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Ruth Ashrafi 's Speech to the 2017 Gray Academy Graduates: Why Go to A Jewish Dayschool

by Ruth Ashrafi posted here June 18, 2017


As the time evolves, so do schools. What does it mean to be a Jewish dayschool in 2017? And, consequently, what sets you, graduates, apart from other high school graduates? I would like to suggest key components of being Jewish in the 21st century, and how I see these components reflected in each of you.  Community, Chesed, Israel, Hebrew, and a connection to our religious books, chaggim and tefillot.  


Community: Jews are a people, we are a community. It is obvious to any outsider that you are your own community. Everybody has his or her place, and you do your best to include others.


Chesed: But you are not just any group. You have strong Jewish values. You have built your community on chesed, acts of kindness. Doing chesed is not as quick as giving tzedakah. It takes effort and time. You have made efforts to include everyone. Including people that were not born in your community but arrived later. You made time to lift the spirits of your friends when they were down. You made sure to listen to other people’s stories about what is important to them. You have each other’s back. According to the rabbis, being a holy community is being a community that is built on these Jewish values, on chesed, acts of kindness.

Israel: Israel is very important to you. You have a deep connection to the land and its people. And with every other Jew in the world, you wish that Israel will develop to its full potential as a homeland for Jews and a beacon of hope and innovation for the world.


Hebrew and the connection to our religious books, our chaggim and tefillot: Hebrew gives you access to our shared heritage. All the way back to when we stood at Mount Sinai and received the Torah in Hebrew with its stories and mitzvot of how to live a good life. Hebrew also connects us to our fellow Jews all over the world. Whether you are in Winnipeg, Moscow, Buenos Aires or Yerushalayim, you can walk into a synagogue and participate in the service or have a conversation with a stranger.


Graduating in 2017 means knowing that you are part of the Jewish community, living your life with strong Jewish values, having a strong bond with Israel, knowing Hebrew and having your own connection to our sacred books, our chaggim and our tefillot.


Avraham Heschel said: “What we need more than anything else is not text-books but text-people. It is the personality of the teacher which is the text that the pupils read; the text that they will never forget.”


So what is a successful Jewish day school graduate in 2017? You are looking at them. 47 graduates, who do not only know what is in the text-books but who internalized their learning to become text-people themselves. You are an example how to live a modern Jewish life. We celebrate with you tonight and we are very excited to see where your journeys will take you.  


Lots of mazzel and broche!

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