Akiba grads head for D.C.
On Sunday, May 23, Akiba Academy graduated 23 students who marched right across the stage at Congregation Tiferet Israel and onto a plane headed to Washington, D.C. to explore what being a Jewish American really means.
At the graduation ceremony David Veeder, Akiba alumnus and president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, addressed the graduating class and wished them bon voyage on their journey. Each student also presented reflections on his or her time at Akiba. Graduate Shanee Abouzaglo reminisced, “When I look back at my 10 years at Akiba, it seems like only yesterday we had our first-grade hot chocolate day, our second-grade spelling bees or our fourth-grade State Fair. But as my years at Akiba come to a finish, countless incredible memories rush through my mind, and I notice how fast time has flown by. Only now do I realize how fortunate I was to have grown up as part of the united Akiba family.”
A recurring theme in many of the speeches was unity, a core value of Akiba and one that this class in particular has exhibited. Rabbi Zev Silver, Leadership Team member of Akiba, expounded on this topic in his message to the graduates encouraging them to teach others the importance of unity to enhance the Jewish world and the world at large. Chanale Block, Marcus Rosenberg Cup Award winner, also spoke regarding her leadership roles within the school, saying, “The committees are based on some of the main pillars of Akiba: leadership, respect and unity.”
The united class of Akiba 2010 embarked on their “field trip” to Washington, D.C., beginning with a tour of Mount Vernon, followed by a meeting with Texas Senator John Cornyn and a visit to the Senate and Library of Congress. A major highlight was a private meeting with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She shared with the students how her Jewish upbringing gave her a set of ethical and moral values. Shopping at the endless amount of souvenir kiosks, especially the ones at Union Station; taking the Metro and stopping at the Godiva store; meeting eighth-grade graduates from other Jewish day schools; and other similar experiences made the trip even more enjoyable. The students brought their Akiba-instilled values with them to Washington as they distributed leftover foods to homeless people and made a special visit to the Holocaust Museum. As General Studies Valedictorian Jason Epstein quoted in his commencement address: “Success is a journey, and not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
The roster of Akiba’s graduating class of 2010 was: Shanee Abouzaglo, Shane Appell, Alexandra Aronowitz, Joshua Behar, Chana Block, Jason Epstein, Cayli Fowler, Nathasha Guaqueta, Itai Guttman, Talia Klein, Hanna Liebermann, Zachariah Petsrillo, Alexis Riche, Jacob Robinson, Kayla Anne Rodenberg, Dalia Romaner, Jacob Rosenberg, David Rudomin, Erin Smith, Adam Steinbrecher, Jonah Taurog, Michael Teplitskiy and Hava Toobian.
ATID grads look to future
By Ruth Schor
Proud parents and family members of 17 ATID graduates attended an impressive graduation ceremony on Sunday, June 6. The graduates are Erica Arbetter, Alec Becker, Adam Berry, Sherri Deckelboim, Max Genecov, Zachary Goodman, Dena Kline, Max Leader, Zebulon Loewenstein, Joe Orr, Jennifer Sheppard, Rachel Wayne, Nathan Weller, Natalie Weltman and Mandy Widom.
Three years ago the rabbis and educational directors of Congregations Shearith Israel, Anshai Torah and Beth Torah gathered to explore an innovative Jewish education program for Jewish teens. The help and support of a vibrant board, and frequent productive meetings, gave birth to the ATID high school for 11th- and 12th-grade students. “Atid” is the Hebrew word for future; the speeches the young people delivered at their graduation sent a message of new hope and dreams for future Jewish leadership.
Gail Herson, ATID’s education director, who helped the program to reach new heights, said in her opening remarks, “It has been my privilege and honor to serve as education director of the Academy of Torah in Greater Dallas this past year. My time with the teens on Sunday morning is time that I cherish and look forward to. These young people are making the effort to show up and be open to an experience that has the potential to impact them spiritually, intellectually and socially. By participating in ATID classes, they are saying that connecting with their Jewish heritage is important. In response, it is my responsibility as an educator to do all that I can to foster that connection and allow it to strengthen and grow bold. It is a responsibility I take very seriously indeed.”
