Maimonides School’s 65th commencement ceremony Sunday morning featured a pair of milestones that reinforced the school’s reputation as a national landmark in Jewish education for eight decades.
Forty-six seniors received diplomas to culminate the program. The second name on that roster was Arthur Bloomfield, and it was announced that he is the school’s 2,000th high school graduate. Maimonides was established in 1937; the first high school class, comprising six seniors, graduated in 1953. The 1,000th alumnus was recognized in 1996. Arthur’s father Sam graduated in 1975.
A little later down the list, Adam Greene was recognized as the school’s first third-generation graduate. Adam’s mother Batya (Drapkin) Greene is a member of the Class of 1991. His grandmother, Rosa (Holcer) Drapkin, recently joined 1967 classmates who celebrated their 50-year reunion.
Sarah Wertheimer, valedictorian of the class of 2017, spoke about the future. As is the tradition at Maimonides, her valedictory was delivered in Hebrew.
“Let’s fully celebrate and appreciate this moment, but simultaneously look forward to reaching many more milestones, both individually and together as part of the Maimo community,” said the translation of her remarks.
Reflecting on the seniors’ Maimonides careers, the translation said, “We asked for help, and teachers, parents, friends in other grades, and classmates were always happy to give it. We learned from everyone, which created a supportive atmosphere in which to grow.”
The text added: “We keep caring about each other, even when we are upset, even when we disagree. We still care about each other’s feelings. We keep each other’s spirits high, and we stick together.”
Joshua Gruen, class salutatorian, spoke on the theme of questions and answers. His classmates’ classroom questions “were us showing we are engaged, that we want to learn, and most of all, that we will settle for nothing less than complete comprehension of the subject at hand,” he said.
“One of the numerous advantages of going to school every day with the same great 46 people year after year, and really getting to know each one, is there was never much discomfort in the classroom or the halls,” Joshua continued. “There was never fear to assert oneself or to ask each other for help when needed.”
"We were able to grow together for years and had an automatic support network, while, like any good teenagers, we challenged our goals, and searched for answers to not-so-easy questions like, ‘What is our purpose?’ or 'How can I have a positive impact on the world?’ Those are only a couple of the many questions we faced,” he said. “While if you ask many of the teachers here, there is ‘no such thing as a bad question’ and overall I agree, I have heard some especially great and notable ones throughout my time here.”
Four other high-ranking seniors were honored by delivering excerpts from the writings of Maimonides, the 12th century commentator and physician for whom the school is named. They were Hillah Hassan, Eitan Jeselsohn, Lauren Koralnik and Aleeza Schoenberg.
The two Middle and Upper School principals used music as a metaphor in their tributes to the Class of 2016.
In his opening charge to the graduates, Rabbi Dov Huff, Judaic studies principal, declared that the seniors are endowed with "a beautiful internal song that is just bursting out of them." At every opportunity, he said, members of the class break into song and dance.
That is an attribute that will serve them well, now that they are about to navigate the world, he said, because "their song is a symptom, an indication, of a deeper middah: the passion of the Class of 2017." That passion manifests itself in a range of ways, he said: intense political debates, new davening initiatives, commitment to chesed, "the never-ending quest for truth."
"Your passion," Rabbi Huff asserted, "grounds you. It drives you and it fuels you."
Noting the recent passing of longtime Maimonides Jazz Band Director Michael Maleson, Scott Mattoon, Middle and Upper School principal for general studies, also presented his closing tribute with a musical theme. “I reviewed your wonderful class photo,” he said to the graduates. “Each face called up an instrument of a certain tone and personality that you have ‘played’ from time to time – for some, literally so; for most, figuratively.”
“In seeking the miracle of music and the truth it has to share, it is worth contemplating how many kinds of instruments you will summon over your lifetime to come,” Mr. Mattoon continued. “At the same time, it is so important to recognize that the aim is not to ‘play’ every single one. The aim is to play the ones that are authentic to who you are, because you are all part of a larger symphony at play…”
He urged the seniors, “Go forth, find your notes, and play them with the most authentic instruments for you; if you do, your notes will echo in eternity.”
Head of School Naty Katz opened the proceedings, directing part of his remarks to parents.
“History has taught us that our graduates will maintain strong ties with one another for a lifetime,” he said. “We hope that your relationship with our school, as valued members of the Maimonides family, will remain strong as well. As Maimonides celebrates the 80th anniversary of its founding, we want to thank you for the privilege of educating your children.”
“Your children, and all of you, will always be part of the Maimonides family, and we hope that you will continue to add your strength to our school community.”
Zev Gewurz, a member of the Board of Directors, opened the proceedings with a message on behalf of the Board. He referenced a 1932 newspaper interview with the school’s revered founder, Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l. “In that interview, he articulated a bold and innovative vision for the education of Jewish boys and girls in Boston,” Mr. Gewurz said.
“Hopefully, like Rabbi Soloveitchik, you will draw on this foundation, on this wellspring, and continue to be bold and innovative,” he said. “And, hopefully, like your parents and teachers before you, who have sustained you, and brought you to this day, you will pass it on.”
Other members of the Class of 2017 are Micah Beiser, Miriam Bressler, Dina Cohn, Michelle Delman, Jakob Diamond, Yonatan Diamond, Uriya Durani, Shira Ellenbogen, Dina Fisher-Greisdoff, Elijah Forstadt, Ethan Fraenkel, Emma Gelb, Michael Gerber, Ariana Gewurz, Moriya Goldberger, Elisheva Goldman, David Gould, Jesse Gould, Akiva Jacobs and Simon Kangoun.
Also, Baruch-Lev Kelman, Jacob Kosowsky, Sarah Kosowsky, David Kotler, Charles Kramer, Abigail Lanzkron, David Lutati, Israel Picard, Sophie Rosenberg, Aleeza Solomont, Hannah Spear, Hadassah Stanhill, Rebecca Stolarov, Zev Traum, Samuel Unger, Abegail Vidrin, Julia Vorobeychik and Noach Weiss.