12 April 2013
2 Iyar 5773
Small Moments, Big Messages
Two moving ceremonies highlighted this week at Gann. On Monday morning the school commemorated Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) with an emotional ceremony in the Black Box Theater. And on Wednesday afternoon, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, our faculty honored our senior class at their Siyum HaLimudim, or Academic Convocation.
There were many differences between these two powerful and inspiring ceremonies.
The Yom HaShoah events were planned and run entirely by our students; the Siyum was planned and run by our faculty in honor of our senior students. Yom HaShoah took place in the darkness of the Black Box with the speakers only illuminated by spotlights; the Siyum took place in the light-filled, uplifting space of the Beit Midrash. Yom HaShoah mourned the loss and destruction of our people and of individual lives; the Siyum celebrated our students’ accomplishments and their journeys as learners and as people.
Upon reflection, I am touched by one significant commonality between the two ceremonies. Each told big stories: Yom HaShoah about the tragic history of our people and the horrors of the Shoah; the Siyum about the Class of 2013 and the four-year Gann experience. These stories included significant messages, lessons, and learnings about the past as well as the future, and the power of both ceremonies illuminated timeless, universal messages through personal and individual moments and memories.
On Yom HaShoah our students brought suffering, tragedy, and hope to life not through statistics or events but rather through the names and personal journeys of individual Jews. At the Siyum our teachers praised and blessed their students through specific, detailed stories and examples: “I remember the first day you walked into my class” . . . “In a paper during sophomore year, you wrote” . . . “In 15 years, when you are arguing cases before the Supreme Court, I hope you will . . .”
While these two ceremonies created entirely different spiritual and emotional experiences, they both illustrated the power of the personal and the way that, if we pay close enough attention, small moments can open up a world of meaning and understanding. It is in these small moments that stories come to life, and it is in our stories that we learn so much about the world, about what we value, about the people we and others are, and about the people we want to become.
I am constantly inspired by our students—their growth, their commitment to learning, and their moral, intellectual, and Jewish sense of purpose. And, as I said at the conclusion of the Siyum, I am so proud of and deeply humbled by my colleagues, our faculty, who know their students so well as learners and who care about them so much as people.
Rabbi Marc Baker