Are We Running Out of Water?: Student Blog

This fall, seniors in the Environmental Science & Sustainability elective stepped outside the classroom to put their lab experience to the test. Students gain scientific inquiry skills in Gann’s Science Department, which combines theory with primary research, both in the lab and in the field.

This interdisciplinary class explores the Earth’s systems and cycles, including energy, water, and climate. Students examine the interconnectedness of life and the influence of humans on our environment, exploring solutions to environmental issues facing the planet.

These seniors investigated how drought is affecting water supply and conservation. “Due to the widespread effect of the drought in Massachusetts, we felt that it was crucial for us to see its consequences first hand,” said student, David Clardy, ’17, of Lexington.

This environmental science class learned a lot about the status of the Massachusetts drought and water quality by visiting freshwater Beaver Brook, a stream close to Gann Academy, and collected samples from the Ipswich River. Students were taken aback by the extremely visible low levels of water from both sources.

Clardy described his class’ field study trip in a recent blog:

The class, made up of strong willed Jewish individuals, were poised to jump into the majestic water—Except there was no water. There was only ground (with a little water). It then became clear to us that the drought in Massachusetts had gotten to a truly outrageous point.

Along with Beaver Brook, we also went to canoe on the Ipswich River. We discovered that the drought had caused the water level of the river to decrease significantly. Now people in the surrounding area must conserve water for their daily needs. The lack of water also means a diminished resource for animals and plants alike.

At the start of our exploration, we learned that more than 50% of Massachusetts was classified as in “extreme drought.” As the winter season nears, we have had some additional rainfall and the percentage has dropped to 37%. However, more than 85% percent of Massachusetts is still in at least “severe drought.” This data is especially startling when compared to past years. Previously, none of Massachusetts had experienced a drought level above “abnormally dry.
— David Clardy, '17
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Writing in a blog about this lab and field experience was the culminating assignment for this science class as part of project based learning. Students have also begun to identify ways to conserve water and are advocating for reducing humans’ hydro-footprint among their peers, urging others to be aware of the consequences of ignoring the drought. 

Gann May be the New Kid on the Block—But We are Making Noise

"We are incredibly proud of the growth and success of our athletics program—It’s an extension of the classroom at Gann. Our student-athletes learn how to thrive competitively and handle adversity gracefully as part of a team."

- Pam Roeker, Athletic Director

In an exciting win his fall, Gann Academy won the inaugural Girls Volleyball Championship in the IGC (Independent Girls Conference). According to Director of Athletics Pam Roecker, this title is a milestone within the growth of Gann Athletics, a newcomer in a well-established conference.

Roecker came to Gann from Emanuel College in 2015. She served as Emmanuel’s Director of Athletics and Recreation for 12 years, and the department experienced significant growth during Roecker's tenure. She has had an extensive career in collegiate athletics, including coaching Division I women’s basketball.

Roecker took a moment recently to reflect on Gann’s history and impressive track record:

"Gann athletics has been on a steady climb since it began in 1997, when the school was founded. In the early years, we focused on building our program. And we were always on the road practicing, because we were without our own facilities. Since then, we have come a long way—and our teams have won 41 championships in total.
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In 2000, we had our first big win when the Boys Soccer team was crowned MBIL (Mass Bay Independent League) champions. 2003 was a watershed moment for Gann Athletics. We moved to our then new, and current Waltham home, here on Forest Street. When our campus opened, it featured the state-of-the-art facilities that our teams enjoy today: two basketball courts, a grass soccer field, baseball and softball fields, and access to the City of Waltham turf fields.
Our wins kept mounting. For example, Gann’s Girls and Boys Tennis programs have dominated league play, winning six and seven titles respectively over the past seven years. We had a banner year in 2014-2015 when we brought home five trophies: Girls Basketball, Boys Tennis, Baseball, Softball, and Co-Ed Ultimate Frisbee.
Last academic year, our Girls Basketball team became the 2016 IGC champions. And Boys Soccer advanced to the MBIL Championship this fall, although the title slipped from their grasp in an extremely competitive match.   
When we won the inaugural Girls Volleyball Championship on November 2nd, as part of the Fall 2016 IGC, it was truly a history making title. The 2016 squad was undefeated in their regular season, posting a final record of 15-1 this year, and a two-year record of 25-5. This is an extraordinary accomplishment given that the seniors from this team only won five games in Fall 2013, and six games in Fall 2014.
I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction helping students to develop their athletic abilities and to experience the joy of sport and team comradery. We can’t wait for the upcoming winter season! "

In addition to Pam Roecker’s collegiate athletics experience, she has been a commentator on ESPNU, Comcast SportsNet, MSG, CBS College Sports, and Fox. Watch a clip of Roeker in her current role as the Northeast Conference women’s basketball analyst on ESPN3.

