My eighth grade daughter, Hannah, graduated from JCDS, Boston's Jewish Community Day School, last night. It was a wonderful and moving occasion. Hannah has been at the school since Kindergarten and she and her 10 classmates are as close as siblings in many ways (the love, the hate, the arguments, the laughter). As Yossi Abramowitz writes, JCDS is full of the values of Peoplehood - the positive values that unite being Jewish behind a mission for creating good in the world. I am so proud of my association with the school, as a parent and a trustee, because I see so much potential for good in our graduates.
Susan Silverman (married, as it happens, to Yossi) and I were asked to give the parents' blessing to the graduates as part of the ceremony. We had lots of fun in Starbucks over the last few weeks working on what to say ... here is the script we followed last night:
Richard: Why were we asked to give this blessing?
Susan: Maybe because we are the two parents who cry most shamelessly at school gatherings.
Richard: I did cry at soccer last month.
Susan: One year I cried at the math fair.
Richard: (to the kids) I do remember us both tearing up at school in 1999 at the mere mention of your upcoming kabalat siddur.
Susan: And now, we are poised to offer a blessing as you graduate.
Richard: Blessings often come with a laying of hands -- like the weekly blessing of children at the beginning of Shabbat.
Susan: Hands sometimes represent blessings ... and sometimes they are blessings:
Richard: They are the hands that held yours as you entered this school for the first time.
Susan: They are the hands that guided your first shapes and words,
Richard: the hands that helped you point to a new letter in the Torah scroll,
Susan: and the hands that signaled for you to slow down in the hallway.
Richard: They are the hands that stapled and cut and photocopied.
Susan: They are the hands that held yours when life got hard.
Richard: They are the hands of we, your parents and also of teachers and staff and friends
Susan: … and parents of friends, and siblings, and siblings of friends...
Richard: who circled you to protect you, nourish you and grow you.
Susan: Your hands also bring us blessings: Waving goodbye to us as you became confident kindergartners
Richard: Creating art work that we put on our walls and fridges
Susan: Holding our hands as you showed us your classrooms full of your work
Richard: Clapping joyfully as you sing together
Susan: Being at JCDS is like being called to the Torah, so we invoke this blessing.
Richard: מי שברך אבותינו ואמותינו
Together: May God, who blessed our ancestors, bless you, who are graduating today from this place of learning and of Torah. May God bless you with health and well-being and love. And may the Holy One guard you and send you blessing and success in all the work of your hands.
Susan: hands drawing doodles in your notebook
Richard: hands drawing a plan for a better world
Susan: hands clapping as you sing and make music
Richard: hands clapping as you celebrate community
Susan: hands pointing, like a child, at something beautiful or unexpected
Richard: hands pointing out injustice -- and raising a fist of protest
Susan: hands stretching out to a friend
Richard: hands stretching out to those in need
Susan: hands raised in meditation -- seeking inner peace
Richard: hands raised in action -- seeking peace in the world
Susan: hands holding a siddur, or a chumash,
Richard: hands holding a yad to read theTorah
Susan: hands wrapped in tefilin - entwined with God's words
Richard: hands offering a blessing - bringing God into the world
Susan: ... your hands turning your thoughts into actions
Richard: ... your hands turning your ideals into reality.
Together: May God bless you, and may the work of your hands bring greater wisdom, peace and justice to all Israel and all the world, and let us say ... Amen.