Rique Ragghianti is a devout Catholic whose upbringing consisted of a baptism, confirmation, first communion, weekly religious Sunday school and mass, altar boy responsibilities and lifelong parochial education (including three years at a monk-led school). Rique is also a passionate Jewish Day School parent.
He and his wife Avrielle, a proud Conservative Jew who grew up attending synagogue, Jewish Day School, youth group and Hebrew school, credit their daughter Marisa’s Reform Jewish elementary school, The Alfred & Adele Davis Academy in Atlanta, with unifying their family in pride and Judaism.
Describing her own Jewish upbringing as “very rigid, forced and always serious,” Avrielle says that she and Rique immediately felt “magic” when they first toured The Davis Academy. While the Ragghiantis were impressed with the academics, the overwhelmingly happy and welcoming environment radiating from the faculty and staff, as well as the parents and children won them over. They were also particularly moved by the natural and stimulating way Judaism is woven into the curriculum. “Davis has a way of making everything exciting without losing the underlying importance of religion,” Avrielle shares. “It brought me back to my Jewish roots but took the fear out of Judaism. This is what I would’ve loved to experience as a child.”
Although they were excited about the opportunity for Marisa, tuition was a major concern. Once the Ragghiantis realized they qualified for a Jewish Day School scholarship that was made possible by funding from Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, they committed to just one year. “The scholarship had a massive impact on our family,” Avrielle reveals. “It opened the door for us.” Within weeks of Marisa starting her kindergarten prepatory class, the couple was already talking about continuing her Jewish Day School education all the way through high school.
“We found something meaningful for our whole family,” Rique relays. “We came for the education, and we found a community.” From Kabbalat Shabbat to vacations with fellow Jewish Day School families, the experience has transformed the Ragghiantis. “Rique’s pride about Marisa’s attendance at The Davis Academy is beyond words,” Avrielle explains. He enjoys when Marisa, now in her second year, teaches him prayers, songs and how to speak Hebrew. He has embraced Judaism and formed a personal connection with Israel. “Our family is united as one,” Avrielle beams. “Davis and Federation have forever changed our lives.”
Putting into action Federation’s mission to care for Jews in need today and build Jewish community for tomorrow, the Ragghiantis are paying it forward with an active role at Davis, from its Host Committee for prospective families to the Parent Teacher Organization.
Avrielle asserts that Jewish Day School is more than an educational institution; it instills the importance of Jewish values, traditions, family and community, which she and Rique delightfully witness Marisa emulate daily. It has “impacted our lives in such a deep, meaningful way,” Rique affirms. “We will be positively affected for years to come.”