We had the privilege of attending the Yeshiva University graduation this week and watched as our eldest Hagler grandson, Tzvi, received his diploma. The pouring rain did nothing to quell the spirits of the attendees who poured into Madison Square Garden for this event. Each detail of the graduation was perfectly planned and synchronized. Each speaker was more interesting and entertaining than the next, and what could have been a long, boring event turned out to be meaningful and entertaining. We were honored to take part in Richard Joel’s last graduation at YU and see and hear the many tributes accorded to him. We were also extremely impressed with Ron Dermer, Israel’s representative to the United Nations, who received an honorary doctorate and was the keynote speaker. As he said, his mother has finally reached her greatest dream—now being able to call her son a doctor! His passion for the State of Israel and the Jewish people was chillingly beautiful.
Needless to say, the shining faces of the graduates, whose excitement was contagious, was a sight to be seen; each one with their entire life in front of them, forging ahead. It brought to mind the YU experience that we had at Mordechai’s graduation in 1965. There he was, with a very young wife, attending together with both sets of parents. The ceremony itself did not have the glitter and polish of Madison Square Garden. It took place in the Lampert Auditorium on the YU campus. The festivities were highlighted by the attendance of Rabbi Dr. Samuel Belkin. We cannot remember who the guest speaker was but definitely it was not the Israeli representative to the United Nations. The same anxious faces of the graduates, probably with much wider ties at the time and considerably less fanfare. Yet the innocence of life and the future was no different then than it is today.
We recalled, as we were driving home following Tzvi’s graduation, all of the things we knew nothing about. Certainly, at the time of graduation we probably thought we knew everything. Ah, the innocence of youth. For most, as we observed, independence and withdrawal from the strings attaching them to their families will take a long time to come. Financial independence has become delayed for years as parents foot the bill for almost everything. Certainly, that was not the case with the Class of 1965. True, we were the exception, as we were the first one of Mordechai’s classmates to be married. The feeling was that to be married you needed to be “on your own.” And so we were. We strived and felt proud of our accomplishments without the outside support of anyone else. We learned what it meant to pay bills, assumed the responsibility of not just caring for oneself, realized how important it was to budget or what the consequences were of not doing so, of not having the flexibility of going and doing things on the spur of the moment without first taking someone else into consideration. We only used public transportation; the idea of a car was unheard of, and the possibility of Israel trips and Florida jaunts were out of the question. However, we did not feel as though we were missing anything. Our graduation and recent marriage two months prior to that was a quick lesson on learning how to grow up. The process of learning about life continues to follow us. The paths to choose are innumerable.
To all of the graduates, we offer our great sense of pride in their accomplishments. To be in a room with so many young men and women (the Stern graduation took place at the same time) who were excitedly sparkling with enthusiasm was exhilarating. To our very own Tzvi Yehuda, whose career as an actuary will soon take off, we can only say how from the moment we drove up to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital from Montreal 23 years ago, without even knowing if you had been born, you have excited us and given us the pleasure of having a grandson who is kind, caring and a ben Torah. Mazel tov!
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick