June 7, 2016

"Mezuzah-Gate” at GOA

Iris Berman ‘18



High School Student Council members hang the first 3D-printed Mezuzah in the בית כנסת as part of the new Mezzuzot Project. Credit: Golda Och Academy

Golda Och Academy prides itself for its accepting and pluralistic attitude that makes it so appealing to newcomers. The mission statement of the school states that GOA’s dual education gives all the benefits of a complete secular education in addition to “enriching students with the rich traditions and learning of Jewish texts and practices.”
This made it all the more shocking for many students when they realized a lack of mezuzahs on nearly all doorposts in the school, including the Beit Knesset. Beyond its biblical and Halachic significance, a mezuzah is a public acclamation of Jewish pride and faith.
Sophomore Nesya Nelkin commented that after coming to GOA in eighth grade from a more religious school, she was shocked at the lack of mezuzahs.
“In a Jewish institution where we are learning holy Jewish texts we should be surrounded by mitzvot of the Torah,” sophomore Rafi Turitz-Sweifach said. “The missing mezuzahs take away from the lessons we are learning in class.”
In an environment that thrives on the diversity of students from all different Jewish backgrounds, the lack of mezuzahs can be uncomfortable for those who are more observant.
A student who wished to remain anonymous due to the fear of judgement on this questionable issue, stated that while taking standardized testing at GOA she noticed people from a traditional Orthodox school.
“[I watched] as a girl walked through a doorway in our school and, as her custom, she reached out to kiss a mezuzah,” she said. “[I felt]so awkward and embarrassed that a Jewish day school could not provide a mezuzah and create a comfortable environment for all different types of Jews.”
Sophomore Rebecca Landau experienced a similar type of situation.
“When the Israelis from Merchavim came to visit our school they were confused as to why we didn’t have a mezuzah specifically in a place of prayer.”
She said the experience was “embarrassing and sad” for the school’s community.
This issue has a seemingly simple reaction: to install new mezuzot; however, this approach has turned out to be much harder than it seemed.
In previous years the mezuzahs within the school had not been kosher. Vice President of Student Council and sophomore, Sam Russo, said that last year Student Council realized the problem and decided to reach out to the administration. After a lengthy process, he said they have finally gotten 75 scrolls and have had the STEM lab print 3-D mezuzah cases.
“We are getting ready to hang them and we will hopefully have them up by the end of this school year and definitely by the beginning of the next year,” he said.
Russo continued to say that Student Council will be discussing this issue at their upcoming meeting, as this is still “very much in progress.”

GOA students are lucky to be in an environment that adapts to their needs as they come. Hopefully with the installation of new mezuzahs, GOA will continue to be a welcoming place for people of all different backgrounds. 
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