Featuring Mr. Forbus
When Mr. Scott Forbus was seven years old, his grandmother moved from Indianapolis to live with his family. As she was dying, she told Mr. Forbus’s mother that their family was Jewish.
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Mr. Forbus travelled throughout the Southeast in his childhood because his mother was employed as a contract attorney for the U.S. military. He lived and attended schools across Georgia, Virginia, and Alabama, never really making strong roots in a particular school.
After discovering she was Jewish, Mr. Forbus’s mother became involved with the lunch and learn program at the military base Fort McPherson, where she was introduced to the basics of Judaism. She visited a number of synagogues before settling on Beth Jacob. Mr. Forbus explains that his mother never liked to do things halfway. If she and her son were going to be Jewish, they would be fully religious and observant Jews. Mr. Forbus’s jewish life didn’t truly take off, however, until he came to Yeshiva Atlanta (YA).
Mr. Forbus began attending YA, which later became the high school of Atlanta Jewish Academy (AJA), in seventh grade (the school at that time was 7th-12th grade). It was one of his first Jewish experiences, and truly the first that immersed him completely in Jewish life. The transition was not easy. “The idea of changing your whole life around literally is very scary, especially when you’re ten or eleven,” says Mr. Forbus. Soon, Mr. Forbus would come to adapt to this new Jewish environment and begin to feel at home there.
Mr. Forbus recalls that the YA he attended was a very different school from what the AJA high school is now. For example, the school was much larger, with approximately 200 students, and he feels that because of this the school culture was much less homogenous than it is now.
Additionally, Mr. Forbus remembers developing strong relationships with some of his teachers, especially his rabbeim. He elaborates, “That really was something that was eye opening to me because, as someone who had been to many different schools, I had never really developed those relationships before.” Mr. Forbus remarked that to this day he thinks one of the most important things for the success of a high school is strong relationships between students and adults in the building.
At YA, Mr. Forbus began expanding his Jewish skills. For instance, Mr. Forbus felt great pride when he finished his first masechta (tractate) of gemara. He remembers how much of an accomplishment it was for him, as a person with no prior Jewish knowledge, to make that siyum, (celebration). He was beginning to learn many of the Jewish tools and practices that help him find meaning and a sense of community to this day.
Once he graduated high school, Mr. Forbus attended Georgia Institute of Technology and graduated with a degree in Management. Throughout college, he continued to be involved at YA, interning with Mrs. Sue Loubser, the head of technology for the school at the time. When Mr. Forbus graduated, Mrs. Loubser moved to Greenfield Hebrew Academy (GHA), and Mr. Forbus came with her.
While working at AJA, Mr. Forbus went on an eighth grade Israel trip as a chaperone. Though he had been to Israel a few times in the past, Mr. Forbus had not enjoyed it. However, when Mr. Forbus saw the students’ emotional reactions to Israel, he was able to open up and enjoy the country. Since then, barring the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Forbus has been to Israel once or twice every year. This helps him strengthen a connection to Israel that he works hard to cultivate and enjoy. Without any extended family, or even immediate family other than his mother, who share his Judaism, he has built a Jewish network in Israel that he thinks of as family.
Years later, Mr. Forbus is now in charge of technology for all of AJA. Although he didn’t have an official title until recently, he describes his role as “pretty much in charge of anything that plugs into a wall. And some things that don’t.” One thing Mr. Forbus holds as essential to his job, which he credits to Mrs. Loubser for teaching him, is that anything involving technology must have student learning at its core. Above all else, a school serves its students.
In addition to working throughout the years with technology at AJA, Mr. Forbus has continued a job he has been doing since the ninth grade: managing the score at YA/AJA basketball games. Originally keeping track of the books, Mr. Forbus eventually took over the scoreboard. He has seen the rise and fall of many great and not-so-great sports teams. He remembers the most crushing basketball defeat he ever witnessed, when YA lost a game 118-2. When it comes to AJA/YA’s basketball team, Mr. Forbus has seen it all.
Mr. Forbus’s devotion to AJA/YA is one way that he displays how he is committed, which is one word he would use to describe himself. Another example of this commitment is that Mr. Forbus is the gabbai for New Toco Shul and attends daily minyan there every day — morning and afternoon. He also depicts himself as an introvert, who gravitates towards older relationships rather than forging new ones.
Finally, he describes himself as a person who strives to be understanding. Mr. Forbus explains that he always tries to give people the benefit of the doubt and extends compassion to everyone he meets. He strives to see other people’s perspectives and has come to understand that the world does not always share his particular values, and that is alright.
Mr. Forbus’s office is one of the most adorned in the whole school. Most notably, it is plastered wall to wall and floor to ceiling with flags of Scotland. Mr. Forbus explains that some of the current high schoolers, when in middle school, would come to his office and sing the Scottish national anthem because his first name is Scott. Ever since then, he has been known as “Scotland” and has collected and been gifted numerous Scottish flags.
In addition to Scottish paraphernalia, there is a poster up in loving memory of his freezer, which died over spring break in 2017. There is also a sign on the door that reads, “Have a Coke and a smile.” He explains that he does drink a lot of soda, but not particularly Coca Cola. He explained,“This is not going to be a popular opinion in Atlanta: I don’t prefer Coke or Pepsi. They’re different, but I like them both.” Mr. Forbus’s office may be small, but it certainly packs a punch.
One thing Mr. Forbus really likes about the school is the students. Having worked in middle school for so long, he sees a huge difference in maturity between an eighth grader and a high schooler, even though the freshmen are just one year older than middle schoolers. He loves having the opportunity to see students grow, mature, and come into their own as adults. Years ago, Mr. Forbus himself grew in this school, newly exposed to Judaism and searching for a connection. Now he works at the very school where he first began to develop strong bonds with his teachers, his peers, and his Judaism.