DALLAS — Dr. David Portnoy, Yavneh Academy’s head of school, offered some sage advice to the 29 new “Class of 2015” graduates who stepped across the stage to accept their high school diplomas Sunday, May 31.
This class, incidentally, is flying pretty high right now with acceptances from 46 colleges and universities in North America and Israel and receiving more than $2.5 million in scholarships.
Dr. Portnoy acknowledged that the extraordinary travel and new life experiences coming the way of Yahveh graduates should be savored in the years to come. But his advice to them for life after college was emphatic:
“Come back to Dallas,” he said. “This is your home and we want you to come back.”
As many as 800 people — including friends, students, parents, alumni, staff, faculty and board members — attended the Twentieth Commencement ceremony at the Schultz Rosenberg Campus.
Yavneh’s 2015 graduates include Taylor Ann Blue, Steven Jacob Bokov, Raphael Time Burstein, Haley Sloane Chestler, Hadas Cohen, Meir Lev Epstein, Tom Erlich, Ari Yaakov Geller, Macy Fischer Golman, Cassandra Rachel Gross, Ori Mordechai Guttman, Samantha Eve Harris, Aaron Michael Herschberg, Jacob Edward Herstein, Austin Elias Jacoby, Jonathan Daniel Kravitz, Scott Noah Lacritz, Alexandra Rochelle Lavi, Elvira Ariela Levi, Sophia Rose Lynn, Ethan Isaac Pearson, Grant Alan Prengler, Serina Lindy Romick, Zachary Sparks Romick, Zachary Herman Schultz, Noah Daniel Shore, Noah Ross Weiss, Erin Shira Wernick, Clara Galler Wohlstadter.
Of those, Jacob Herstein, Raphael Burstein, Austin Jacoby, Scott Lacritz, Serina Romick, Zachary Romick, Noah Shore, and Erin Wernick graduated with honors.
Excellence was the continued watchword of the Class of 2015, officials said. Graduates were only required to perform 130 hours of community service per student but averaged 700 apiece — a collective total of nearly 20,000 hours.
The AP, SAT and ACT test scores of the class by far exceeded both national and Texas state averages, and eight of the 29 graduates earned an academic average of higher than 94 percent.
The most popular colleges expected to be attended by Yavneh’s Class of 2015: University of Texas at Austin, Yeshiva University, the University of Maryland, and Washington University in St. Louis, it was announced during the ceremony. Six students in the class intend to use next year as gap year.
Valedictorian Jacob Herstein, who will be attending the University of Texas next year, observed during his speech that while students are learning in the years to come they “need to treat every moment like a once-in-a lifetime opportunity … and take chances.”
Dr. Portnoy, meanwhile, went about the business of thanking alumni, parents, friends, families, supporters, faculty and Yavneh’s board of directors. Then, before he certified the class for graduation, he continued a tradition of warmly addressing each student out loud and sharing a memory or thought that marked that student’s relationship with the school.
Naomi Schrager, the school’s former head of Judaic programming who is moving to Israel this summer, presented the school’s Sylvia and William Epstein Golden Wedding Anniversary Fund Awards for Excellence in Judaic Studies honors to Meir Epstein, who will attend Yeshivah University next year, and Erin Wernick, who will take a gap year to travel to Israel and then attend the University of Maryland.
Rabbi Meir Tannenbaum, the school’s associate principal, for Judaic curriculum, offered the benediction. During his remarks he offered advice on how to stay right with God.
“As you leave the protective bubble that has been your home … you will no longer be standing in front of the window where God’s presence has been obvious and clear,” he said. “You will have to search further and dig deeper and have faith God is there anyway. … Peer through those cracks … Visualize the eye of God looking at you lovingly, highly and affectionately.”
Dan Prescott, incoming president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, said it is probably a testament to the importance of Jewish education that these students have done so well and will continue to do so into the future.
“It’s a tremendous expense … and not to be taken lightly,” he said. “The dollars could be spent elsewhere. But each one who made it to this moment, try to feel proud, because this is the reward.
Mesorah High School for Girls
DALLAS — Thirteen graduates from the Mesorah High School for Girls received their diplomas Sunday, June 7 during the 12th annual commencement exercise at Congregation Ohr HaTorah.
