Saying L’hitraot, Not Shalom

This is the opening assembly of my first day of school at MJGDS.
This is the opening assembly of my first day of school at MJGDS.

So, I guess this is it.

Four years and 177 blog posts later, it is time for me to officially say good-bye. Or, more appropriately for a whole host of reasons – see you later.

It is “see you later” for my Jacksonville community because we will continue to be part of it – as parents, congregants, and active community members.

It is “see you later” for the blog because after a couple of weeks of transition, packing, and setting up the literal “home office”, I will be reintroducing “A Floor, But No Ceiling” and repurposing it in alignment with new my job as Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.

I cannot think of better words of farewell to offer other than those that I shared with our community during our annual L’Dor V’dor event celebration to those whose generosity allow our schools to thrive and succeed.  And so without further adieu, I bid “l’hitraot” for now…


I got the call during Maytal’s third birthday party that I was coming to Jacksonville and it was just a few weeks later that I first had the chance to address this community at a L’Dor V’Dor brunch honoring Judy Reppert for her years of service, while wearing Jack Mizrahi’s borrowed clothes as my luggage had not made it with us on the journey.  So it is only fitting that my last chance to address this special community comes again with L’Dor V’Dor.

It seems like only yesterday that Jaimee, Eliana, Maytal and I were on an airplane from Las Vegas to Jacksonville to begin this amazing experience of being part of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, the Galinsky Academy and the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  And now, four extraordinary years later, my chapter in the story of our schools is drawing to a close.

There is much to be proud of what we have accomplished together during my time here. Our day school’s almumni’s achievements astound; our volunteer’s passion is unmatched; and our faculty’s love unrivaled.  The Martin J. Gottlieb Day School’s reinvention as a leading 21st century learning institution with an international reputation for excellence is an achievement that required the vision and courage of a synagogue to found and maintain a Jewish day school in Jacksonville, Florida and the generosity of a Jewish community that continues to believe in the power of Jewish education.  And assuredly, none of it happens without the remarkable Mel and Debbie Gottlieb who help give us the tools to build and rebuild a school deserving of their beloved son Marty’s name, of blessed memory.

Two years ago we launched Galinsky Academy – in honor or the enduring spirit of selfless L’dor V’dor shown in the lives of Samuel and Esther Galinsky – and announced the naming of the DuBow Preschool, whose gift endowed to the Academy demonstrated not only the DuBow Family’s commitment to the Preschool’s future, but to all our children as it helps allow all our schools and programs to deliver on their promises and inspire our children to do and be their best.

Galinsky Academy declared our intent to provide Jewish children of all ages the highest quality education possible.  Galinsky Academy consists now of all the schools of the Jacksonville Jewish Center – the DuBow Preschool, the Bernard & Alice Selevan Religious School, the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, and our youth and high school programs. It represents our commitment that all of our children – regardless of the path their parents choose – will benefit from the finest teachers, an engaged clergy, the highest-quality curriculum, innovative informal educational experiences and the most cutting-edge technology.  Galinsky Academy simply is a Jewish learning organization like no other.

There is another reason I feel it appropriate that I am being honored as part of a L’dor V’dor event as it is only because of L’dor V’dor that we have been able to raise the bar at our schools and it is only because of the opportunity and support of this community that the Schechter Network took an interest in our school and in me.  The career path I am about to embark on simply does become available to me if I had not been blessed to wind up in this nurturing and special place.

There is so much yet to accomplish in the Martin J. Gottlieb’s and Galinsky Academy’s bright futures, but I leave with the confidence that the chapter of history that we have written together will carry our amazing schools and programs forward to the next chapters to be written in the many years to come.  As it says in the Mishnah: “Lo alecha ha’mlacha legmor…” – “It is not incumbent on you to finish the work, neither are you free to exempt yourself from it.”  (Mishnah: Avot, 2.16)  I am already working closely with Rabbi Jim Rogozen during this period of transition, but knowing him and our schools as I do, I know that in his capable hands we will only go from strength to strength.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to personally thank many of the people who have worked so hard to advise and support me.  Thank you Don Kriss, Hazzan Holzer, Rabbi Olitzky, Shereen Canady, Lois Tompkins, Gayle Bailys, Scott Zimmerman and Lori Schoettler for your collegiality, your collaboration, your guidance, your talent and for making this such an easy place to work.  Thank you Rabbi Lubliner for your mentoring and your trust.  Thank you to Mauri Mizrahi, Gaby Bubis and Alyse Nathans who have chaired our day school and academy and have guided them with strength and care.  Thank you to Michael DuBow and Fred Pozin for your engagement, wise counsel and commitment to our schools.  Thank you to all the committee chairs and committee volunteers – too many to mention – whose gifts of wisdom and wealth behind the scenes make it all possible.

Thank you to Talie Zaifert for four years of admissions excellence and friendship. Thank you to Carol Wagnon for pioneering our professionalization of development.  Thank you to Jessie Roman for being the consummate team player.  Special thank you to my executive assistant, Robyn Waring.  She is the glue that holds the place together. She puts on band-aids and puts out fires.  She’s the best.  Extra special thank you to Edith Horovitz whose energizer-bunny-spirit and remarkable rapport astound and who has been as much a teacher and a friend as she has been a remarkable Middle Vice Principal.  Thank you to my teachers and to all our teachers.  A curriculum is a piece of paper.  All the credit for our schools’ accomplishments goes to you. I am proud to have been your head of school and academy.

Thank you to all the parents and the students.  Thank you for entrusting me with your children.  The responsibility for your children’s education has been the most sacred and holy responsibility I have ever had.  I will miss terribly the daily interactions with students, parents and teachers that have defined my professional life for nearly 15 years.  But I paid my tuition and my synagogue dues on Monday…so I am ready for the carpool line and congregational life!

Please know that my commitment to the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School does not expire when my contract does!  In July, when I become the head of the Schechter Network, proud to call MJGDS one our flagship schools, I will remain inspired to do my part – with you – to carry this dream forward into the years ahead.  I am grateful to Schechter for working with me to re-imagine what leadership can look like in order to allow me to continue to live in this amazing community and to send my children to this amazing school.  I am also ready to continue my commitment to L’dor V’dor.  We continue to live in difficult economic times and we hope you will continue to be inspired – as my family is – to support this fund each and every year as a key component to sustaining the future of our schools, our children, and our community.

It is humbling to officially take my place in the chain of educators who have ensured the past and now hand off to another to secure the future.  So, thank you for giving me a second chance to interview when I blew the first one!  (True story.)  Thank you for the extraordinary lengths you have gone to make us feel welcome.  Thank you for taking care of me and of my family.  Thank you for inspiring me to be my best and for supporting me when I wasn’t.  Thank you for opening doors I never imagined possible and working with me so I could walk through them.  And above all, thank you for your unwavering commitment to Jewish education.

A night like tonight celebrates what we already know to be true – that Galinsky Academy has succeeded in becoming so much more than a place where children learn, but a place where families find community.  A chapter in our family’s story like this one confirms what Jaimee, Eliana, Maytal and I already know to be true – that the Jacksonville Jewish Center has become so much more than a place where our children go to school and I go to work, but our community…our home.

Todah rabah rabah.

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. Jon is studying to be a rabbi at the Academy for Jewish Religion and is on the faculty of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) as a mentor. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.

One thought on “Saying L’hitraot, Not Shalom”

  1. Thank you for the very kind words. It has been a pleasure to have worked with you these past 4 years. I wish you success and much happiness in your new endeavors. I will not say “good bye” or “so long” because I will see you in carpool everyday! Have a great summer.

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