“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven,” it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1.
For students in the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, there is a time to begin to study, a time to come together as a community, and a time to conclude their formal study. For the most recent class, the conclusion came at their siyyum and graduation on Wednesday evening, January 13, in the Patio Gallery at the Jewish Community Center.
The graduates, Stephen Bloom, Hal Corwin, Jean Corwin, Sheldon Gilman, Alan Glaubinger, Janice Glaubinger, Laura Klein, Jon Klein, Emily Podgursky, Carol Savkovich, Harry Schulman, Douglas Sharps and Alan Ungar; their families; and two of their teachers, Cantor David Lipp and Rabbi Laura Metzger celebrated the conclusion of two years of formal study with some additional study, prayers, words of thanks and congratulation and shared food.
Cantor Lipp began the evening by presenting a d’var Torah. Then the students took over the teaching. Half the class had prepared to teach a segment from the Babylonian Talmud and half had prepared a Chasidic story. In true Melton style, the graduates led discussions of the material that gave everyone – fellow students, teachers, parents and children – the chance to participate and contribute to understanding the material.
Class members then shared a presentation, written by Douglas Sharps, that summed up their experience.
“Among our most important obligations is that of never letting an opportunity pass without the appropriate blessing. [Or without food.] So it should be today. To our teachers, may HaShem bless you and keep you, may you find your own able teachers, other students who are adequate and eager, and many satisfactions.
“But beyond our blessings on you – and for you – you should know how you have blessed us. From you, we have learned to learn Jewishly. Which is to say, to think and feel Jewishly, with depth, but also with truth.
“To learn as Jews has meant to read the writings of our people and about our people, closely, with attention to meaning and context. Not to confirm what we already believed or what we wanted to believe, but to tell us what we did not know. Sometimes that was hard – even unpleasant – but we had you to see us through.
“And we had each other. Communities are made by a shared history, by common beliefs and a common language. But also by common study. We made a community in our study room each week, with one another and with those who spoke to us out of the books.
“As Jews, we learned to learn with every part of ourselves, the whole megillah – head, heart and soul. We brought to each discussion our experiences and viewpoints, framed by education, by our families – our mishpochas – and by love of Am Yisroel. We saw that our problems were often those of Jews in other places and times, and that their thoughts were often our thoughts. In that conversation, we stitched ourselves into the fabric of Judaism.
“Through it all, we have tried to see the wisdom in our laws and traditions, even those we may not always – or often – or ever – observe. Adult learners that we are, it is wisdom – if only a touch – that we seek.
“Of course, this is not a typical graduation. Farewells are not in order. We do and will all see one another at shul and around town. But there is an appropriate prayer for such an occasion, which is truly a start more than an end: Shehecheyan.”
While this class has completed its formal studies together, a first-year class is continuing to meet. Additional classes are planned for the fall. Watch Community for details.