A Letter from Julie Katz Ezra Academy Board President

Dear Ezra Community,
 
The theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli describes our reality as interactive relationships. A short time ago, most interactive relationships at Ezra Academy took place in the classroom, on the playground, or at the lunch table. On Friday, Ezra went virtual in response to the Coronavirus crisis. More than any other institution, Ezra was prepared. The foresight and leadership of Ezra's administration and teachers made me think more about the everyday leadership that makes our community successful and how we pass those skills to our students so they may be competent leaders, too.
 
There is an abundance of Jewish leaders to look to as models in this period between Purim and Pesach. Mordechai's quiet observance and nudging, Esther's stealthy slide into royalty, Moshe's ability to coalesce the Israelites around the idea of a god they couldn't see, Aaron's willingness to give voice to Moshe's ideas. Each of these leaders contribute despite (or maybe because of) their imperfections. They model behavior for their followers, they solicit help, they know when to act and when to hold back. They lay the groundwork for plans to prepare for crises.
 
Last week Melanie Waynik and her staff had to make some challenging decisions, like postponing educational field trips to Israel and Alabama, and extraordinary preparation, like arranging online lesson plans for students in kindergarten through 8th grade in the event of a lengthy school closure. Our Montessori Preschool teachers have also been involved in keeping the younger children active and entertained through daily emails to parents with tips on how to engage the children with gross motor, numbers, letters and sounds, and art activities all within the classroom's weekly theme. Ezra's upper school has been engaged in online learning with students from a network of Jewish day schools throughout the country for three years. Students were already comfortable joining Zoom sessions online. They work together on Google docs and submit assignments remotely regularly. Learning, in subjects from math to Judaics and everything in between, progressed smoothly and joyfully so far and will continue in the coming weeks.
 
Leadership doesn't pertain only to crises. Indeed, leadership also encompasses planning and executing an outstanding Ezra Gala. Judy Kleinstein worked tirelessly to manage every detail together with her fundraising team (including the indomitable Leslie Zackin, Lauren Hass, and Debbie Chirnomas), Jessica Khazak, our ever-helpful director of outreach and development, an army of Gala volunteers, and Ezra staff to beat our goal and facilitate a warm community event.
 
Beyond the event planners and volunteers, the entire Ezra community comprises the most generous group of leaders I have encountered. This generous spirit and willingness to step up models for our youngest students what it means to be a leader. They hear stories of Jewish leadership from the Torah as young as preschool and throughout their Ezra experience. And they see the strength of the head of school, the composure of their teachers, and the willingness of their parents to guide them through this new experience of virtual school. They see the 8th graders stepping up to lead Tefillah every week and read the Megillah on Purim. They see their fellow classmates sharing what they've learned through regular presentations. I know that throughout our now virtual interactions, Ezra students, teachers, administrators, and the community at large will continue to exhibit virtuous leadership.
 
An outsized thank you to the magnificent leaders in the Ezra community,
 
Julie Katz