When Gail was preparing her remarks, G-d’s words to Abraham in Parashat Lech Lecha came to her mind. She added, “[In] the next phase of your lives, lech, go … move beyond your comfort zones, push boundaries, explore uncharted territories and maximize your potential. But be mindful of staying true to your values, your heritage and your identity as a Jew.”
The best Jewish curriculum cannot accomplish the most thoughtful educational goals unless qualified, knowledgeable instructors are in the classroom. The rabbis from the three participating Conservative synagogues — Rabbi William Gershon and Rabbi Joseph Menashe from Shearith Israel; Rabbi Adam Raskin from Congregation Beth Torah; and Rabbi Stefan Weinberg from Anshai Torah — are responsible for bringing students closer to Judaism and creating a quest for continuous learning and deeper connection to, and appreciation of, our traditions.
Rabbi Weinberg said to the graduates, “As you depart for college, you become the voice of our people. Stand up tall and be heard. When you take a leadership position, others will always be ready to follow. You represent the best of our young generation. We need each and every one of you to assume leadership roles on your campuses. The Jewish people need you, and Israel needs you.”
In his inspiring talk to the graduates, Rabbi Gershon quoted from Danny Siegel’s “A Blessing,” “May your eyes sparkle with the light of Torah and your ears hear the music of its words. May your study be passionate and meanings bear more meanings until life itself arrays itself to you as a dazzling wedding feast.”
The highlight of the inspiring ceremony was the delivery of speeches by the graduating students, who shared their words with their families and friends with passion and honesty. Sherri Deckelboim, whose attendance at ATID entailed a five-hour round-trip journey, said that she liked being asked for her opinion about discussion topics and studying texts with the rabbis. She said, “As I graduate, I look forward to continuing my Jewish journey at college by participating in the various opportunities that will be available to me.”
Jennifer Sheppard said that she had never seen a good reason to wake up on Sunday mornings. When she began attending ATID, she changed and was excited to arise to a fun and challenging Sunday morning.
The graduation ceremony ended with a delicious lunch catered by Milk and Honey, with friendly and warm chatter around the lunch tables.
Ruth Schor is the educational director of Beth Torah Learning Center. Levine’s grads
each have a say
For the students in the class of 2010, June 2 — graduation day — was their last day at Levine Academy. Many began at age 2; some came in lower school and some, at the beginning of middle school. But regardless of whether they were “old-timers” or relatively new to the school, a common theme permeated their graduation speeches: a love of Levine Academy and its indelible impact on their lives.
Graduation at Levine Academy is unique. Where most schools honor the valedictorian and salutatorian by allowing them to give graduation speeches, Levine Academy honors every student with this privilege. “It is truly one of the most anticipated events of the year,” K-8 Principal Dr. Susie Wolbe said. “Each child spends weeks writing a speech that will reflect the depth of love, knowledge and Jewish identity they have received from being a student at our school. Some are funny, some are poignant and some are filled with similes and metaphors. But all make us realize that what we are doing within the walls at Levine Academy is special and unique. By the time those students graduate, they have become smart, articulate, self-confident and ethically strong young adults who are ready to make their mark on the world.”
Graduation at Levine Academy is not celebrated only by the graduates’ families and friends, it is a community event. Rabbis from both the Conservative and Reform synagogues participate in the ceremony along with a representative from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. Those who took part this year were Rabbis Adam Raskin of Congregation Beth Torah, David Glickman of Congregation Shearith Israel, Debra Robins of Temple Emanu-El and Stefan Weinberg of Congregation Anshai Torah, as well as Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas President and CEO Gary Weinstein.
Congratulations to the students in the class of 2010 who will be attending the following schools next year:
- Sarah Barnett — John Paul II High School
- Danielle Berg — Episcopal School of Dallas
- Ben Calmenson — Shepton High School
- Michala Collis — Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Bryn Mawr, Pa.
