On Thursday night, July 2, the Yeshivat Noam Class of 2020 gathered together for the first time since March 11. After months of isolation and a cancelled eighth grade trip to Lake George, Yeshivat Noam students wanted to celebrate in person with their fellow classmates. In a search for closure and togetherness, Yeshivat Noam hosted a banquet dinner for the eighth graders as well as a graduation ceremony. Despite sitting six feet apart and wearing masks, students were able to reconnect with their classmates, rabbis and teachers while enjoying individually packaged dinners from the Chickies truck. As a keepsake gift for future Yeshivat Noam students, the graduates painted special rocks and donated them to the outdoor landscape of the school building. The students smiled and laughed as they watched a slideshow showcasing photos of themselves over the past 10 years in school. Another highlight of the night was the presentation of the yearbooks also representing the culmination of their elementary and middle school experience. As the banquet concluded, the mobile graduation dream team consisting of Chanan Vogel, Ickey Stelzer and Ari Wartelsky emerged from the shadows and took the lead escorting the students towards their seats for graduation. All 86 students marched together in caps and gowns in the parking lot to the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” echoing through huge outdoor speakers in the great outdoor parking lot with a live video feed playing on three jumbo screens on the school building. Parents and guests sat socially distanced on beach chairs and picnic blankets to enjoy the ceremony.
The ceremony started with the anthems sung by graduate, Sam Wartelsky and then a meaningful address from Head of School Rabbi Chaim Hagler. The Middle School Principals Aliza Chanales and Rabbi Yitzchok Motechin then spoke to the Class of 2020 and introduced the class speakers. The chosen speakers, Ilana Gilad and Abie Stelzer each spoke eloquently about their personal Yeshivat Noam experience and shared words of Torah.
Next, Rabbi Hagler began calling students one at a time to the stage to receive their diplomas. Due to COVID-19 regulations and social distancing, it took quite some time for each student to walk to the stage for their moment. Aliza Baron was the first student called to the stage to receive her diploma as everyone watched her walk gracefully from the opposite side of the parking lot. In the unexpected twist of the night, one parent volunteer, Ickey Stelzer, stood up with a megaphone in hand and interrupted the proceedings. On behalf of the parents he asked Rabbi Hagler to go faster so as not to lose the interest of the crowd. Rabbi Hagler then unveiled his crazy plan to have “The Great Diploma Race” and deliver the diplomas to all 86 students within two and a half minutes. In a flurry of activity resembling hundreds of bees surrounding an agitated beehive, the teachers distributed all of the diplomas to the graduates in under two and a half minutes!
The parents cheered in celebration and pride as the ceremony concluded with a teacher parade, fireworks and music! Congratulations to the Class of 2020!