Gann Academy honors its founding headmaster, Rabbi Daniel Lehmann

President Daniel Lehmann on Wednesday was honored for his work as founding headmaster of Gann Academy, a pluralistic Jewish high school in Waltham, Mass.

During Gann's Founder's Brunch ceremony, held in the 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art edifice Lehmann helped build in 2004, officials unveiled Lehmann's official portrait, by award-winning artist Mary Minifie. The painting will hang in a prominent place in the school.

rabbi daniel lehmann and his family members at unveiling of lehmann's portrait

Michael Bohnen, Gann's founding chair and an active leader in the Greater Boston Jewish community, opened the program by reflecting on the early years of the school, and introducing trustee Linda Greenseid to pay tribute to Lehmann on behalf of Gann's current and former board presidents and founders.

Greenseid, who also served as a member of the search committee that hired Lehmann in 1997, said it was evident from the start that Lehmann was the right person for the job. Greenseid recalled a conversation she had with the search committee chair, Barbara Skydell Safran, who was the first person to contact Lehmann, then the upper-school principal at Beth Tfiloh Community Day School in Pikesville, Md., about the job opportunity in Boston.

"Barbara tells me that as soon as she spoke to Danny on the phone, she knew we had a winner," Greenseid said. "We did interview several candidates, but when Danny came and spoke to us, he hit a home run out of the park!"

Lehmann was methodical and masterful in building the new institution — originally called The New Jewish High School of Greater Boston and located in a small space near Brandeis University — hiring outstanding faculty, raising money for the new building, developing a first-class academic curriculum and fostering a climate of cooperation and collegiality.

"Your vision — and the implementation of your vision — went far beyond what any of the founders imagined," Greenseid told Lehmann. "Your creativity, ingenuity, passion and determination made Gann blossom."

Gann's current head of school, Rabbi Marc Baker, praised his predecessor for being a leader who, in the pursuit of truth, is always learning, growing and open to change.

"Danny, not only are you our founding visionary, but the way you live your life every day bears witness to our pluralistic mission," Baker said. "Thank you for being our teacher and for inspiring all of us."

During his remarks, Lehmann enumerated the principles and practices he worked to instill in the fledgling school: a commitment to pluralism, an emphasis on creativity and innovation, a strong belief in its students, an intellectual intensity in Jewish and general studies, and a relaxed and comfortable environment in which to learn.

"Our school was to be a model of a different, better Jewish community that is not afraid of differences and celebrates both our common tradition and our divergent interpretations of that tradition," Lehmann said.

Those principles worked well then, and continue to serve the school now, even as it changes to meet the particular needs of today's students, he said.

"In my view, change is a positive force that often brings necessary improvements, enhancements and the need for new visions," he said. "I am sure that in many respects this school is better now than it ever was, and I take pride in its many accomplishments and the expanded impact it has on our community."

— Posted June 5, 2015

Photo caption: President Daniel Lehmann, center, with family members, from left, daughter Shira, wife Lisa, mother Elizabeth and son Hillel, during the unveiling of Lehmann's official Gann portrait. Son Elie was unable to attend the event.