Sign In Forgot Password

Graduation Season

05/18/2023 09:37:10 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

These past few weeks have been full of transitions. In nature, we have experienced our last cold front as spring quickly flows into summer. In Torah we have completed the book of Leviticus by reading the last three verses and exclaiming “חֲזַק חֲזַק וְנִתְּחַזֵּק chazak chazak v’nitchazeik” – be strong and let us strengthen one another. Schools across our area are entering their last days as students look ahead to their next grade level, educators prepare to say goodbyes and ponder their incoming classes.

When I peruse my social media, I see so many beautiful graduations being celebrated. In our own space, our pre-k CDC students will celebrate their own graduation on Friday, May 19th, as they look ahead to kindergarten. Fifth graders are moving onto middle school, high schoolers to next steps beyond communities they might have been in since Kindergarten, and college graduates abound.

While it is always a joy to observe these remarkable milestones from a distance, my own family is excited to have a direct connection to the festivities as our daughter, our youngest child, celebrates her graduation from high school next week.

Rebekah’s brother, Jacob, graduated in June of 2020. Just 5 or so months into the pandemic we attended via Zoom. At the time, this technology was new to all of us so there were no hard feelings when the cell phone that was capturing the event had the screen sideways for the online attendees throughout the entire event. We smiled, and were proud, and were amazed that it was happening at all given the state of the world at the time.

Fast forward three years and it is Rebekah’s turn. From her 9th grade year being interrupted by the pandemic to now when the WHO has “lifted the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for COVID-19”. We have flights, Airbnb and rental car booked for our 10 days in Israel beginning this coming Sunday. When she was home for Passover we did all of the necessary shopping for her prom and I pick up the altered dress from David’s Bridal today.

Both Jacob and Rebekah chose to attend high school at a boarding school in Israel through NAALE. We have been on this adventure since September of 2016 when we sent Jacob off with his cohort out of Chicago. When they say “it takes a village” to raise our children we never could have imagined the remarkable village that would have raised ours. From the head of the program to their counselors to the shinshin (18-year-old Israeli’s who spend a gap year before the army volunteering) to their home room teachers, the experience has been remarkable. We now have extended family for life as the host family who agreed to take Jacob has also been there for Rebekah.

We can’t wait to thank all the remarkable adults who have been there for our children and played critical roles in shaping them to be the kind, caring, thoughtful, silly young adults they are today. We will also be meeting all the parents of Rebekah’s friends from Brazil, South Africa, England, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, China and Japan. As surreal as this is for us, Rebekah has reported the same feeling for her and her friends.

Transitions. As humans, we aren’t good at them when we are children, and they don’t seem to get any easier in adulthood. If you are in the trenches of this jumble of emotions like we are – pride, excitement, anxiousness – know that you are seen. If you are on the sidelines, be sure to share a hearty Mazal Tov to those celebrating.

For those searching for some words when you are feeling unable to string a sentence together, here is a beautiful resource from our Rabbis manual. Feel free to manipulate the words to match your particular situation.

Shabbat Shalom!

Blessing for Graduation:

Holy Source of Blessing,

we gather to celebrate the achievement

of these young men and women.

As we congratulate them on their success,

we ask God’s blessing for this new chapter of their life.

We ask that God bless them

with strength and wisdom,

open minds and caring hearts,

safety and good judgment.


May it Your will,

our God and God of our ancestors,

that You deliver them from any harm, misfortune,

and trouble that they may find on their journey.

May You empower the work of their hands.

May they continue to act with kindness

and compassion for others,

and, wherever their journeys take them,

to find the happiness of love,

of friendship,

and of community.

Together we say: Amen


Fri, April 19 2024 11 Nisan 5784