by Micah Hyman
So we did it – we graduated! It was a great evening, full of class videos and moving speeches. Our day started out with class pictures, then we wandered around taking photo’s and relishing our final experience as a class. After a hurried dinner, we gathered in the hallway, the music played and the big moment was upon us: we walked down the aisle as the YULA graduating class of 2014!
It was a unique and special feeling, walking down the middle of Nessah Synagogue with everyone applauding. The show immediately got under way, with Rabbi Lieberman and Rabbi Emerson welcoming everyone and congratulating the graduates, then inviting up the Girls School salutatorian, Yasmine Razi. Yasmine spoke about the evolution of each student’s character as a result of their past four years at YULA. Then, the Boys School salutatorian, Asher Naghi, discussed the unification of disparate groups and the wonders of creating memories as a team.
Following the salutatorian addresses, there was a short video showing footage of student life at YULA. It was a powerful way to reflect on the day-to-day activities that made up so much of our life over the past four years. Mitchell Silberberg was given the Keter Shem Tov Award and Yasmine Razi was honored for a second time with the Beth Malsansky award. Ms. Janice Frew was honored with a short video and was given the Teaching Excellence Award. Then, it was time for the valedictorians of the schools: Jasmine Peled and Moshe Willner. Jasmine spoke about the importance of questioning everything. Moshe pointed out the ways that the YULA students blend the spiritual and the physical, using examples from Rabbi Soloveitchik’s “Lonely Man of Faith”, Adam 1 and Adam 2.
One more video played in which students reflected on what they gained from their experience at YULA, and they said goodbye to their home for the last time. Finally, diplomas were conferred, as students walked up, hugged the administrators and officially graduated from YULA. The event was emotional and inspiring. Yair Fax said, “It didn’t fully hit me how much I’d miss YULA until those videos were playing and I thought to myself, ‘Wow. That was my life. And it was awesome.’”