- Jordan Cope — Yavneh Academy of Dallas
- Michelle Friedstadt — Yavneh Academy of Dallas
- Nathan Jajan — Colleyville Heritage High School
- Sam Kleinman — Yavneh Academy of Dallas
- Sasha Kislak — Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts
- Riley Lelah — Hillcrest High School
- Gary Levine — Yavneh Academy of Dallas
- Natasha Merlene — Jasper High School
- Matthew Milner — Greenhill School
- Sylvan Perlmutter — J.J. Pearce High School
- Jonathan Rosen — Shepton High School
- Osher Saboni — Yavneh Academy
- Isaiah Snyder — J.J. Pearce High School
- Dania Tanur — Yavneh Academy
- Brent Weinberg — Yavneh Academy
- Shai Weinstein — Shepton High School
- Maya Zach — Shepton High School
- Rosie Zander — Hillcrest High School
- Jennifer Zetley — J.J. Pearce High School
Melton graduates 30 students on June 1
On June 1, 30 adults celebrated their graduation from the Florence Melton Adult Mini School of Dallas. The graduates received recognition for their two-year course of study and a certificate of Jewish learning from Hebrew University.
Family, friends and faculty were on hand to wish the graduates well. Speakers included Rachelle Weiss Crane, Melton director in Dallas; Artie Allen, president of the Aaron Family JCC; Laura Seymour, director of Jewish Life and Learning, a Melton faculty member and TJP columnist; and Zona Pidgeon, chair of the Melton advisory board.
Keynote speaker Rabbi Glickman spoke about the importance of Jewish education to Jewish continuity in a time when assimilation is rampant. He used his time to teach as well as congratulate the graduates, and explained how education and continuity have been fostered through the ages, referencing three holidays, Shavuot, Purim and Yom HaShoah, These holidays seem distinctly different but have had similar impacts on Jewish thought and practice.
All students were recognized with certificates, and Alma Kron was awarded a certificate for the Honu Frankel Zest for Learning Award, named in memory of Honu Frankel, who was a lifelong learner. Wednesday mornings, studying with her friends at the Florence Melton Adult Mini School at the J in Dallas was very important to Honu. She had a zest for knowledge and set an example for all as she continued her Jewish journey each week. The Honu Frankel Chapter of the Florence Melton Adult Mini School Alumni Association of Dallas is dedicated in her memory and an award is given annually to the graduate who most embodies Honu’s zest for learning. Alma Kron was selected based on her enthusiasm and willingness to challenge her fellow learners in defense of a contrary point of view.
Each of the speakers encouraged the graduates to continue their educational journey toward Jewish literacy with the Gesher graduate program at the J, Melton Scholars Curriculum and adult education classes in their local synagogues.
Several years ago local artist Veronique Jonas created a beautiful water color titled “Eytz Hayim Hi” in honor of her own graduation from Melton. The name of each graduate has been added every year since. This year the following names were added to the painting which hangs in the main hallway of the Aaron Family JCC:
TDSD graduates its seventh class of eighth-graders
An enthusiastic crowd attended Torah Day School of Dallas’ (TDSD) commencement ceremonies for its seventh graduating class on Sunday, June 6. Held at Congregation Ohr HaTorah, the event featured separate programs for the 2010 girls’ and boys’ classes in which each graduate gave a speech and received an award for a particular middah (character trait).
Graduating eighth-grade girls included Ariella Benporat, Brocha Leah Epstein, Atara Fink, Devorah Krycer, Naomi Singer and Estee Udman. The valedictorian of the girls’ class was Naomi Singer, and the salutatorian was Ariella Benporat.
Graduating in the eighth-grade boys’ class were Mordechai Glazer, Eliyahu Klein, Eli Oziel, Tzvi Eliezer Rich and Avichayil Yachnes. Valedictorian for the boys’ class was Tzvi Eliezer Rich, and salutatorian was Mordechai Glazer.
The graduates spoke movingly about their experiences at TDSD, emphasizing the welcoming atmosphere and the care and support they felt from teachers. About half the students have been at TDSD since the school opened seven years ago, while two arrived as recently as this year. Nevertheless, both the boys’ and girls’ groups have impressed their teachers with their sense of unity.
The students plan to attend a variety of competitive high schools and yeshivas.
