Gratz College’s Jewish Community High School graduated 24 students on June 3. Five students spoke during commencement exercises, taking the opportunity to reflect on their high school years, the value of receiving a Jewish education and their plans for the future.
Sophie Love Koval said one of her most valuable experience was serving on the Knesset, or the student government at JCHS. She also earned a Rebecca Gratz Teaching Certificate and looks forward to teaching in Hebrew schools.
“Because of the higher level education I have received here at Gratz, I will one day be able to share the experiences that I have been fortunate enough to enjoy with the next generation of students,” she said.
Natalie David shared her family’s experience fleeing from Iraq in the mid-20th century and settling in Israel. By retracing her ancestors’ steps, Natalie experienced what she calls the “spirit of Israel.”
“Even an ocean across, the spirit of Israel is in all of us,” she said. “It is the spirit of a people who have so much love and light to offer the world, with the strength to solve any challenge that comes our way.”
Dionna Dash spoke about the range of emotions she experienced while learning about Jewish history, the Holocaust and the state of Israel.
“I remember feeling interested, angry, empowered and shocked,” she said. “All of these classes showed me strength and power of Jews and Jewish ideals, which I will hold with me as I progress in my education.”
Julia Szwalbenest admitted that before she started attending Gratz she thought she “knew enough about being Jewish.” That changed, she said.
“There isn’t an enough with it comes to exploring your personal connection to Judaism,” she said. “Although I am finished with Gratz, I still have not learned enough yet, and I cannot wait to see what my future in Judaism has in store.”
Sam Caplan encouraged fellow graduates to invest in Judaism and connect to the people around them. The antidote to the world’s increasing pressures is to “think harder and love deeper,” he said. “When you invest in yourself, when you invest your brain, when you really truly think, you can accomplish and create and change and connect in ways that transcend time and the world we live in.” ■