Community Blog Mazal Tov to the Prozdor Class of 2019/5779
On Sunday afternoon, May 5, 2019, Prozdor of Hebrew College honored the members of the Class of 2019 — 22 of the most outstanding young Jews in Greater Boston. This year’s graduates join the many thousands of other Prozdor alumni since the school’s founding in 1926 and will soon take their place as the leaders of our community.
One of the hallmarks of Prozdor graduation is the student speakers. Excerpted below are words from all of them, each of which has a unique message about the power of the Prozdor experience for these incredible young people.
Sari Hirsh, Needham, MA
“I came to Prozdor in eighth grade because I knew furthering my Jewish education was very important to my father…but little did I know that it would soon become important to me as well. Looking back to that first Sunday in eighth grade, I would have never thought that I would be standing up here telling you about the amazing impact Prozdor and the Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston have had on me. I would like to thank all of my teachers at Prozdor who have given me knowledge I will bring with me into the future, and my parents who always told me my Sunday mornings here were non-negotiable. Over these past five years that I have spent in this building, I have finally realized how important learning about my Jewish identity is to me.”
Sari will be graduating from Needham High School, is a member of Temple Aliyah, and will be attending Syracuse University.
Miriam Landis, Lexington, MA
“The Prozdor Israel trip in 2018 was not only a spectacular social experience during which I made some very close friends, but it was a powerful spiritual and religious awakening for me. I had chosen to wear a kippah throughout my entire time in Israel, with the rational that if I wear a kippah in all religious circumstances, certainly I should wear one in the holy land. This liberal rationale was not well received by some of the more Orthodox residents of Israel, to say the least. However, my peers and advisors on the trip were incredibly understanding, thoughtful, and supportive. They helped me to find a balance between being true to the ideals in my practice of Judaism and respecting the customs and boundaries of a place where I was a visitor. I am still trying to explore this balance, and Prozdor is the reason I am able to do so.
Prozdor has opened my eyes to the importance of a solid Jewish education so that I may further my participation in educated discourse. Conversation is the height of the Jewish experience, indeed it is the basis of many of our spiritual texts. With my Prozdor education, I can join the conversation. And for this, I am quite grateful. I am proud to be a member of this incredible community of lifelong teachers and learners.”
Miriam will be graduating from Lexington High School, is a member of Temple Emunah, and will be attending American University.
Emmet Klein, Sudbury, MA
“At Prozdor, I was so happy to be studying not just the connections between Judaism and being Jewish, but between life and being Jewish. The fact that I have gotten a rich understanding of the Holocaust and of the history of Israel has caused me to look at current events in a different light and understand why Israeli-US relations are so important. Obviously, I am not a fluent Hebrew speaker nor have I been to Israel enough times to declare myself an area expert, but I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to understand the importance of Israel and Judaism throughout history and in our world today.
While some students stopped attending Prozdor each year to move onto bigger, but certainly not better-than-Prozdor things, others, like the people you see graduating today, became the most proficient in analyzing, recognizing, and embracing their Jewish identity and those who have made me, as well as many others, understand that they are part of a larger community. I am glad to stand here today with five solid years of Prozdor under my belt. While I may not use all of the information I learned on a daily basis, I know that I have a grounding in Jewish education that will help me not just in synagogue, but in my college and graduate life, too.”
Emmet will be graduating from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, is a member of Congregation Or Atid in Wayland, and will be attending Washington University in Saint Louis.
Natalya Shorr, Reading, MA
Natalya Shorr was the 2019 First-Place winner of the Jewish Communal Relations Council’s Israel Arbeiter Holocaust Essay Contest. She wrote about her ongoing work in her hometown of Reading to speak up and speak out against anti-Semitism, and read her award-winning essay at our graduation ceremony.
“These acts of hate in our town are an ongoing issue. At this point, I’m less concerned with telling people not to draw swastikas than with urging others to speak out against acts of hate, and teaching them about the hurtful and destructive effects swastikas have on people. My whole experience has brought me so much closer to my Jewish identity, culture, and community. I stood up. I stood up for myself, my people, my community. From now on, I will not hesitate to continue fighting for what I believe in.”
Natalya will be graduating from Reading Memorial High School, is a member of Temple Shir Tivkah in Winchester, and will be attending Drexel University.
Hannah Hepner, Newton, MA
Hannah Hepner delivered the traditional Hebrew address.
“At Prozdor I got the opportunity to deepen my knowledge about Jewish history and of Hebrew, to choose what and how I would learn, and to find my place in Boston’s Jewish community. Over the past four years, some of my peers would ask why I kept putting in the time to go to Prozdor or to graduate. Well, the truth is that I have been more than happy to have come to Prozdor these last 4 years. I have gotten so much back from Prozdor- in learning, in my friendships, in my relationships with my teachers and the community. In truth, I have gotten so much more back from Prozdor than I have put in. Thank you!”
Hannah will be graduating from Newton South High School, is a member of Temple Emanuel, and will be attending Vanderbilt University.