remarks delivered 5.13.22
What a joy to be together today.
Two days ago, I celebrated my 40th birthday. My youngest brother is blessedly living with us and we were reflecting together on where we had been for my 30th birthday – having Shabbat dinner in his frat house. It was his graduation weekend at Syracuse and I was happy to share a multi-layered simcha with my family. I remember from that weekend the sticky frat floor, the smell of stale beer wafting through the hallways, and his endless sappy tears flowing on and on.
A decade later, I’m here with all of you, again so grateful to be sharing joy in such a moving way. I’m feeling all the feels yet again, albeit with 10 years behind me, all of which have been spent here at GW Hillel. I’ve watched thousands of graduates pass through our Hillel doors, watched how so many forces have impacted their lives. But I feel I can say with some certainty that no graduates have lived the lives you have. Four years ago, when you began your time here, you expected what? A few internships, a study abroad adventure, an inauguration (and accompanying GW ball). Instead, many will assume you got the short end of the stick. A global pandemic, changed plans, horrific global and national headlines, loss on a magnificent scale.
But with intention, I don’t toast today to you for enduring so much loss. I instead toast to some of THE most well equipped human beings ready to tackle the world. Has there ever been a group of college graduates who possess so much resilience and grit? Has there ever been a group more primed to see injustices in the world and aim to change the world for the better? Has there ever been a group who will never again take for granted a moment such as this one – a full room, the ability to get on an airplane or walk into a hotel for a family celebration, vaccinated and happy, healthy and HERE with multiple generations offering you a l’chaim?
A few weeks ago, at our Passover seders, we read the story of our Exodus from Egypt. One of my favorite Haggadah commentaries regards darkness; the Jewish people walked through difficult days, often facing deep despair. But in this darkness, we find our faith. When we know how hard life can be, we also know how sweet happy moments can taste. This is the goodness I feel in this room today. I toast you, our graduates, who have faced darkness with grace. I toast you for your future, for the bright lights you walk towards armed with the knowledge that you can get through most anything armed with faith, curiosity, empathy, and good people around you. I toast the amazing tribes who are in this room and who are not – the parents and siblings and people who checked-in, who listened to frustrations, who guided you to better outcomes, who helped you learn from your mistakes.
Every so often I get a small nagging feeling that maybe I should do something else with my life – run a food bank, fight for equity, solve a different set of problems. But that thought quickly ends. The privilege of my professional life is to get to support you, watching you grow and evolve and develop as strong people and Jewish souls our community fiercely needs. With your Jewish values in tow, YOU are ready to solve all of these problems. The world needs you now – but know you can always come back home to GW Hillel.