library with books from Book People. Please come support an Austin independent business. Book People is generously giving 20% of the net sales back to AJA in cash. More detailed information will be sent out but please stop by, support AJA and get some great literature for your children. The Book Fair will also be open Friday, May 9th during Portfolio Day.

WE NEED YOUR HELP ! Please sign up for help with Book Fair by clicking here AJA Book Fair.

Future Important Dates

  • Wednesday, May 21, 2014 – Friday, May 23, 2014 Middle School Trimester exams
  • Monday, May 26th Memorial Day – AJA Closed
  • Tuesday, May 27, 2014 – Thursday, May 29th Middle School end of year trip
  • Friday, May 30th Field Day for Middle School
  • Monday, June 2nd 8th Grade Graduation – JCC Community Hall 5:30
  • Tuesday, June 3rd Field Day for Kindergarten – 5th Grades
  • Wednesday, June 4th and Thursday June 5th Shavuot – AJA closed
  • Friday, June 6th LAST DAY OF SCHOOL – early release at noon

Help us Pave the Way

We want to offer our heartfelt thanks for joining us to donate bricks to help us finish paving the way to the incredible Science & Innovation Center. All in all, we had more than 200 people participate from all over the country and …. all over the world! (our friends in Israel, too!) Here are some of the people that joined with us…..

  • AJA Parents – you rock! What more can we say, we are so grateful to you.
  • Alumni parents from students who have attended AJA in the past, it was wonderful to hear from those near and far.
  • Grandparents & Friends — our extended AJA family extends all over the country, and the world. Thanks to all of you for responding and making a difference here at our school.
  • Partners in the Jewish Community here in town — our local synagogues and the Jewish Federation, you are true partners thank you.

What did we accomplish together? Because of your generous support, we have strengthened our scholarship fund that provides tuition assistance. We have also raised AJA’s profile with student recruitment and sustained the level of excellence in our curriculum and programs. What’s next? We are planning on ordering the bricks in the next few days, getting them installed over the summer, and having everything ready to go once school starts in August! Thank you for partnering with us in the Pave the Way Project, we couldn’t be more grateful for your support.

Hannah - Brick

Libby Ross Brick

Congratulations, Condolences and Tributes

  • Welcome new students from Israel, 2nd Grader Michal Blick and 5th Grader Daphna Blick. We are so happy to have you at AJA.
  • Congratulations to Brooke Silverstein who recently celebrated her bat mitzvah.
  • Congratulations to Kendall Miller who will be celebrating her bat mitzvah this month.
  • Jeni Rosen made a contribution in honor of Brooke Silverstein and Kendall Miller’s bnei mitzvot.
  • Deborah Beck made a contribution with thanks to the Porten family for their Pesach hospitality and in recognition of Sarah’s three years of service as the AJA board President.
  • Thanks to the Parents Association for the massages that were offered to the staff this past week.

What’s Happening at AJA?

Kindergarten– In finishing up their study of dinosaurs, the Kindergarten students made their own hypothesis about why the dinosaurs became extinct. They wondered if there were many volcanos that contributed to their extinction. To simulate a volcano eruption, the students created their own volcano out of salt dough, used paint to make it seem realistic, and then enjoyed watching the reaction of baking soda being mixed with vinegar, and of course red dye for the “lava.”

KB - Volcano

2nd Grade Science

Check out the 2nd Grade class doing an experiment called Sugar vs. Flour. In this experiment students learned that sugar is absorbed more quickly into the blood. They made “blood” by adding red dye to corn syrup. Next, they added flour and sugar to see which absorbed faster.




Field Trips

Both Kindergarten classes were able to visit the science museum on the UT campus to explore fossils.

KB - #1

8th Grader Elie Siegal got to fly in a wind tunnel at I-Fly and was also able to calculate his terminal velocity (approximately).

Elie #3

Elie #5

Elie #2

3rd Grade spent a fabulous day at U.T. before Passover Break.

Newly Signed Players ?

3rd - Fieldtrip U.T.

3rd Fieldtrip - Newly Signed Players

3rd Fieldtrip - Newly Signed Players #2

3rd Grade Memorial Stadium

Touring the UT greenhouse and learning about symbiosis in plants

3rd Fieldtrip - 3rd Hothouse

Visit to the TACC super computer

3rd - Fieldtrip Super Computer

On Lasso and the interactive computer system

3rd - Interactive Computer System

Special Events at AJA

Third Grade and the incredible Mrs. Novy showcasing their Geomorphology project and Pirates play. What an amazing production!!!

Geomorphology and Pirates - Play 1

Geomorphology and Pirates  - Porten Twins 1

Geomorphology and Pirates - 3rd Grade Parents 1

Some of our fabulous and supportive 3rd Grade Parents

3rd Grade Play - Rachel and Cheryl

Our head pirate gets in on the action.

Beloved author visits AJA – 5th and 6th Grade enjoyed a visit from Sandra Smith, author of the Seed Savers series. The students read the first book as part of their focus on sustainability. They read others because they were hooked!

5th - Seed Savers Author

Our students were so excited to share their Seed Savers projects with the author!

5th - Seed Savers #2

Topher Bradfield from Book People visited AJA!
We are excited for Book Fair starting next week.

T. Bradfield

T. Bradfield #2


On the first day back after Passover break, the children were treated to our final senior pen-pal lunch. This year long, inter-generational project has been truly transformative for both the seniors and the children. Throughout the year, the students have enjoyed sharing letters and “interviewing” their pals. This week, they began composing biographies about their senior friends.