Finding Israel

"These students have a new place for Israel in their hearts. When we traveled back from Israel together, they couldn’t stop talking about how changed they feel, how much the trip was an amazing experience."
-Laila Goodman, Science Teacher, Madrichah Ruchanit (Spiritual Advisor)

This past August, thirty Gann juniors embarked on a journey to Israel, leaving the creature comforts of home, their parents, and familiar places behind. What began as a scramble to get to know new teachers and classes, peer travelers, and a new country—became a transformative experience.

The group recently returned in November after spending 12 weeks at Alexander Muss High school in the Tel Aviv suburb of Hod HaSharon, where they combined their traditional studies—math, English, history and more—with an immersion into Israeli culture.

Gann's travel and learning program exposes students to historical, biblical, and modern Israel through first-hand experiences and classroom study. The program supports the building of life-long connections to Israeli people, history, and culture.

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Student traveler Jordan Cyker had this to say about classroom study, “I learned so much more about the history of the Jewish people in core class, and stories that I have never heard before. I was surprised by how much I didn’t know, even about stories that I have heard my whole life.”

The journey was also a tactile experience of outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and field trips to sites throughout Israel. Students walked in the footsteps of ancient Israelites, traveled where Abraham traveled, visited the holy sites of Jerusalem, camped in the desert, experienced modern Tel Aviv, and swam in the Dead Sea. They got a feel for the Land and people, and learned about the history at the same time.

 

“Everybody was so friendly, you truly felt like everyone in Israel was your family. It was comforting walking down the streets, knowing anyone you passed by would have taken you in, it’s just part of the culture,” said Marissa Rosenzweig, Gann student.

These Gann Juniors also gained an understanding of the struggle and sacrifices that it took to build modern Israel, the agricultural, economic, and military challenges of the early pioneers, and the way that their fellow Jews turned a desert into a productive landscape. Students returned feeling more confident about discussing complex political issues such as the relationship between Israel and Palestine. 

“I think about myself and my place in this world as a Jew differently than before this Israel trip. I have come to believe that as a Jew it is my job to stand up for Israel,” said Marissa Rosenzweig, Gann student.

“Because of this trip, I definitely feel like I have more of a voice. And I’m never going to forget how strong Israelis are. The history of Israel shows its ability to survive, it still stands strong today,” said
Jordan Cyker, Gann student

Marissa experienced an indelible moment, which is evocative of the connection that this group of student travelers made to Israel:  

“My favorite memory of the trip took place on Yom Kippur. We were staying in Jerusalem that night. After temple, we went to join many yeshiva students who were sitting in a circle leading songs. Two other friends and I decided to lay down, and we looked up to the sky, reflecting on all that we have accomplished and look forward to in life. It was a special moment that I will never forget.”

This spring 2017, for the first time, every Gann Academy sophomore will go on a MyIsrael trip. The ground-breaking, eight-week program builds on the successful foundation of our earlier program. Gann faculty customized the trip so that it integrates with Gann’s curriculum. It also builds on our partnership with Ironi Hey school in Haifa, whose 65 students will join the Gann sophomores in a range of activities.

Gann’s Sherri Geller elected to national college counseling board

Gann’s focus on college readiness was further validated in September when the Presidents Council of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) elected Sherri Geller, Gann’s Co-Director of College Counseling, as its Coordinator-elect.   Sherri will serve as the Coordinator and hold a seat on the NACAC Board of Directors in 2017-18.  NACAC is the leading organization for college counselors and college admissions officers, representing 16,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing post-secondary education.

