The Davis Academy is a community that lives by and lives up to its values. Davis has 5 core values: Wisdom, Community, Spirit, Respect, and Righteousness. These values, known at Davis as our menschlichkeit values, both describe who we are and what we aspire to be. When our Mechina and Kindergarten students lead our weekly Kabbalat Shabbat service for the first time, they do so with the support of their entire “Community.” When 1st graders have a special Shabbat afternoon and Havdalah program at Zoo Atlanta their incredible “Spirit” inspires others to join in. When our 2nd graders receive their first prayer book their “Respect” for Jewish tradition is evident in their hearts and smiles, and in their parent’s tears. When 3rd graders visit the local Community Assistance Center to learn about the needs of people in their own neighborhood we see the emergence of “Righteous” indignation. These moments, both planned an unplanned, extend across The Davis Academy journey; through the b’nai mitzvah experience to the Israel trip, to graduation, and life beyond Davis.
The Davis Academy experience is a collection of sacred moments—some joyful, some somber, some exuberant, some reflective, some personal, and some communal. Jewish holidays, Jewish prayer, and the Jewish call to social action provide a framework for living our values and making the most of each day.
The fact that The Davis Academy is a Reform Jewish Day School can be confusing for people who don’t know us and aren’t familiar with the Reform Movement. Like any other center of Jewish learning we celebrate all the major holidays, teach and recite all the major Jewish prayers, love and support the State of Israel, expect our families to honor our Kosher food policy, and require our students to study the Hebrew language. Families that are seeking a rigorous and rich Jewish experience will find it at Davis. At the same time, families that are at the beginning of their Jewish journey will be empowered and inspired. It’s a family journey, with the child at the center.
What makes Davis a Reform Jewish Day School is our belief that the Jewish future is as bright (and hopefully brighter) than the Jewish past. Tradition has a very strong vote at Davis, but not a veto. Our families expect Judaism and Jewish experiences to be relevant, meaningful, and impactful. They want to hear new melodies to ancient prayers, they want to see their children approach Judaism with a spirit of curiosity, excitement, and creativity, and they want to be met where they are at—without judgment. They want to be inspired to embrace Judaism in ways that make sense for their family.
Reform Judaism is committed to the idea that living a Jewish life means making choices based on knowledge (“informed choice”). It’s more difficult than it sounds, for adults as well as children. In order to reach this goal, The Davis Academy is committed to having the most outstanding Jewish Studies faculty available. All our Jewish Studies teachers have a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies or Jewish Education. They’re all fully on board with the vision of the Jewish present and future that we share at Davis. They all live our menschlichkeit values and inspire students to do the same. They’re the kinds of people you’ll wish you’d had as teachers in religious school growing up!
Having a spiritual practice is more important now than ever before. We all need a space that we can enter to reflect, gain perspective, and encounter our own soul and maybe even God. That’s what tefilah is at The Davis Academy.
At The Davis Academy lower school tefilah focuses on learning the basic prayers and having opportunities to lead tefilah at our weekly Kabbalat Shabbat. Tefilah is a spirited, community oriented time. By the time a Davis Academy student has reached the conclusion of 5th grade he or she will know many of the prayers needed for Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the basics of what the prayers mean and why they’re in a particular order, the basics of chanting Torah, and will be ready for deeper learning. They’ll also know approximately 300 Jewish songs that they can sing at synagogue, holiday celebrations, or, as often happens, in the bathtub or at bedtime.
At The Davis Academy middle school tefilah evolves to match the development of the students. In addition to ongoing exposure to the more straightforward tefilah service, students experience tefilah electives, tefilah by gender, creative tefilah services of all stripes and colors, and a host of guest speakers—Jewish and non-Jewish. Each communal tefilah service starts with a special prayer written by members of The Davis Academy community and each week we honor the students that are having their Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
When students graduate Davis they do so with a solid foundation in a spiritual practice that is uniquely Jewish. Our alumni report that this spiritual foundation continues to support them in high school and beyond.
Hebrew study begins during the Mechina or Kindergarten year and is a central component of The Davis Academy education. Countless studies show the cognitive benefit of second language acquisition. Hebrew Studies focus on Modern Israeli Hebrew. Hebrew is a vibrant language that has roots in ancient Semitic languages but continues to develop. It is one of the most dynamic languages spoken in the world today. Our Hebrew Studies courses utilize NETA, the best curricular materials available for Hebrew language instruction. Used in hundreds of schools around the world, including Israel, NETA seeks to meet students where they are at by teaching language in the context of topics and subjects that students are interested in such as sports and art. When students celebrate Shabbat in Jerusalem on the first day of the Israel trip, many are moved to tears by their ability to speak and understand Hebrew.