Friday, June 09, 2023

Earlier this week, I attended what I consider to be a major life event. With nearly 40 of my former high school classmates, we met in Midtown Manhattan to reconnect, see each other, catch up, network a bit and just generally be with each other a quarter century later as members of the class of 1991 from MTA—The Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys. It was a special night.

I was one of the reunion committee members involved in tracking down contact information—emails, phone numbers and Facebook pages—and one important detail about our class became apparent early in the planning process. Approximately 25 members of our class are living and working in Israel today. Among them is the founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Rabbi Yehoshua (Josh) Fass, whose work and organization has only strengthened the flow of U.S. olim to the State of Israel. It was downright startling to see how many of our chevra made aliyah in the past two decades. It is perhaps emblematic of where our Orthodox community has shifted and moved around in the past two decades…and where it’s heading in the near future.

Not only has our class moved to Israel in significant numbers, but we are also spread all over North America as well, with members in virtually every major city in North America. At the reunion, we even had a classmate from Northern California, Josh Spivak, come in and participate (Josh—thanks for the Facebook posts and all your help).

Another fact that emerged was the clear evidence that over 90 percent of our class has remained firmly connected to the Jewish community and are still “frum” to some degree or another. Despite all of the challenges that living in the modern world entails, it was clear that most of us did not turn our backs on what our MTA rebbeim and teachers tried to instill and impart to us. Of course, some intensified their commitment to Yiddishkeit after leaving MTA, some stayed more or less the same, some less so, but, overall, the vast majority of our class remains committed to our community and lifestyle. I consider that a success.

More comically, I have to admit that there were a few of my classmates whom I almost didn’t recognize after 25 years and I felt bad asking who they were, although, as it turned out, nearly everyone there felt the same way. (Reminder to self and to YU staff—please make sure to insist on name badges for our 50th reunion.) In our defense, we were a big class for MTA—130+ graduates—and even though we spent nearly four years in close quarters, it was still easy not to know everyone well.

The event started at 7 p.m. and as is the case with all successful reunions, relatively few left before 10. We schmoozed and caught up on life, our families, our careers, even traded a dvar Torah or two (thanks to happily retired MTA Varsity Coach and classmate Daniel Gibber of Teaneck) and we were just happy to see everyone. It was really wonderful to hear and see firsthand how many of my friends and former classmates are now running their own companies, their own medical practices or departments, leading Jewish schools, shuls and communities, or just advancing in their chosen careers and professions.

I could easily go on and on about the reunion and how special each of our class members is, but as the memory of the event begins to recede and the post-event Facebook comments flow from those who couldn’t make it but wanted to or should’ve made it but forgot about it, I resolve to do a better job in trying to stay connected to my MTA peers. As a microcosm of the Jewish community, we have done a lot and continue to do…this is a group of people I want to stay connected to until the 50th anniversary and beyond. I hope I will.

(Special thanks to my friends and the mostly NJ-based members of our committee—Alex Solomon [without whom the reunion likely would not have come off], Daniel Gibber, Zvi Rudman and Dr. Michael Wiederkehr. I think we have signed ourselves up to run the 50th reunion or perhaps a 30th or 40th if Alex has his way… I am looking forward to it.)

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