The current president of the New England NACAC, Sherri will carry not only Gann’s banner but she’ll represent a Jewish day school “voice” in the national and international admissions community.  She and Dave Tabachnik, her co-director of College Counseling at Gann, believe in an approach that ensures that students are not just candidates for the best colleges and universities, but that they focus on schools that are also the best “match” in terms of academic offerings, size, location, Jewish community, and other factors that are important to each student and family. The two full-time counselors actively support each member of the junior and senior class, ensuring that every Gann graduate gets the attention and assistance he or she needs in pursuing post-secondary goals. 

Members of the Class of 2016 class enrolled in 41 different schools; in that class, schools attracting the greatest number of Gann students include Syracuse (5 students), Brown (4), BU, Brandeis, Princeton, Skidmore and GW (3 each) and Clark, Harvard, Muhlenberg, NYU, U Conn, U Penn, and Yale (2 each). Sherri and Dave also work with students who choose to pursue a gap year experience before attending college; programs involving urban volunteer service, international travel, and yeshiva study provide a critical space for skill development and a deepening of self-understanding.. 

Regardless of a student’s destination, Sherri and Dave’s work is laser focused on helping students prepare for the journey and arrive ready to excel.  Please click here to see Gann’s 2016 Matriculation List

Gann’s Jonathan Golden on The Four Questions of Election 2016 and Why Gann Teaches Democracy Differently Than All Other Schools

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Over his 16 years at Gann, Jonathan Golden has taught AP American History, chaired the History Department, and served as Assistant Head of School and Director of Academic Operations. A 1995 graduate of Princeton University, he received his MJEd from Hebrew College and PhD from Brandeis University. At Brandeis, he studied American Jewish history under the tutelage of Professor Jonathan Sarna and wrote a dissertation entitled From Cooperation to Confrontation: The Rise and Fall of the Synagogue Council of America. In 2007, he was the recipient of Hebrew College’s Sydney Hillson Memorial Award for Distinguished Leadership in and Commitment to Jewish Education. In 2014, he received the AJC Boston Young Leadership Award. He is the Chair of AJC ACCESS Boston, the young leadership division of the American Jewish Committee’s Boston office. Golden also serves on the Board of Directors for Camp Yavneh which he attended for 13 summers as a camper and counselor.

I love teaching American history in an election year.  Like American educational philosopher John Dewey, I believe that my primary purpose is to prepare my students for participation in American democracy.  My favorite teaching moment of all time was the day after the 2000 election.   I barely spoke 2 sentences before my students’ hands were in the air for the entire hour, asking questions of genuine curiosity about the intricacies of the voting and vote counting process.  It was an education for us all.

My teaching colleagues around the country have struggled with (and in some cases shied away from) election education in 2016.  I empathize with the challenges that we face as educators to foster productive and constructive education about this complex election.  Here are four questions that have been my guideposts in my teaching during this unusual election year:

1.   How can students play the role of analysts and advisors?

After the first debate, I asked students to analyze what each candidate hoped to accomplish in the debate and to assess what they actually accomplished.  Then, I had students imagine playing the role of advisor for each campaign:  what would be the next ad that the campaign should produce?  The next campaign spot?  The strategy for the next debate?

2.   What are the parallels between this election and key moments in American history?

In AP History, we are studying the American Revolution and looking at themes of how leaders and “the common man” shaped the Revolution and the newly emergent Constitution.   Students can draw connections between when candidates stress their leadership credentials and when they emphasize their common roots and backgrounds with voters.

3.   How have our Limud Clali (communal learning) programs prepared students for this election?

For the past 2 years, students have heard speakers and engaged in advisory discussions about race and gender.  The content and modalities of those conversations have been helpful to process this year’s election.

4.   What role can students play in election education?

This year, our Junior State of America chapter at Gann will lead our Limud Clali program on November 11 to process American democracy through the lens of technology (our Limud Clali theme this year).  They have already held discussions of the candidates and the 4 ballot questions in Massachusetts.

Like the Passover Seder, when we ask the right questions, the telling of the American political story liberates students to engage with meaning and depth so that they are ready to be voters and active citizens.

Of note:  Jonathan will be offering a special post-election analysis "For the Love of God and Country: Jews, American Religion, and the 2016 Presidential Election in Historical Context” on Saturday, November 12th after services at Mishkan Tefila in Brookline.

