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Rabbi Eric Grossman

Everyone thrives on routine.  We have weekly, monthly, and daily cycles and routines that give life a sense of order and purpose.  Getting up each morning is eased by the fact that I know exactly the steps I must take from the time my alarm rings to the time I am at work: showering, dressing, brushing teeth, reciting morning prayers, and so forth.  I cannot imagine having to think through each of these steps every morning—the effort would be exhausting.  Having a routine preserves time, energy, and sanity.  God imbedded in the world the annual cycle of the sun and the monthly waxing and waning of the moon, and in the Torah, God gave us the cycle of the 7-day week, which was adopted by the world entire.

If I did not properly appreciate the value of routine when I was young, the moment I became a parent, the importance of routine became abundantly clear.  I discovered, as do most parents, that the greatest gift I could give my children would be a regular routine.  My children would feel safe knowing what to expect every day from the time they woke up until dinner, story time, Shema, and bed.

The Akiva community has responded remarkably to the COVID-19 crisis.  I could not be more proud of our students and staff, parents and board members, administrators and assistants.  Everyone has stepped up in ways that we could never have imagined possible to provide our students with education and engagement in a time of international crisis.  My gratitude is boundless.  We have always said that Akiva is a family; in these weeks, we have proven it.

At the same time, we must be honest: the disruption to our regular routine has been stressful, and for many, traumatic.  If routine gives us safety and comfort, the disruption of routine makes us feel vulnerable and fearful.  We celebrate the positive energy we have experienced as a community through our online classes, adult learning, game night, Kabbalat Shabbat, and Israel celebrations; at the same time we acknowledge the underlying anxiety that is being experienced, to some degree, by every member of the Akiva family.

Since the beginning of this crisis, the Akiva philosophy has been to create as much routine and regularity as possible to ensure the psychological well-being of our families and, most of all, our children. This is why Akiva was the first school to go online, as many of you have pointed out, making sure that our children did not miss a day of school.  We have also maintained regularity in our schedule, adding resources and activities each week without altering the structure of our distance learning program.  We were also the last school to lay off any employees, keeping our entire staff intact for over a month after other schools began to furlough their staff.  All of this has been intentional, in keeping with our goal of maintaining as much routine and regularity as we can during these turbulent times.

This week, for the first time, we had to make staffing changes in the school which affected the routine of our children.  In particular, we took the decision to begin the usual temporary summer lay-offs of our assistants a few weeks early, starting this week, instead of the last week of June. We did so in such a way as to minimize the disruption and distress for our students.  While, for reasons of privacy, the process behind these decisions is not always apparent, please be assured that we have not made the slightest change to our original mission and philosophy of maintaining as much routine and regularity for our children and families.  Any actions we undertake are done with the best interests of our staff and students in mind, this includes both the decisions themselves as well as the process that we have chosen for implementing these decisions. It should also be kept in mind that all staffing changes are temporary, and all of our Akiva staff are still part of our team, albeit some roles are on hold for now.

Here at Akiva, we know that we are blessed with both an exceptional educational team and a special partnership with our parents.  These are factors that have made it possible to keep the learning moving forward with structure and routine for our children. We take nothing for granted and we thank everyone who has been involved for their incredible dedication to our school.  We pray for, and look forward to, a return to the regular Akiva routine that we all love and cherish.