Clad in caps and gowns, the Hebrew Academy seniors exited the auditorium as high school graduates. The 31 teens received their diplomas this Thursday, May 25. Parents, faculty, friends, and fellow students crammed in the 600 seat auditorium.
The ecstatic graduates were treated to a speech from board president Jennifer Dobin. As the mother of an eighth grader, sophomore, and high school graduate (class of ‘16), she had a close connection to the them and gave a heartfelt speech.
Assistant Principal Rabbi Assaraf gave a short vort from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Kahn, the head of school, spoke about life in the 21st century where everyone is addicted to personal electronic devices, and Assistant Principal Dr. Lieber talked about how proud she was of this senior class.
While the administrators’ speeches went over well with the audience, the graduates themselves stole the show. Avi Stein gave a sweet yet hilarious introduction to his best friend, valedictorian Gabe Apoj, which culminated in the lines “he’s the peanut butter to my jelly, the north to my Korea. While we won’t be together physically, we will always be together, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”
Gabe followed with an address on tolerance. He pointed out that college campuses are very diverse, and no matter what race, gender, or religion somebody possesses, we should be friendly and tolerant. What many called the most memorable speech of the evening was that of salutatorian Malka Suster. Before beginning, she advised audience members to put away their fidget spinners and listen to her “Seven Reasons Why” she loves the Hebrew Academy. Graduates and attendees alike adored the pop culture references and humor sprinkled into the address. Suster concluded her talk by mentioning each student in her graduating class and pointing out what makes each of her classmates special and unique.
Each additional graduate gave a short speech thanking different members of the faculty, from teachers and administrators to support staff. The highlight of these messages came from student council president Daniel Yerushalmi, who spoke about his mother. It was a very emotional moment when mothers in the audience rose and were applauded by all.
Next came the diploma ceremony; the realization of a four year old dream for each senior. Dr. Lieber and Rabbi Assaraf read a short yet personal blurb that the co-principals wrote while Rabbi Kahn and Mrs. Enis, the college guidance counselor, distributed the long-awaited diplomas.
The ceremony was followed by a reception in the Hebrew Academy gymnasium, where food and refreshments were served while attendees had a chance to congratulate the outgoing seniors.
All of the graduates were overjoyed to receive their diplomas and graduate from high school.
“Well, it feels how you would expect it to feel: pretty okay, I guess. Just kidding, it’s pretty amazing I’d say,” said Jacob Lurie.
“It feels like I’m a bird being let out of its cage,” said Shmuel Kahn. “When I got to hug my dad when he was giving me my diploma, great moment man.”
However, graduation was bittersweet for the seniors, as they will leave the school, their friends, and family behind.
“It feels incredible,” Yerushalmi said. “At the same time you think about all the memories that you’ve taken through high school. It’s an awesome feeling, but it’s bittersweet.”
Melanie Arougueti, like many other graduates, spent many years at the school, so she will miss the place that she called home for so long.
“Honestly, I’m gonna miss it a lot because I spent so much time here, I spent 12 years here, so, yeah.”
Families of the graduates felt mixed emotions towards their loved ones. They were all extremely proud, but expressed that they will greatly miss the seniors as well.
“This is a crazy night,” Zoe Sugar (10th) said. “I’m really happy and excited for Lexi and her future. I wish her the most success, and Mazel Tov to the graduating class of 2017.”
“It’s really sad,” Adira Kahn (10th) said. “Obviously he will be missed but we will remember him as we continue to strive on our high school careers. We just hope we can continue on with his legacy in high school, and hopefully, when we’re unsuccessful he can let us crash in his super rich mansion.”
“It’s weird,” said Daniel Ohana (8th). “I’ve known her since I was born, and it’s weird that she’s getting so much older. I’m gonna be the oldest one in the house next year.” Daniel said that if he could internalize one message from his sister, it would definitely be “her positive attitude. She’s always making people laugh, and she’s a positive person. When things don’t go her way, she knows that she has to persevere.”
“I learned so much from all of them in so many different ways,” Raquel Zohar (10th) explained. “My friends on student council, they taught me that leadership comes hard sometimes, but determination is key, and my sister taught me what best friendship is, and I mean I’m gonna miss them.”
The impact of the seniors was felt by freshmen, sophomores, and juniors alike. All of these students will miss the graduates.
“They left a big impact in my life,” said Chani Alishayev (9th). “They taught me so much. A couple of them are like my older siblings. I’m gonna miss them.”
Some juniors have a different perspective on the graduation. As the incoming seniors, the ceremony was a symbol of the responsibility of being the oldest grade passing down to the juniors.
“They were such leaders and such a presence in the hallway,” Tehila Moore (11th) said. “Always making things bright, always making jokes, always making everyone happy, and I just hope that I can emulate them and bring that to the high school and make people look up to me like I did to them.”
All of the high school teachers will miss the senior class’s presence.
“Even though I’ve only been here part of this year actually, I’ve gotten to know a lot of the seniors and their spirit is very funny,” said science teacher Mrs. Edwards. “I’ve enjoyed a lot of them and they make me laugh. It’s quieter around school without them. It’s a little sad. I already miss them a lot.”
“I have to say, it was quite remarkable watching them march through the hall the other day,” said middle school English teacher and mother Mrs. Ohana. “It was like they just had their 8th grade graduation, and it was like a double source of joy being both a mom and their former teacher, so it’s an amazing class and I wish them lots of good luck.”
The graduating class of 2017 has much to look forward to in college and gap years in Israel.
“I’m looking forward to making my own major at NYU and just studying what I want, and joining organizations that I feel passionately about, and really just exploring my interests,” said Sara Fuchs. “I’m looking forward to fighting for equality.”
“I can’t wait to be in Israel and the holy land,” said Yerushalmi. “I’ve been waiting a long time to spend a lot of time there, and it’s going to be amazing.”
Aliza Posner gave sage advice to future seniors.
“I would tell the juniors to have a lot of fun senior year, but don’t totally slack off, it does still count, but just make the most of senior year with your class. It’s the last year you’re gonna have with them, and just make a million memories and just enjoy being a child for the last year ever.”
Congratulations to the class of 2017!
By: Jack Benveniste-Plitt (10th Grade)