Commencement Speakers Extol Their School, Classmates
The co-valedictorians of Maimonides School’s graduating class lauded their alma mater and their classmates, as 50 seniors joined the ranks of the alumni at the school’s 60th commencement Sunday morning. Hundreds of parents, relatives, teachers and friends filled Judge J. John Fox Gymnasium for the culmination of the academic year.
Sarah Ricklan delivered her valedictory in Hebrew, followed by Elliot Salinger in English. They were honored together because their grade point averages were virtually the same.
Sarah described the mixed emotions inherent in commencement day, detailing all of the experiences that she will miss, from caring teachers to the closely-knit senior class. But at the same time, the school has prepared its graduates for life. Maimonides, her translated remarks said, “”has empowered me to live in both the secular and the religious world as the Rav envisioned.”
In addition, “Maimonides has given me a sense of morality. I have a strong sense of values, a kind of instinct about wrong and right… I am equipped with a discerning way of thinking that will guide me…”
“We cannot fully leave this place, because Maimonides is a family, and we can’t just break away from our family,” her translation read. “We are not closing any doors today as we open the new ones. That is one of the gifts Maimonides School has given us. We have the master key to every door in the world.”
Elliot told the assembly that “The Modern Orthodox, Torah U'Madda education at Maimonides has taught us how to engage with our traditions in an intellectually and religiously meaningful way, how to live by them, and how to pass them on to the next generation.”
The school he said, has “imbued within us a holistic sense as to how to lead our lives as committed, halachically observant Jews who are simultaneously engaged with the broader world. The importance of both the nitty-gritty concrete and the more amorphous abstract within Jewish living is a hallmark of the Maimonides education.”
He cited a 1976 lecture by Rabbi Dr. Joseph Soloveitchik examining Judaism’s perspective on the individual the community, and the relationship between them. There are aspects that are relevant to the Class of 2012, he said. They include:
--"Rav Soloveitchik remarked that originality and creativity are functions of individuality. Our grade comprises individuals who have accomplished incredible feats.” There are unique individual qualities to the class, he added, and “our grade minus one individual would not be the same.”
--The class is a “prayer community, not only by “placing a high value on tefilla” but also by “consistently coming together to support its members undergoing difficulties.” Also, “Our grade has created a supportive network that is ready to help others, whether or not they are members of our community.”
--“The Class of 2012 similarly constitutes a teaching community,” Elliot said. Seniors have “studied our heritage and our religion. During our time at Maimonides, we have accepted our role as bearers of the "living Mesorah.”
Following the valedictories. Annie Davis, Yonina Frim and Avinoam Stillman, all honored for academic achievement, read excerpts from the works of the Rambam in Hebrew and English translation:.
In his opening remarks, Rabbi Yaalov Jaffe, principal for Judaic studies, referred to a Talmudic principle that also has been explored in modern psychology – the inability to concentrate on simultaneous sounds. The need for “selective attention” has practical implications for the class, Rabbi Jaffe said.
“Judaism is constantly engaged in a mutually uplifting dialogue with the entirety of secular knowledge,” Rabbi Jaffe said. As college students, “it is our belief that you will ask yourself at every juncture, ‘What does my faith have to say about what I just learned’?”
Today’s society is marked by a “confusion and cacophony of many different sounds,” Rabbi Jaffe continued. The key to making sense of it all is “you find a voice and a vision that has meaning and values that you have learned, to pick out ideas from among the dissonance.”
Diplomas were conferred by the co-chairs of the Board of Trustees, Beth and Marc Epstein, parents of five graduates, including Talia of the Class of 2012. The Epsteins implored parents of graduates to remain connected to the school.
Judy Boroschek, principal for general studies, followed the presentation of diplomas by complimenting the seniors for their individual strengths, and for their support for each other. “Do not confuse who you are today with what you will become,” she said. “What is guaranteed is a world of constant change and complexity.”
Other members of the Class of 2012 are Lia Almekies, Benji Berg, Jacob Blitstein, Aaron Brandt, Naftali Ehrenkranz, Yakov Ellenbogen, Ezra Etzel, Sara Flesh, Eugene Foygelman, Joshua Fried, Jacob Frisch, Hanah Geller, Jamie Goldstein, Ari Green, Rinatte Gruen, Rachel Heerter, Emmanuel Iskhakov, Eitan Kahn, Avichai Kapach, Benjamin Katz, Erez Krimsky and Yeshaya Lazaros.
Also, Adin Liss, Jonathan Michaelson, Gabriela Mizrahi-Arnaud, Tess Niewood, Yoni Nouriel, Menachum Polack, Yoel Polack, Yael Pomper, Dani Portman, Deena Rosenblatt, David Rubenstein, Laivi Salvaggio, Amitai Samuels, Miriam Segal, Penina Seigel, Jessica Shrayber, Penina Simkovitz, Elisheva Spellman, Yair Strachman, Zack Strunin, Elie Sundel and Hannah Vester.