AS THIS UNUSUAL academic year draws to a close and the rituals that seal bonds for students and mark rites of passage for families are all but lost, the four local day schools are employing creativity to plan meaningful alternatives.
Steve Karp, executive director of the Jewish Educational Center (JEC) in Elizabeth, said he’s viewing the situation as an opportunity for change. The administration is soliciting student input for their graduation ceremony, which has remained unchanged for the past 70 years. “It’s an opportunity for them to participate, make suggestions, and be listened to,” he told NJJN. “They’ll direct graduation. We’re not going to dictate that this is the way we do it.”
Golda Och Academy (GOA) in West Orange is pushing back its graduation from late May into June in the hope that an in-person ceremony can be held. “We know we will not be gathering hundreds of people … but we are working as hard as we can with our whole team to figure out ways that we can ideally do something where we can bring them together, even if it is bringing them together in a distanced way,” said Head of School Adam Shapiro.
At Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School (RKYHS), senior dinner is the centerpiece of graduation, as students are recognized for their achievements and they watch a video put together by classmates. Now the dinner and screening will move online, and Head of School Rabbi Eliezer Rubin told NJJN he is trying to find a creative way to hold the June 10 graduation ceremony. He said it’s inevitable that some family members will be excluded from any in-person end-of-the-year celebrations.
“Grandparents are missing out on opportunities to see these special moments of their grandchildren[’s lives] that are so, so dear and special,” he said.
Gottesman RTW Academy in Randolph has not made a final decision about graduation for its oldest students, eighth graders, but the event will likely be virtual, according to Naomi Bacharach, director of institutional advancement, who added that the school is working with students “not to dwell on what they are missing.”
In some ways, months of remote learning make the end of the school year more memorable than routine traditions.
“They will always remember they were the class of 2020,” said Shapiro. “There will still be many more milestones for all of them in the future…[but] they will not forget the end of their high school experience.”
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