Graduation celebrations. On June 17 (9 Tammuz), Rambam Mesivta graduated its most recent class, in a student-hosted evening that celebrated Torah, middos, and excellence. Seniors Eric Grossman, Shlomo Laufer, and Joseph Yizhaky, three outgoing members of Rambam’s a cappella group, The Harmonidies, sang Hatikvah and The Star-Spangled Banner. Afterward, the night’s masters of ceremonies, seniors Eric Grossman, captain of the Rambam choir as well as the hockey team, and award-winning poet and SGO president Chanani Levy, delighted the audience of hundreds of rebbeim, teachers, and family with good-natured humor about the graduating class and the Rambam faculty. They introduced the rosh mesivta, Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, who shared with the talmidim words of guidance and Torah.
One of the night’s salutatorians, Moshe Dyckman, then addressed the graduation on a discourse that urged the graduates to always remember the quality lessons learned at Rambam and to remember that it is all due to hard work and the support of family and loved ones.
After Moshe’s delivery, senior class president, Gavriel Shechter, along with other GO Officers, Raphi Cooper, Kenny Goodman, and Michael Rosenfeld, presented the school with a gift from the seniors: a beautiful tzedakah box with the words “Im eshkachech . . .” carved on Jerusalem stone. It was noted that the pushkah should serve as a reminder of “the school’s commitment to ahavat Yisrael as well as a commitment to bein adam l’chavero.” Rabbi Friedman, Principal Rabbi Yotav Eliach, Assistant Principal Rabbi Haar, Assistant Principal Hillel Goldman, and Director of College Guidance, Mr. Ira J. Schildkraut, then distributed merit-based awards to individuals in the class. The breadth of awards shows that Rambam, in keeping with its belief system, truly has a team for every talent, a club for every curiosity, and a place for every person.
Following the senior awards ceremony, a special presentation was made honoring Shirley Levy of the main office and Racheli Werner of the business office. Their dedication and commitment for the last 10 years stands as an example to the talmidim about how to be a professional in the workplace.
Shlomo Laufer, also a salutatorian, told a story of a chassid of the Avnei Nezer and how his experience relates to the different places the graduating class will end up. He stressed, however, that the values and Torah instilled in them by Rambam will always serve as reminders to remain true to all their names. Shlomo plans on spending next year studying in Gush Etzion.
The valedictorian, Benjamin Akhavan, a LISEF finalist, who will be attending Yeshivat Karen B’Yavneh next year, emphasized the achdus and unity of the graduating class before concluding his oration by thanking his rebbeim, teachers, friends, and family for contributing to his success.
Since virtually all of the boys from the senior class will be studying in Israel next year, Rabbi Eliach outlined a list of things that must be experienced in Israel by the boys who would be learning there. True to his over 30 years of educational experience, Rabbi Eliach brought the house down by stepping down from the podium and actually passing out printed copies of his “Must See in Israel List.” The list included, among other things, walking derech ha’Avot and visiting various mekomot ha’kedoshim, observing Yom HaShoah at Yad Vashem, and visiting the graves of fallen Israeli soldiers.
Rabbi Friedman then announced that the school would be giving out an honorary diploma to Holocaust survivor Jack Ratz, a noted author and family man. Mr. Ratz was assisted to the podium by his grandson Brian Fine, a graduating senior. Rabbi Friedman shared that the successful life of Mr. Ratz is a testament to his desire to share his story with the world and to ensure that the world does not forget.
Diplomas were then given out as Rabbi Friedman and Rabbi Eliach highlighted the interests and accomplishments of every graduate as he approached the stage. The students were also given Mr. Ratz’s book, Endless Miracles, and Masters of the Mesorah: Early Rishonim, by Rabbi Zechariah Fendel, z’l, to stress that the end of high school is yet another beginning to a life dedicated to learning Torah.
Mr. Goldman concluded the night’s festivities by discussing the overall achievements of the graduates and his confidence in them that they will all impact the world in a positive way. He then commenced the “Graduation Mezinka Tradition,” now in its third year. This award allows the school the opportunity to recognize parents who sent all of their sons to Rambam and were now graduating their youngest son. Mr. and Mrs. Homayoun Akhavan and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Miller were called up to receive plaques that read: “This award acknowledges your continued commitment to the Rambam Mesivta and your confidence in us that each of your sons, each in his own way, would receive the unique education and warmth he deserves. Several sons, but one home and one family devoted to one school.” The mezinka music was then played as the elated and appreciative parents accepted their awards.
The MCs announced that the official graduation was over and everyone proceeded to an adjacent room for refreshments, dancing, and yearbook-signing. Every student had his own cake, which allowed for each family to share in a little private nachas before the music started and dancing broke out.
As the graduates danced with fathers, grandfathers, friends, teachers, and rebbeim, the feeling of accomplishment was palpable. The Rambam class of 2013/5773 leaves behind the legacy of leadership, middos tovos, and academic excellence that was hoped for when the school was founded more than two decades ago. This class serves as a testament to a dream come true, a promise fulfilled, and a desire to continue molding the leaders of tomorrow, today.
Rambam Choir, The Harmonidies, final performance of the year at Sandy benefit concert. Following the ravage of Hurricane Sandy, Jason Berg, a Belle Harbor native, along with other members of the Ohab Zedek community, spent months tirelessly organizing a Sandy relief concert. The concert featured such notable musical talent as Aryeh Kunstler, another Belle Harbor native and concert organizer, Benny Friedman, Shloime Dachs, and The Rambam Choir, officially known as “The Harmonidies.”
Captains Eric Grossman and Tani Martin, along with Moses Bibi, Jacob Friedman, Shlomo Laufer, Joseph Yizhaky, and Yossi Zimilover, were all proud to be part of the concert for Belle Harbor Sandy relief funds. It was especially poignant for Shlomo as his grandfather is also a denizen of Belle Harbor. This concert, which thankfully raised thousands of dollars for the shul and community members in need, was a huge success.
Harmonidies performed a moving rendition of Lecha Dodi as well as their mash-up of One Day and Umacha which were both greeted with great applause from the audience. The group kicked off the year by making the first ever Harmonidies recording and accompanying music video! Their creation, Some Nights Jewish Lyrics, became a huge hit, inspiring many people throughout the world, and reached over 20,000 views on YouTube in just a few months. It is amazing how this video was made with the assistance of Aryeh Kunstler and here they were, only a few months later, singing to help rebuild the community of his youth. The Harmonidies then went on to Philadelphia, to the kiruv shul Aish HaTorah, where they led singing and davening while bonding with the Philadelphia Jewish community in what will always be remembered as an unbelievably inspiring Shabbos. They then ended off the year on a strong note, when they competed in the “V’ata Banim Shiru A Cappella Competition” for the Koby Mandell Foundation and performed at a JASA nursing home.
It is a tribute to Klal Yisrael how song and a recognition and appreciation of “kol Yisrael areivim zeh la’zeh” can bring everyone together to rebuild. v