The majority of the graduating girls plan to attend Mesorah High School for Girls in Dallas. Naomi Singer will attend the DISD School for the Talented and Gifted, which was chosen this month by Newsweek magazine as the No. 1 U.S. high school for the second year in a row.
Mordechai Glazer will attend Ner Israel in Baltimore; Tzvi Eliezer Rich, Yeshiva Beth Moshe in Scranton, Pa.; Eliyahu Klein, Mercaz HaTorah in Belle Harbor, N.Y.; and Avichayil Yachnes and Eli Oziel, Texas Torah Institute here in Dallas.
Yavneh’s class of 2010 is on its way
By Deb Silverthorn
Yavneh Academy of Dallas is pleased to announce the award of Valedictorian to Micah Steinbrecher and the honor of Salutatorian to Sarah Rohan. Joseph Lerer is the school’s Summa Cum Laude recipient, and Daley Epstein graduated Magna Cum Laude. Sophie Geller and Libby Panipinto received Judaic Studies Awards, sponsored by the Sylvia and William Epstein Golden Wedding Anniversary Fund, and Ethan Prescott received the Gabbai Award for excellence and dedication to religious ritual. All honors were shared during commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 30 at Congregation Tiferet Israel.
“For the past 18 years, we have been backseat drivers in our own lives,” Steinbrecher said. “Our control is limited by the real drivers: our parents, our community and our Jewish faith. We have little authority in major decisions, and when we make the wrong decision, the consequences are mitigated. Today this no longer applies. These ‘drivers’ no longer have an absolute grip on our destiny. Their roles have changed, and this ceremony marks the day these values jump into the back seat and we make our own decisions. Today, these values no longer lead us, they merely guide us.
“Today is a day of thanksgiving for our faculty, who have tagged their aspirations on our endeavors. It is a day of thanksgiving for Mr. [Donald] O’Quinn, [head of school,] who came out of retirement when Yavneh’s future was tottering on the brink. And most importantly, it is a day of thanksgiving for our parents,” Steinbrecher said. “Every child in this room, graduate or not: Do not walk out of this auditorium today without looking your parents in the eye and thanking them from the bottom of your heart for sending you to Yavneh.”
Seniors Ilan Attar, Elizabeth Chatham, Mark Cheirif, Devora Cohen, Sahar David and Rebecca Schisler led the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah,” and Joshua Karnett, Libby Panipinto and Ethan Prescott welcomed all to the commencement. Michael Bierman, Sophie Geller, Paige Koeppel, Rebecca Lipinsky, Julie Meltzer and Mollie Mirsky thanked Yavneh devotees Daniel Prescott and Richard Rohan, and the law firm of Carrington Coleman, for their roles in supporting the school. Mitchell Blumka offered the afternoon’s d’var Torah.
Arielle Burstein, Jaclyn Peiser and Miles Pulitzer, presented the profile of Yavneh Academy’s 15th graduating class; Daniel Moskowitz read “The Yavneh Student,” his poem outlining a typical day and the commitment as such. Seniors Noy Bolurian, Nicole Danilewitz, Noah Donnenfield, Joseph Elbaz, Daley Epstein, David Goldenberg, Aliza Greenberg, Dylan Kaye, Hannah Kessler, Matthew Kirby, Joseph Lerer, Evan Mitzner, Bess Reisberg, Sarah Rohan, Sergiy Rozhdestvenskyy, Adam Sallmander and Micah Steinbrecher completed Yavneh’s graduating class roster.
The members of Yavneh’s class of 2010 have received more than $2,000,000 in Merit Scholarships and served 11,668 volunteer hours. They recorded an average score of 1764 on the SAT exams and an average score of 28 on the ACT; Mark Cheirif was named a National Hispanic Scholar, Daley Epstein a National Merit Finalist, and Micah Steinbrecher a National Merit Commendee.
Students Against Terrorism raised more than $41,000 for One Family Fund’s Sderot AfterShock Project with the eighth annual Points for Peace basketball tournament, Uniting Students of Dallas raised over $15,000 for the Texas Access to Justice Foundation during an evening that featured Texas Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson, and hosted its fourth annual Mix-It-Up Diversity Awareness Day.
