It is graduation season. If you have a graduate in your family or if you plan to attend a graduation in the coming days, I wish you Mazal Tov. Graduations are significant moments in the lives of both the graduate and the members of the family. In addition to the feelings of pride and reflection and looking ahead, graduation moments should also be filled with gratitude - for the accomplishment, for the academic achievement and for the experience gained through the process.
I have two personal graduation stories that I want to share - one is from the perspective of the student and one is from the perspective of the parent. It was 20 years ago this month that I graduated from the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. I remember the day very well and I am still in touch with many of my Rabbinical School classmates. In the 20 years since our ordination we have accepted Rabbinic positions in various parts of the Jewish community including synagogues, Jewish Day Schools, summer camps, college campuses and some in major Jewish organizations in the Conservative Movement and beyond. I always knew that I was part of a special group of Rabbis and this was proven true quite often in these 20 years. In addition to my classmates serving some of largest synagogues in North America and doing some incredible things to serve the Jewish community, we were all in touch recently to congratulate one of our classmates who was recently chosen to be the Executive Director of the Rabbinical Assembly - the Rabbinic Arm of the Conservative Movement. We have shared many personal reflections with each other and what we all see from our own view of the American Rabbinate. It is these conversations that add to my feelings of gratitude for serving as the Rabbi of The Jewish Center and the opportunities and accomplishments we have created together here.
The other graduation perspective is the one I will feel this coming week when our daughter graduates from her High School - the Golda Och Academy in West Orange, NJ. Dena is also part of a very special class that has spent the past three months in Israel learning about the history and culture in Israel and creating an even stronger personal bond to Israel and with each other. I am looking forward to Dena returning home later today before Shabbat to hear her stories about being in Israel and then attending her graduation festivities this coming week. There is a tradition at her school, that parents of the graduating class who are Rabbis or Cantors, get to share words of Torah in some way. Here is the verse that I will speak about to this graduating class - I think it is appropriate for all graduates from any school this year. The verse is part of our morning blessings recited daily:
Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu, Uma Yaffa Yerushateinu, Uma Naim Goraleinu - How grateful we are with our portion, how pleasant is our fortune, how beautiful is our heritage.
I hope every graduate feels blessed to have reached this milestone, feels grateful for what they have accomplished and how they have each grown personally through the education process. I hope every graduate also feels grateful for everyone who has influenced them along the way. Taking a moment to reflect on this achievement before deciding how best to move forward, is a worthwhile task. This is a milestone that is worth celebrating.
As we all experience this graduation season, I hope we can all pause for a moment from our hectic lives to reflect on the accomplishment and express our gratitude to everyone who deserves it.
Mazal Tov and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Adam Feldman