By Ted Waddell
KIAMESHA LAKE June 27, 2003 Whether you call it the Class of 2003 or the Class of 5763 (the Jewish year), Tuesday nights 8th grade commencement exercises at the Hebrew Day School of Sullivan, Ulster & Orange Counties was a rousing success.
The Hebrew Day School educates children from nursery school age through 8th grade thus graduation is a bit earlier than at a traditional high school.
The grads of 2003/5763 are Sarah Chaya Barashi (Monticello), Adam Feinberg (Ellenville), Zachary Gold (South Fallsburg), David Karcnik (Middletown), Samuel Merr (Liberty) and Alex Shapiro (Monticello).
Special awards were given to Barashi (Paul Garfinkel Memorial Award/Gemilas Chasadim Award), Feinberg (J. M. Launer Memorial Award/Continuing Jewish Education Award), Karcnik (Jack Rosenbloom Memorial Award/Chaver Tov Award) and Merr (Mel Bien & Rose Gibber Memorial Award/Special Achievement in Judaic Studies).
The presentation of grades, honor rolls and special awards was conducted by Rabbi Irving H. Goodman, dean of the Hebrew Day School.
Rabbi Menachem Fruchter, principal of the Hebrew Day School, said in his remarks to the graduates, You have reached this special milestone of your life. As you leave our school and embark on a journey to broaden your horizons, Id like to leave you with this message.
As Rabbi Fruchter unfolded the message, he related a story of horror, pain and sadness a true tale once told by an old man about his experiences as a 12-year-old boy struggling for survival in a WWII Nazi death camp in Poland.
The boy watched as his father was gunned down before his eyes by a Nazi SS prison guard, as his father was getting a tefillin shel-rosh to be used at his sons upcoming bar mitzvah from a nearby barracks in the concentration camp.
In closing, Rabbi Fruchter told the graduates to judge everyone favorably, as it is your key to success, your beacon of hope, your strength and your future.
It will surely help you in your rough times, he added. It will help you overcome obstacles and challenges.
May you all continue to be a source of Yiddish Nachas to your parents. May Hashem continue to bless you now and in the bright future.
Zachary Gold attained the highest grade point average of the Class of 2003/5763. He was honored to present the prologue address.
A few days ago, as I was walking through the doorway of the Hebrew Day School, I hesitated for a minute, he said. I brought my hands up to the straps of my backpack, I took a big look at my surroundings, and I saw my whole life right before my eyes. I saw every individual year of the ten unbelievable years I spent learning here. I saw the evolution of the school from the first day I ever stepped foot in its doorway until tonight, the night my classmates and I are standing here graduating from a school we will never forget.
I thought of the memories and of the knowledge and friendship that I not only have gained, but will continue to hold inside of me for the rest of my life. . . . Through the years, we have learned philosophy from many rabbis, and as I learn more, it seems easier and easier for me to develop my own philosophies.
Thanks for the memories, he concluded.
The epilogue address was read by Alex Shapiro, the graduating 8th grader with the second-best academic record.
He began by quoting a bit from Hillel in the Perkei Avos: If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?
My class has been together so long we are like a family, said Shapiro. We play together, we fight and make up, we tease each other and support each other when times get tough.
Then he voiced words that would best serve elders on both sides of the fence in the battle-ravaged Middle East, reminding the audience of the wisdom of an old adage, A little child shall lead them.
If we as Jews are only concerned with ourselves and not for the rest of the world and fellow people, what would we be? he said. We would be selfish and a poor example of a people. We have to support our brethren, Jews and non-Jews throughout the world. We have to support both America, our country, and Israel, our spiritual homeland.
There should not be strife because of differences in religious thinking or practice. We should strive to strengthen bonds that link us all as a family and a people if we want to survive. . . . We are all responsible now to do what we can to make the world a better place.
Hebrew Day School, we will not forget you, said Shapiro.
Before the recessional, Rabbi Adam Litt, a teacher and director of the fourth grade chorus at the Hebrew Day School, fairly leaped off the floor as he led the young voices in singing spirited songs of praise and joy.