An interview with Sierra Weiss, Gann ’14 on the inclusion imperative

We had an opportunity to sit down with Sierra Weiss, Gann class of 2014 and now a junior at Emory University in Atlanta, GA to learn more about her work on disability inclusion and how she’s used her Gann education to realize her passions while helping make the world a better place. 

Gann:  We know you’ve got a lot going on.  Tell us a little about your transition to Emory and your academic focus.

Sierra:   It has been busy for sure, but also a great experience.  When I arrived at Emory University after graduating from Gann, I found that there wasn’t any one major that fit my specific interests. So, in true Gann style, I worked with Emory’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program, which allowed me to create my own major. Gann showed me how powerful an education unique to your interests and passions could be. Since I was exposed to studying a topic that I loved during my time at Gann, I was not ready to lose that momentum in college. Gann taught me how to self-advocate and to design the education that I wished to receive, which gave me the tools to create a major that I am truly passionate about.

My curricular focus is on disability studies and bioethics.  I am also deeply involved in Emory’s Undergraduate Disability Studies Initiative and last semester I assisted Professor Jennifer Sarrett in her research on how to make the workplace more inclusive for people on the autism spectrum. In addition, I’m involved with Hillel, Chabad, and Meor on campus and I recently declared a Jewish Studies minor. 

Gann:  How did your time at Gann influence your path and where you are today?

Sierra:  Gann taught me the importance of inclusion and supported me advocating for people with disabilities. During my junior year at Gann especially, I was given two amazing opportunities to delve into my budding interest in disability inclusion. Throughout my junior year I studied one on one with a teacher about the genetics of Down syndrome through Gann’s Independent Research and Design program. And, during Exploration Week, I was given permission to travel to Israel for the purpose of learning more about their innovative programming for people with disabilities. These experiences shaped the path I have decided to follow in my studies in college.

Further, in my advocacy work for people with disabilities, I find myself returning to lessons I learned while at Gann. Gann taught me to stand up for what I believe in and to campaign for the rights of each and every person. Gann provided me with the skills necessary to eloquently explain my point of view, while always considering how others see the issue as well. And, finally, Gann instilled the values of tikkun olam in me, which inspire my passion for the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Gann:  And you also work for the Ruderman Foundation while running your own non-profit, is that right?

Sierra:  Yes, I started as an intern at the Ruderman Family Foundation while I was at Gann. The Foundation is dedicated to the mission of disability inclusion and has been an incredible learning experience for me.  I have worked as an Outreach Associate full-time in their Boston office during the last two summers and part time during the school year.   

And, in my not so free time, I am the President of a non-profit organization called dance4empowerment. My non-profit started as a Tikkun Olam project during my Diller Teen Fellowship sophomore year.  It got some early momentum and I decided to turn it into a formal organization.  We’ve been recognized in several local newspapers, by the Boston Celtics as a Hero Among Us, and by an official letter from former Governor Deval Patrick, The program’s impact continues to expand as we host dance programs for children with disabilities each year.

Gann:  That is impressive.  A last question:  why is inclusion so important to you?

Sierra:  Inclusion is so important to me because I believe that every person deserves equal rights and access to independence, education, and a fulfilling life. I think that I bring a unique perspective to the fight for full inclusion because I do not have a familial connection to disability inclusion, just a deep passion for the equal rights of people with disabilities. I learned the importance of fighting for what you believe in and making the world a just place at Gann and continue to take these lessons with me today.

A New Year, A New Look: The Gann Lobby Makeover

You can’t miss it.  Visitors to Gann are now met with a bold and engaging motif and display of messages in the lobby and Dining Hall that succinctly capture the personality, the purpose, and the values of the school.  It’s a perfect celebration of the new year and a fresh and fun take on what Gann is all about.   A bright red, eight-foot long “Welcome” in both English and Hebrew at the reception window is bested by a 30-foot long “Ready for Tomorrow”, capturing the declared intent of the school, to prepare our graduates for the 21st century and all the opportunities and challenges they will face.  Contemporary furnishings, modular seating areas, and high top tables underscore the message by providing enticing places for collaboration and conversation. 

