MAZAL TOV to the class of 2021 and to their families!
On Wednesday evening, June 9, we had a true Shehechaynu moment. We gathered together, under one roof, one LARGE tent, to celebrate our wonderful 8th grade graduates. We have not been able to be under one roof together for the past 15 months. What a time to mark for all of us.
This tent, both the physical one and the larger one that we call PJA, whether virtual, from our homes, or in person in our classrooms, became our makom kadosh - our holy place to gather, learn, share and celebrate. V’asu Li Mikdash v’Shachanti B’tocha (Exodus 25:8) , and you shall make me a holy place, a shelter, a mishkan, like the one that sheltered the Jewish people as they moved through the desert on their journey to the holy land. Our mishkan, makom kadosh, helped us move through this challenging time. While we were all separate from each other, we had PJA as our sanctuary. It bound us, and brought us together.
We were “wowed” by our 8th graders, our newest PJA alum. They walked through this year like heroes. It was not easy and there was much that could not happen, and yet, they persevered, were engaged and came to the table, whether on screen or in person. They returned to our building just two months ago, and resumed the role of true leaders. They asked important questions, guided us and each other and did meaningful work both here at PJA and out in the world.
Their capstone projects and drashot reflect who they are. Despite the limitations of pandemic, they found ways to serve- they baked, raised money, wrote letters, created videos, and educated. Among them are stewards of the environment, advocates for the houseless, oppressed and hungry. They worked to help animals, children and the aged. They opened our eyes to the importance of beautifying and maintaining our cemeteries to bring respect to those no longer with us, kavod hamet. They brought greater awareness to the challenges of gender diversity. In each drash they made interesting and relevant connections between the work they did and Jewish text.
Each of them chose to focus on things that not only spoke to them, but made an important mark on the greater community. In their own words, they learned the importance of teaching a child according to their way, that we are capable of making change and fighting for those who can’t, and that through this work they learned more about responsibility, appreciation, and the tremendous importance of standing up for the things we believe in. They learned to be allies and not bystanders, activists in pursuit of peace and justice, rodfei shalom.
As we graduated another beautiful group of students, we once again turn to the words of Hillel in Pirkei Avot- Ethics of our Fathers- who reminds us not to separate ourselves from community- Al Tifrosh Min Hatzibur. Never forget where you came from and where you can always come home to. Our graduates belong here and will always have a home at PJA. They will also find new communities and will bring their wisdom to those. Wherever they find themselves, we hope they participate, share their voices, and remember the important foundations of ahrayut/responsibility, kehillah/ community, and kavod/respect- for each other and all who cross their path.
Mazal Tov class of 2021-Tzethem l’shalom- May you go in peace- U’voahem l’shalom- and May you return to us in peace.