Yavneh seniors received more than a dozen local, state and national journalism awards. They were instrumental in the growth of the Music Ensemble and Theatre departments, featured in “The Miracle Worker,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Herschel and the Chanukah Goblins,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Dybbuk.” David Goldenberg brought Pink Day, a national program of Sharsheret, to Yavneh; Rebecca Schisler received the Joe M. and Doris Russell Dealey Award of Achievement in first place; and Evan Mitzner, Libby Panipinto and Bess Reisberg were named finalists in the 14th annual Dallas Public Library “Express Yourself” Youth Poetry Competition.
David Veeder offered greetings from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. Leon Zeligson, a beloved staple at Yavneh’s commencement ceremonies, accompanied the students during the processional and recessional. Naomi Schrager presented the Judaics awards. Yavneh Academy’s Rabbi Meir Tannenbaum and Congregation Beth Torah’s Rabbi Adam Raskin shared blessings for the future.
“There’s no doubt that this class represents the best and the brightest graduates in this city, but that is not ultimately what convinced me of the greatness of this school,” Rabbi Raskin said. “Where I saw the soul of this school and the depth of this class was when you were all faced with what might have been the most difficult test you have taken all of your Yavneh education. It was a test of your humanity. It was a test of your ability to show compassion, love and sensitivity when, shortly after the beginning of this year, one of your classmates experienced the most devastating loss imaginable. This classmate of yours is here today with his dad and his sister, but his precious mother is observing this occasion, with great pride I believe, from the heavens, rather than in a seat by his side.
“You demonstrated that this Torah is a powerful, living, relevant, life-altering document and you mustered everything that you learned and offered it to one of your own in the form of comfort and presence and hope. You demonstrated them in ways that brought tears to my eyes and, more importantly, that gave me such hope and confidence that this school has prepared you not just intellectually, not just with the facts and figures, the names and dates … but this school has shaped your souls. It has molded your character as people who will undoubtedly succeed on the college campus — nearly any high school can do that. But this school has made you into Jews who understand the significance of your tradition, the meaning of living a life of Torah and mitzvot, the power that each one of you possesses to touch another person’s soul, to be a transformative presence along the journey of life.”
Assistant Principals Chad Baruch and Dr. Tim Cloward shared in the ceremony as Board President Carol Kreditor and Past President Mike Zucker presented the students with their diplomas. Head of School Donald O’Quinn bid each student a personal farewell and offered the group his respect.
“Each of you will be a blessing unto this world,” O’Quinn said. “You leave here a family and you made the Yavneh family a stronger one.”
Ten girls graduate from Mesorah
On Sunday, June 13, Mesorah High School for Girls held its seventh commencement exercises at Congregation Ohr HaTorah in Dallas. Members of the graduating class were Batsheva Benporat, Chana Greene, Elisheva Jacobs, Chavi Oppenheim, Brocha Klein, Shiphra Rosenbaum, Ilana Rosenberg, Aliza Schick, Melanie Solomon and Ariel Vanfossen.
Of the 10 graduates, eight will continue their education at various seminaries in Israel and the United States next year, while the other two plan to attend the Blitstein Institute in Chicago, where they will take combined Judaic studies and college courses. Valedictorian Ilana Rosenberg plans to pursue an engineering degree at Goucher College in Baltimore, Md., and Salutatorian Aliza Schick plans to attend Stern College where she will study pre-med, after their year in seminary. “Each Mesorah graduate has accomplished tremendous goals, both educationally and spiritually, during her time in Mesorah,” said Rabbi Avraham Zev Kosowsky, headmaster. “Our girls work very hard to solidify their foundations as they learn to appreciate the importance of living within a Torah framework, accomplishing what a Jewish woman should, and building a fulfilling life.”
Other speakers at the commencement were Board President Dr. Joe Rothstein, who gave the opening remarks; Rabbi Yoni Schick, founding headmaster, who offered divrei brachah (words of blessing); and Gay Daneman, director of women’s philanthropy at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, who conveyed a message from the JFGD. Refreshments followed the ceremony.