A new comfortable seating area in the main alcove is around the corner from a bright red wall that contains motivating quotes from five distinct Jewish voices from the past.  The compelling statements, in both English and Hebrew, range from Bob Dylan’s “I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with freedom”  to Hannah Senesh, a paratrooper during World War II, who once declared, “One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one's life has meaning, that one is needed in this world.”  The words capture the depth and breadth of Jewish understanding while providing encouragement to the students to think and act with courage and conviction.

The final element of the makeover extends into the Dining Hall where visitors, students, and staff are exposed to the four values, each rendered in red, 20-foot English and Hebrew lettering.  Care, Connect, Strive and Create are now constant reminders to all and an apt guide as we head into the new year. 

L'Shana Tova

The Fall Open House – 250 Attendees, Four Strands and One Motivating Outcome

On Sunday, September 25th, over 100 families with prospective ninth grade students from across the greater Boston community experienced the Gann Open House, a compelling capture of what makes Gann tick.  The afternoon program began with two moving songs by the ShenaniGanns, Gann’s award-winning student a cappella group. Rabbi Marc Baker then welcomed the attendees and spoke to the importance of the students finding a high school experience that they will truly love, an experience that will, in large part, define who they will become.  He also shared that, as a parent of an eighth grader, he was looking at the question of high school through a different lens and offered up what he believes parents want from a school: 

“We want a school that is going to see and know our children, to develop their capabilities and push them to reach their potential; ultimately, we want them to graduate from high school ready—to face the world; to succeed and thrive in college, the workplace, life—and to be happy and fulfilled. This means academically ready, of course, with skills, knowledge, intellectual confidence, and, we want them to be mensches—to make responsible choices as they become independent adults, to give back.  And we want them to know who they are and where they come from—to have a strong sense of self as they make their way through this changing and challenging world. We know that being part of the Jewish community and finding meaning in Judaism will help give them this confidence and sense of self.”

He made the point that such a multi-faceted outcome of readiness can only be realized via an education that intentionally weaves together four essential strands, strands that Gann uniquely delivers: preparing our students with the highest level of academic skills and knowledge; character education and ethical responsibility; creating opportunities for students to pursue their passions and find their unique voices; and strengthening Jewish identity and our students’ sense of self. 

The families were then given the opportunity to experience readiness development in the classroom with five different model sessions and to talk directly with department chairs and staff at the Info Fair. The final element of the program was a moving speech by Jonathan Gould, a Gann alumnus from the class of 2006 and currently a student at Harvard Law School.  Jonathan’s story was the perfect culmination to the day, highlighting how the strands impacted his development and his readiness for college, career, and life. 

 A New Year, A New Look: The Gann Lobby Makeover                                     

You can’t miss it.  Visitors to Gann are now met with a bold and engaging motif and display of messages in the lobby and Dining Hall that succinctly capture the personality, the purpose, and the values of the school.  It’s a perfect celebration of the new year and a fresh and fun take on what Gann is all about.   A bright red, eight-foot long “Welcome” in both English and Hebrew at the reception window is bested by a 30-foot long “Ready for Tomorrow”, capturing the declared intent of the school, to prepare our graduates for the 21st century and all the opportunities and challenges they will face.  Contemporary furnishings, modular seating areas, and high top tables underscore the message by providing enticing places for collaboration and conversation. 

A new comfortable seating area in the main alcove is around the corner from a bright red wall that contains motivating quotes from five distinct Jewish voices from the past.  The compelling statements, in both English and Hebrew, range from Bob Dylan’s “I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with freedom”  to Hannah Senesh, a paratrooper during World War II, who once declared, “One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one's life has meaning, that one is needed in this world.”  The words capture the depth and breadth of Jewish understanding while providing encouragement to the students to think and act with courage and conviction.

The final element of the makeover extends into the Dining Hall where visitors, students, and staff are exposed to the four values, each rendered in red, 20-foot English and Hebrew lettering.  Care, Connect, Strive and Create are now constant reminders to all and an apt guide as we head into the new year. 

