I have Frontier Airlines to thank for it. Instead of traveling for fifteen hours for a four-hour flight, I opted for one more night in Cleveland and a non-stop flight the next morning. Unbeknownst to the trying-to-be-helpful agents, the consolation prize was not going to be a travel voucher; it was being able to attend the brit milah (the bris) of our very close friends’ grandson.
When I’m fortunate to be able to join my friends and family as they celebrate their s’machot (their simchas – their joyous occasions), it always occurs to me that I’m standing in for the millions of other Jews who couldn’t make the trip. I don’t think of myself as a substitute for all of those distant cousins – I’m more their representative than their stand-in. When I’m smiling at the couple under the chupah; or when I’m tearing up seeing a grandparent recite the blessing for an aliyah when the grandchild is reading Torah for the first time; and even when I’m at someone’s Shabbat table and am privileged to witness the children (whether they’re ten or forty-five) receive the Friday night blessing from their parents – I feel the invisible presence of Jews who live far away and those who lived long ago.
We all celebrate – when any of us celebrate. A simcha is a moment of rejoicing for the individual, for that person’s family – and for the entire Jewish People.
I feel exactly the same at a graduation – a Kindergarten graduation, a Middle School graduation, a High School or college graduation. The graduate’s family – the ones in the seats and the ones no longer able to attend, but who are there nonetheless – is crying and applauding and smiling, and so are we, even if we’re not related, even when we don’t even know the how-did-they-get-so-mature young people on the stage.
Of all our community institutions – synagogues, Centers, other agencies – our schools are our most communal. They are our collective assets, and their “products” (aka, students) will contribute to our local and our global future.
In creating Oasis, our laser focus will of course be on our students – their hopes, dreams, skills and knowledge. They’ll be stimulated and motivated; they’ll be encouraged to stretch and be daring and dream; and they’ll be imbued with a sense of responsibility, to their People and their world, to their magnificent past and to their incredible future. At the same time, our responsibility goes even further – we transform the lives of our students, and through them, their families and ultimately the entire community.
So even if you thought that you did not have a child or a grandchild who graduated this year, you did. We all did. When any of us celebrate, we all celebrate.