Ruby, Blanche, and Aiden enjoy their lunches.
Ruby, Blanche, and Aiden enjoy their lunches.


4th Grade 5k for Camp Simcha
The 4th Grade students are pumped for their big 5K on May 30th. They have run over 50 miles this year! This month they will devote more time to training for the run, slowly increasing their distance. All money raised will go to Camp Simcha. Please check out their web site Camp Simcha.

Support AJA

Scrip is an essential part of the AJA’s fundraising program and a very easy way for our parents to do their part in supporting our wonderful school. Scrip cards are purchased at face value and Austin Jewish Academy receives a rebate from the vendor.

Scrip cards can be purchased daily in the AJA office. You can also, go online to to purchase scrip from hundreds of participating vendors. Using ScripNow!â„¢ is a great and easy way to purchase your Scrip, right from home! Once your account is set up, following the instructions on the website, you can just purchase Scrip and print out the codes or use them online to make your purchases. An easy way to do your shopping and help our school at the same time! You can even send your child with a completed Scrip Order Form or fill out an Authorization Agreement and have scrip cards pre-authorized and sent to your home.

Want to learn more about scrip? Contact the Advancement office at 512-735-8374 or send an email to Sarah Craemer.

Library Book Donation

Recognize an event, milestone or someone special by purchasing a book from the Library wish list. A book plate will be placed in the donated book. The student you are honoring will be able to choose from the newly purchases collection (not yet received). He/she will be the first to check the book out and it will be presented at Kabbalat Shabbat. Alternatively an acknowledgement letter will be sent to any non-student who is being honored.
Want to learn more? Contact the front office at 512-735-8350 or e-mail Myrna Glikman.

Alumni News from the class of 2010:

Congratulations to Jeffrey Ven Keer who recently became an Eagle Scout.

Congratulations to graduating seniors:

Jacob Baldwin will be attending the University of Miami
Nate Eakman will be attending the University of Chicago
Rebecca Lafair will be attending Northeastern
Maya Macon will be inducted in the Israel Defense Forces
Adi Miller will be attending U.T.
Juan Rodriguez-Behar will be heading to Israel
Sarah Swedlow will be attending St. Edward’s
Zoe Wilpon will be studying medicine in Florida

What’s Happening in the Community?

  • National Essay Contest for High School Students. As part of The Story of the Jews series that recently aired, an essay contest has been launched which is open for grades 9-11, ages 13-18. All entries must be submitted by June 13, 2014 to PBS essay contest.
  • Anne Frank: A History for Today at the Georgetown Public Library – opened through May 4th, 2014.
  • Yom Hashoah Commemoration: Never Forget Monday, April 28 7PM at Congregation Agudas Achim sanctuary. For more information call 512-735-8008 or e-mail Dana Epstein.
  • Yom Hashoah 24-Hour Reading of the Names Sunday, April 27-Monday, April 28 – beginning at 5PM at Texas Hillel – 2015 San Antonio St. For more information call 512-476-0125.
  • Yom HaZikaron Commemoration for Israel’s Fallen Sunday, May 4 7PM at Temple Beth Shalom on the JCC Campus. Join us as we honor the memory of soldiers in Israel who have given their lives in Israel in the line of duty, as well as civilians victims of terror. Prayers, music, poetry, film, lighting of candles and readings will be shared during this meaningful ceremony. Free and open to the community. For more information call 512-735-8030 or e-mail Aliza Orent.
  • Celebrate Mother’s Day and Yom HaAtzmaut!Sunday, May 11th 2-4:30pm at the JCC on the front lawn. Take your mother to Israel.. at the JCC! Join the community for a special family-friendly Israel Independence Day Celebration, Israeli themed activities, food and music. Free concert by the Dayan family from the Western Galilee, Austin’s Partnership Region. Students from Austin Jewish Academy to join the Dayan singing a very special song. Children’s activities. $5 per child for unlimited activities. Western Wall, cookies decoration, bracelets designs, dead sea sand art, games, petting zoo and more.
  • Sifriyat Pijama B’America – Hebrew Story Hour event will be on Monday, May 12th at 5pm in the AJA library. It is for children 3 to 6 years old from Hebrew speaking families.


  • Austin Jewish Business Network’s (AJBN) May meeting is at Café Express, 3418 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX ‎78705 on May 20th, 2014 6:30-8:30 pm. Michele Schwartz of A Modern Jewish Wedding will present “A Winning Strategy for Social Marketing”. See how you can harness free, web-based tools and apps to ignite your marketing strategy. You can register at AJBN.
  • AP Comedy Camps @ The New Movement– Students build creative confidence, teamwork and performance skills in a working comedy conservatory. Students will be introduced to a variety of comedy performance including: short-form improv (think Whose Line is it Anyway); long-form improv (think Second City); sketch writing (think Saturday Night Live). AP Comedy’s curriculum incorporates social and emotional learning principles, and welcomes youth of all levels of performance experience. June 16-20 (high school) – June 23-27 (middle school) 9:00am-3:00pm. At The New Movement theater in downtown Austin (616 Lavaca St.) Cost: $300. For more information e-mail Adam Niederpruem.

Please join us – Parents are welcome and encouraged to attend Kabbalat Shabbat on Fridays from 8:00-8:30am. We would also like to encourage all students to wear white shirts on Friday to give AJA that special Shabbat feeling.

On behalf of the staff at AJA we would like to wish you and your families a Shabbat Shalom.