The Fall Open House – 250 Attendees, Four Strands and One Motivating Outcome

On Sunday, September 25th, over 100 families with prospective ninth   grade students from across the greater Boston community experienced the Gann Open House, a compelling capture of what makes Gann tick.  The afternoon program began with two moving songs by the ShenaniGanns, Gann’s award-winning student a cappella group. Rabbi Marc Baker then welcomed the attendees and spoke to the importance of the students finding a high school experience that they will truly love, an experience that will, in large part, define who they will become.  He also shared that, as a parent of an eighth grader, he was looking at the question of high school through a different lens and offered up what he believes parents want from a school: 

“We want a school that is going to see and know our children, to develop their capabilities and push them to reach their potential; ultimately, we want them to graduate from high school ready—to face the world; to succeed and thrive in college, the workplace, life—and to be happy and fulfilled. This means academically ready, of course, with skills, knowledge, intellectual confidence, and, we want them to be mensches—to make responsible choices as they become independent adults, to give back.  And we want them to know who they are and where they come from—to have a strong sense of self as they make their way through this changing and challenging world. We know that being part of the Jewish community and finding meaning in Judaism will help give them this confidence and sense of self.”

He made the point that such a multi-faceted outcome of readiness can only be realized via an education that intentionally weaves together four essential strands, strands that Gann uniquely delivers: preparing our students with the highest level of academic skills and knowledge; character education and ethical responsibility; creating opportunities for students to pursue their passions and find their unique voices; and strengthening Jewish identity and our students’ sense of self. 

The families were then given the opportunity to experience readiness development in the classroom with five different model sessions and to talk directly with department chairs and staff at the Info Fair. The final element of the program was a moving speech by Jonathan Gould, a Gann alumnus from the class of 2006 and currently a student at Harvard Law School.  Jonathan’s story was the perfect culmination to the day, highlighting how the strands impacted his development and his readiness for college, career, and life. 

A Celebration across Generations: The Second Annual Grandparents’ and Friends’ Lunch and Learn

Today we had the pleasure of welcoming 95 Gann grandparents and special friends to our campus for the second annual Grandparents’ and Visitors’ Lunch & Learn event. The morning began with an opening from Grandparent Committee Co-chairs, Harriet & Stuart Sherman, who thanked our grandparent community for their involvement and support of Gann. Frank Tipton, Assistant Head of School, greeted the group and shared Gann’s educational philosophy including the bold and innovative curriculum and programming and the value of inter-generational learning.

Aaron Butler ’17 and Eitan Galper ’17 brought Gann to life for the crowd, speaking about how they have been able to find their passions and voices at Gann. “Our teachers encourage everyone to pursue what they are passionate about, guiding us to succeed in whatever we set our mind to.  It is because of our dedicated teachers and the environment that they set up that we are given the chance to become unique people and well-educated young adults in both secular and Jewish realms,” said Butler. Both students credited their grandparents with instilling in them a strong sense of self and commitment to the Jewish people.

Gann grandparents were then able to get a sampling of what our students experience every day in the classroom.  Lily Rabinoff-Goldman, English Department Chair, gave an overview of an exciting oral history project her US History students completed last spring. Lily taught the group about the power of oral history and how each grandparent can be an opportunity for their grandchild to explore living history.  

The second session was offered by Mark Wilkins, Science Department Chair, who gave an overview of how the Gann curriculum brings chemistry to life for our students by focusing a unit on water.  Water is a critical element of our everyday lives and Mark demonstrated how he teaches our students to understand the environmental, social, and chemical elements of water.  Mark is leading an innovative project this year with our sister school Ironi Hey in Haifa, Israel.  10th graders at Gann and Ironi Hey are doing similar water experiments and will collaborate together on this curriculum when our 10th graders are in Israel this spring.  

Rabbi Sara Meirowitz, Assistant Dean of the Jewish Education, closed out the program by teaching a text from Pirkei Avot (Wisdom of our Fathers) and using this ancient text to shed light on how Gann faculty educate and focus on each individual learner.  Rabbi Meirowitz closed her session by blowing the shofar, a traditional practice in the month of Elul, the Hebrew month preceding Rosh Hashanah.

Head of School Rabbi Marc Baker closed the program along with a wonderful performance by the ShenaniGanns. It was a fantastic event and guests enjoyed a meaningful lunch with their grandchildren. Thank you to the Gann grandparent community for their support and we look forward to Grandparents and Friends Day on Thursday, April 6, 2017!