Mazal Tov to the Class of 2023

Mazal Tov to the Class of 2023

June 22, 2023

Mazal Tov, Class of 2023!

Erev tov to everyone and, most importantly, to Bialik’s Graduates of 2023,

Congratulations to you and your families! You have completed your tenure at Bialik on a high note demonstrating excellence in the classroom, through the arts, and in athletics. You have represented Bialik in the community in the best way possible, and we are very proud of all your accomplishments. Well done!

Now grads, I am going to speak to you in a moment, but I want to make sure to acknowledge another group of “grads.” Five long-standing staff members are retiring this year, and I think it important to recognize them.

  • Ronit Kenedy is leaving Bialik after 14 years as a resource and Jewish studies classroom teacher, first at Viewmount, and then at Himel.
  • Jill Magen spent 19 years at Viewmount teaching elementary GS and then serving as a resource teacher.
  • Debra Danilewitz served at Bialik’s counsellor at the Viewmount Branch, and then at Himel. She is retiring after 30 years of service to the school.
  • Maya Goreshnik first began teaching Jewish studies at Bialik 34 years ago in 1989, another excellent Viewmount faculty member who moved to Himel in the last years of her career.
  • And Karin Friedman first appeared at Bialik as a teaching assistant in 1988, and then spent 34 years as a stellar JS teacher — first at Viewmount, and then at Himel.

Yeladim, think about it! These women represent over 130 years of collective service to the school. They began working at Bialik before you were born…some even before many of your parents ever met one another. They have dedicated their entire professional lifetimes to Bialik, our students and, most recently, to you. Please join me in thanking them for their years of service, and their dedication to the continuity of Am Yisrael. Toda Raba!

It is so wonderful to all be together for this occasion — to celebrate a great simcha with one another. And the location this year is new for us. We have moved to Adath Israel as our graduating cohort of 118 and their many guests demanded a larger facility. Our Grade 8 grads from both our Viewmount and Himel Branches spent time together this year — many on the Israel trip, and most at Winter Sports Day and the Quebec trip. Many of them will be headed together to CHAT next year, and our hope is that, whichever high school they attend, they remain connected to Bialik and to one another.

I mentioned the size of this year’s group of graduates but, of course, for each family, this is your own private simcha, a chance to think about the passage of time and what it means for your loved ones. Parents, you are no doubt thinking about the children when they were born, and then at each stage of their development. How they grew, and matured, and how they have arrived at this point in their lives. Students, you too may look back on your lives, and think with well-deserved pride about how far you have come.

As we celebrate this milestone in your lives — your graduation from Bialik — we recognize a certain irony or duality relating to age and maturity. Graduates, are you old now? Or young?

On the one hand, you have grown and developed, becoming the oldest and most academically advanced of our students. Many of you have spent 10 years in our classrooms and hallways. You have now outgrown your elementary school and are fully prepared to head off to high school and beyond. You are well on your way to adulthood.

On the other hand, at 14 years old, you are in the early days of your adolescence. You still have much to learn about the world and about yourselves. True independence is many years away; your parents and teachers still need to be on hand to guide your development as you inch forward during this complicated time in your lives and in the world.

The celebration of your graduation at this time follows right on the heels of the celebration of Israel’s 75th year of independence. And Israel, perhaps just like you, is both young and old. Seventy-five is young for a country. Most countries in the modern world can point to many more years, and sometimes centuries, of independence. And we see that Israel faces some of the challenges that new or young countries often face. But at the same time, as we know, Israel is an ancient land, and has been our Jewish homeland for millenia.

It is interesting that, as we think about the origin of our people’s connection to Israel, the number 75 appears elsewhere. Genesis tells us that Avram was 75 years old when God spoke to him and told him to leave Haran for Canaan. That seems like a pretty old age to begin a major relocation, especially when it meant long-distance travel on foot or, at best, on camels. But perhaps the actual physical age wasn’t what was important at that moment. Instead, it may have been Avram’s readiness to make a change in his life and to embrace new challenges and directions that made the harsh travel possible. Seventy-five years old, maybe, but perhaps just a young man at heart.

So grads, what do you think? Should we think of you as old or young? How old are you in terms of your maturity? Of energy? Of physical growth? I guess it’s up to each of you to decide that for yourselves. And your perception of where you are on the trajectory to whom you will become may change overtime. Occasionally, you may feel like you’ve got it all figured out, and maybe even the next day, you’ll reflect on how much you still have to learn. I’ll let you in on a secret, we adults go back and forth between those feelings all the time.

As you revel in the joy and sense of accomplishment that your graduation brings, my wish for you is that you are able to find the right combination of youth and maturity: One the one hand, the young, ambitious, optimistic growth mindset that allows you to soak up all there is to learn from school and the world around you. And on the other, the mature wisdom to integrate all that you see and absorb into your already well-formed Jewish and Zionist identities.

We look forward to watching you as you continue on to high school, and know for certain that many successes await. I wish you and your families a hearty מזל טוב! May you go from strength to strength.

Benjy Cohen
Head of School