As many as 300 — parents, friends, family, teachers and students — attended the event, officials said.
In comments offered during the ceremony, Rabbi Avraham Zev Kosowsky, headmaster, wished this class of graduating students all the best.
“Class of 2015, as we have reached the final moments of your senior year, my bracha to each of you is that you will always direct all of your actions toward Hashem and be a source of light amongst the Jewish people as true Jewish women,” he said.
Members of the graduating class included Penina Bracha Abrams, Aliza Leyla Benporat, Rachael Berk, Brocha Burr, Tamar Cohen, Shira Kosowsky, Ellianna Kurtzer, Devorah Lender, Osnut Moyal, Aliza Rosenberg, Elki Schonbrunn, Eliya Shimon and Shira Slater.
Headed to Israel
Of the 13 graduates, 10 plan to travel to Israel to study next year. This number includes valedictorian Shira Kosowsky, salutatorian Brocha Burr and Penina Bracha Abrams, recipient of the Keser Shem Tov (Crown of the Good Name) award.
The remaining three members of the graduating class are planning to continue their education in the United States, Rabbi Kosowsky said.
Other speakers at the commencement included Don Goldstein, board president of the Mesorah High School board of directors, who delivered the opening remarks.
Meyer Denn, executive director of the Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, congratulated the class on behalf of the Federation.
Rabbi Kosowsky and Susan Rich, assistant principal, presented the awards and diplomas.
Texas Torah Institute
DALLAS — The six graduating seniors in the Texas Torah Institute’s Class of 2015 walked across stage at TTI’s Haymann Family Campus on Sunday June 7, marking the institution’s 10th commencement.
As many as 175 people were in the audience during the ceremony, according to officials.
The Class of 2015 consisted of Yehuda Benklifa, Moshe Avraham Cohen, Shlomo Leib Davis, Shlomo Zalman Kaufman, Menashe Chaim Roberts and Shlomo Yaakov Tanny.
As far as where they will be next year, three students — including valedictorian Shlomo Zalman Kaufman and Ben Torah Award winner Shlomo Yaakov Tanny — are staying in the Dallas area to attend TTI’s Beis Medrash, which is an advanced post-high school yeshiva program.
The Ben Torah Award signifies the person in each TTI graduating class who stands out among his peers and most embodies the spirit and the lessons — the messages and ideals — of the Torah.
Two of the graduating students will be traveling to Israel to study and one — salutatorian Menashe Chaim Roberts — is undecided, officials said.
Incidentally, the Nathan and Blanche Mark Award for Academic Excellence went to Yehudah Benklifa.
Academic Dean Fred Wagner and Rabbi Moshe Aryeh Tropper presented the diplomas to the students.
Closing was delivered by Rabbi Eliyahu Kaufman, rosh hayeshiva.
Torah Day School
Torah Day School of Dallas held graduation ceremonies for its eighth-grade girls’ and boys’ classes at 10 a.m. and 6:45 p.m., respectively, June 7 on the school’s North Dallas campus.
The 13 girls will attend Mesorah High School for Girls in the fall. The 10 boys will attend Yavneh Academy, Texas Torah Institute, Bais HaMedrash and Mesivta of Baltimore, Mesivta of Greater Los Angeles, Yeshiva Gedolah of Greater Detroit and Yeshiva Toras Chaim Denver.
On Sunday, May 31, Akiba Academy of Dallas celebrated its 45th eighth-grade graduation, the first held on the Schultz Rosenberg Campus since its inception in 2005.
Sixteen students walked across the stage with highest honors in general studies going to Maayan Abouzaglo and Judaic Studies going to both Zachary Bernstein and Avraham Tannenbaum.
Shea Doty was this year’s recipient of the Marcus Rosenberg Cup, awarded to the graduating student who most embodies Akiba’s mission.
In addition to a moving video presentation showcasing the graduates in their last few years with Akiba, attendees were also treated to speeches from each member of the graduating class thanking those that have influenced them the most and reminiscing on their time at Akiba.
The entire Akiba community is looking forward to seeing what this bright group accomplishes in the future, both immediate and long-term.