What a magical evening last night was!
I was asked if I would publish my remarks and it is, of course, my pleasure to do so.
50th Anniversary Gala Speech
I come before you this evening with unbridled gratitude and extreme humility. I am in but my second year and I stand on the shoulders of giants like Marilyn Sandler, Willard Kennedy and Carole Goldberg who are with us tonight for this extraordinary evening. It is but a quirk of the calendar that brings me to the dais as head of this special school during its 50th anniversary year. Without their monumental gifts of talent, time and love, this milestone could not have been reached. I may be the one standing on stage tonight, but they are the ones who built it.
What a true blessing this weekend has been! The anniversary was 50 years in the making; the planning for it has been almost a full year. We have and will continue to thank the volunteers and staff who dedicated untold hours of care so we could celebrate this historic event in the life of our school, our synagogue, and our Jewish community. I would like to take the prerogative of the moment, however, to add my personal appreciation for a person for whom no words of praise are sufficient. Mauri Mizrahi has been my rock and my partner these last two years and never has a lay leader worked or cared so much. No one, except maybe Alan, will ever know how much effort and energy she has given to guarantee that the beginning of the next fifty years of our school will match, if not exceed, the fifty glorious years we are honoring tonight.
We have spent a weekend reliving and celebrating the past and the present. And as we have seen tonight, there is much to be proud of. Our alumni’s achievements astound; our volunteers’ passion unmatched; and our faculty’s love unrivaled. And as twenty-one schools and fourteen agencies validated this past weekend at edJEWcon, our present is fulfilling the promise of our past. But this is not merely a celebration of and for the Day School. This is an achievement that required the vision and courage of a synagogue to found a Jewish day school in Jacksonville, Florida. This is a moment only reached because of a Jewish community that continues to believe in the power of Jewish education. This is a dream fulfilled because of the support of a generous and forward-thinking Jewish Federation. Our hearts overflow with the outpouring of support this anniversary has generated.
And we are not merely celebrating the past this evening. We are ensuring the future. And it will be a future filled with academic achievement and passion for Judaism for our Day School and for all the schools of the Jacksonville Jewish Center. And it begins with a story…
Samuel and Esther Galinsky were, by all accounts, modest and unassuming members of our synagogue. They participated in synagogue life and were respected members of the congregation. They cared about Jewish education, but had no children of their own. They were, in many ways, like any other couple. When they died, their friends mourned their passing. And that should be the end of the story. But it isn’t. Because this ordinary couple did something extraordinary. With no fanfare and no notice, Samuel and Esther Galinsky left the Jacksonville Jewish Center amongst the most significant gifts it has ever received – $3 million. And it was given for one purpose – this childless couple gave their fortune to ensure that Jewish children would be able to have a Jewish education. Has there even been a more selfless gift? Have any people ever more embodied the idea of L’dor V’dor?
And so it is in the spirit of this gift – of that remarkable couple – that we officially announce the creation of what will forever now be known as “Galinsky Academy”.
Galinsky Academy declares our intent to live up to the charge the Galinsky’s have given us – to provide Jewish children of all ages the highest quality education possible. Galinsky Academy consists of all the schools of the Jacksonville Jewish Center – our Preschool, the Bernard & Alice Selevan Religious School, the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, and Makom Hebrew High. 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, and the most cutting-edge technology. Galinsky Academy will be a 21st century learning organization like no other. No artificial boundaries. No territories. No excuses.
Tonight we set the course towards the future. Just as those pioneers fifty years ago bravely created a day school in spite of the obstacles, we tonight create an academy unlike any that has ever been created before. We will walk in our founders’ footsteps and dream in big and bold colors. And like them, we will need the ongoing support of our community to make those dreams come true. We have surpassed our wildest dreams in this magical year in terms of fundraising, but let no one think the work of funding Jewish education is done or even on hold. We continue to live in difficult economic times. L’dor V’dor becomes our Academy’s most important annual fund and we hope you will be inspired to continue to support this fund each year as a key component to sustaining the future of all our schools.
Finally, this evening, I have the pleasure of one more special announcement. In the spirit of the Galinsky Academy, the Bernard and Alice Selevan Religious School, and the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, another family has stepped forward to do their part to ensure that each child in the Academy will begin their educational journey on the right foot.
I welcome you to the new DuBow Preschool. Children in the DuBow Preschool will spend their early years in a state-of-the art facility and will experience a world-class preschool education. They will be set on a path towards academic excellence and Jewish identification. Our appreciation to the DuBow Family is limitless – the gift they have given the children of our community is priceless.
The gift they have given is also unique – it marks the first gift endowed to Galinksy Academy. It will not only benefit our preschool, but all the schools of the academy. We are confident that this will be the first of many Academy-endowed gifts that will allow our schools to deliver on our promises and inspire our children to be their best.
And so tonight we pause to shed naches at what was and to prepare for what will be. 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). As the proud head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School and the first head of the Galinsky Academy, I am inspired to do my part – with you – to carry this dream forward into the next fifty years.