Baltimore, MD - June 23, 2020 - On Wednesday evening, June 10, Bais Yaakov of Baltimore was zocheh to host an in-person graduation for their Senior class, albeit with strict social distancing protocol.
“We realized very clearly that what the students needed more than anything else was a proper closure, together with their classmates, at Bais Yaakov,” asserted Rabbi Yechezkel Zweig, Menahel of Bais Yaakov High School. “There was a tremendous need. Three months ago, they were torn away from school in one day. Even though they were on the phone with their friends, and participating in remote classes, it was certainly not the same as being together.”
Bais Yaakov worked tirelessly with the office of the Baltimore County Executive, the Health Department, and the Vaad HaRabbanim of Baltimore to work out a plan that was acceptable to all, assisted by the indefatigable Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, Executive Director of Agudath Israel of Maryland. Final approval was received from the County Executive, John Olszewksi, Jr. on Friday, June 5, and the Vaad HaRabbanim approved it on Sunday, June 7. This left only four days to plan the graduation.
With much siyatta diShmaya, it was a beautiful event, with sunny skies and a cool breeze. Thunderstorms that were looming on the horizon all day waited to make their appearance until one hour after the graduation concluded.
The graduation was held outside, in the school’s parking lot, with masks and social distancing maintained throughout the event. A limited number of guests were invited, including only the graduates, their parents, and staff members, who sat on chairs positioned six feet apart. The program featured the usual addresses, valedictorian speeches (which were masterfully prepared, reviewed and practiced in a matter of days), distribution of diplomas and awards, and a final charge from Rabbi Zweig.
Rabbi Zweig read to the students from the introduction to Sichos Chochmah U’Mussar, from Harav Yeruchum Levovitz, zt”l, who describes how he went to learn in the yeshivah of Kelm, under the leadership of the Alter, Harav Simcha Zissel, zt’l, as a ‘regular bachur.” However, shortly after Rav Yeruchum’s arrival, the Alter was niftar. The young bachur was devastated that he had not had the proper opportunity to learn from this great gaon, cried bitterly for an entire day, without eating or drinking, bemoaning his loss. Rav Yeruchum writes that all that he was zocheh to, in terms of understanding Torah, was from the pain and sense of longing of that day.
Rabbi Zweig explained to the graduating students that as they were abruptly torn away from their Senior Year, that sense of loss will be seared into their neshamos, and make them have an even stronger connection, to Bais Yaakov, their friends, teachers, and parents, more than any other graduating class has ever had.
“The driving force behind the planning and hard work for this historic graduation, was the deep-rooted, heartfelt devotion of Bais Yaakov’s leadership, especially exhibited in the weeks leading up to this milestone event,” commented Rabbi Aaron Gross, Director of Development. “Clearly, Hashem blessed the work of their hands and provided for a most memorable evening in the lives of our graduates and their parents.”
(Photo Credit: Aerial: Kol Rom Multimedia/Chananya Kramer - Ground: Simcha Photography & Video/Baruch Bitman)