GHA Board president Judy Stolovitz and Head of School Rabbi Lee Buckman shake hands with new graduate Joshua Bland.

GHA Board president Judy Stolovitz and Head of School Rabbi Lee Buckman shake hands with new graduate Joshua Bland.

BY LEAH LEVY / AJT //

The Greenfield Hebrew Academy celebrated commencement exercises for the Class of 2013 on June 5. Thirty-one graduates received diplomas this year from Head of School Rabbi Lee Buckman.

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The new rising ninth-graders took the stage for a Graduation Presentation that incorporated student poetry, music and spoken word. In their presentation, they addressed GHA’s past, present and future and shared memories of their senior trip to Israel, where “we saw Israel alive and breathing.”

GHA President of the Board Judy Stolovitz cited this year’s graduates as an exceptional group, calling them “kind, good, and giving; smart and successful.” She also pointed out that the recipients of the Hadassah Chesed Award at both Yeshiva Atlanta and Weber Academy are GHA graduates.

“Your experiences here will be a gift to you forever,” she told the students. “GHA is your light, just like the pillar of light in the desert. Turn it on and remember us.”

Michael Horowitz, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, explained the benefits of a GHA education and wished that all of his own children had enjoyed such an opportunity.

“The way to assure a strong and vibrant Jewish future is by ensuring that as many children and young adults as possible get a wonderful Jewish education,” he said. “The dual curriculum is hard, but it makes your Jewish journey easier.”

ADL Southeast Regional Director Bill Nigut and Education Director Holli Levinson then took the stage. They congratulated GHA as the first Jewish school in Georgia to officially become “No Place for Hate” – this program was introduced to the school by GHA counselor Sylvia Miller and students Maya Allen and Ari Stark, and encourages students to support one another with kindness and acceptance.

Nigut remarked that one of the most important ways to fight hatred is by educating children in the lessons of acceptance.

“Be kind, be strong, and insist that those around you are also kind,” he charged the graduates.

Rabbi Buckman, himself moving on from GHA this year, related a midrash that stresses the importance of speaking up in defense of the vulnerable.

“If I have taught you anything, I hope that I have taught you how to fight to correct what is wrong with the world; I hope that I have taught you to scream,” he said.

He cited the example of the release of Soviet Jewry and reminded the students of the rally they attended to demand the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, then being held prisoner by kidnappers.

“Raise your voices,” Rabbi Buckman continued. “As we have recently seen – in your own lifetime – prayers are answered.”

Leah Levy is a paraprofessional at GHA and the author of “The Waiting Wall,” a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for 2010.

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