As the new year begins, JAO answers to 'Where are you?'


Shari Wladis, interim head of Jewish Academy of Orlando and Maura Weiner, JAO board president.

As the Jewish Academy of Orlando staff gathered early in the morning before Meet & Greet, Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnik, the new Hebrew/Judaic curriculum coordinator, offered a prayer to begin the year. She spoke about the connection between the number 36 and the very first question asked in the Torah by God to Adam.  When Adam and Eve broke God’s rule and ate from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, they felt guilty and hid from God. God then asked, “ayeka,” “Where are you?” Although God is all-knowing, this question couldn’t have been about location, but rather the bigger questions: Where are you? Where are you going from here?  This question, “ayeka” with the numerical value of 36, resonated with us. What if God asked the Jewish Academy, “Where are you?”

Jewish Academy is right here, an academic and cultural fixture in Central Florida. We are at the beginning of our Double-Chai anniversary celebration! Jewish Academy of Orlando was founded in 1977 to provide children in the Orlando area a kindergarten-eighth-grade Jewish day school option that focused on imparting a strong academic foundation while instilling Jewish values. We continue to uphold the mission that our founders established 36 years ago.

With 5774 just beginning, we teach about and celebrate Rosh Hashanah together as a community of learners. We are organizing the observance of Tashlich, the opportunity for students to ask themselves where they are and where they want to be. We are providing an educational environment that allows JAO students to follow God’s example and ask questions. We are encouraging dual-language thinkers, through our Hebrew language immersion program.

Ayeka, where are you? We hope to find you at one of our Shabbat celebrations, held each Friday morning. We hope you will celebrate 36 years with us at our Double-Chai Gala Nov. 17. We hope you visit us at our campus in Maitland to learn more about our school and the unique learning environment that is provided to our students.  We hope that the connection between God’s question, “ayeka” and our double chai, “life” celebrations, will find meaning with you, and that you too will find ways to consider your connection to the Jewish Academy and to the Jewish community during this time of reflection.

Editors Note: Heritage apologizes that this article was inadvertently left out of the Rosh Hashanah issue.

Jewish Academy open house events for prospective families

Take an informational tour highlighting JAO’s differentiated curriculum, its leading technology program, and the infusion of Hebrew and Judaica into everyday learning, Sunday, Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. or Friday, Oct. 11, from 9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

This visit includes Kabbalat Shabbat led by international recording artist and spiritual leader, Beth Schafer. RSVP by phone: 407-647-0713 or email to


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