Each of the 122 students in our eighth grade at RYNJ had been eagerly anticipating graduation day all year—the caps and gowns, the processional, the proud parents and family members in the audience. But Covid-19 arrived and changed all that. Graduation day was not to be what we had dreamed of, and many graduates were rightfully upset. However, RYNJ managed to make it special nonetheless as all eighth graders were invited with their families to part one of graduation which was a drive-through parade.
We put on our caps and gowns, decorated our cars and were greeted by the proud and smiling rebbeim, morot, teachers and administrators. It was invigorating to hear the lively music and see the huge balloons as we made our way through the parking lot to a large number of stations. We first received a long awaited RYNJ diploma and our very special yearbooks.
As we continued along, each eighth grader collected a unique framed Certificate of Virtues customized for them, a scrumptious cookie with the graduation photo of our whole grade and then the long awaited stop at the ice cream truck to sweeten the morning. The ceremony ended with a photo booth of the RYNJ background where we had our picture taken with a cardboard lifesize representation of Rabbi Price holding our diploma. It was loads of fun to actually say goodbye to all of our friends in their cars, our teachers and the administrators.
Over the next two evenings, a more formal celebration consisted of livestream ceremonies, where each boy or girl was able to watch the graduation with their family from their home. After a few uplifting and touching speeches by Rabbi Price, Rabbi Geffner and Morah Stokar, our eighth graders were able to see the collection of videos we had recorded two weeks earlier, sharing our own personal message reminiscing about our time at RYNJ, and thanking our friends and teachers. Everyone was especially thrilled when Mordechai Shapiro surprised us with a motivational song, while we were able to see pictures of ourselves in our caps and gowns. Finally all the graduates ended their special night by being called up one at a time by RYNJ President Yaacov Apfelbaum, and were spotlighted for all viewers. The evening ended with a traditional cap throwing and cheers from the graduates. This segment was the closest aspect of a true “graduation” moment.
Although this day was not what we had all anticipated, it is no surprise that RYNJ made this a special and memorable time for everyone; certainly a graduation we will talk about for many years to come.
By RYNJ eighth grade graduates Yitzi Rosenbluth, Yitchak Rosenfeld, Nechama Adler and Sara Moskowitz