By Mindy Rubenstein / firstname.lastname@example.org
The 10 graduates of Temima High School — poised with nervous smiles while gripping red roses — slowly marched in a processional through the 100 or so seated guests at Congregation Beth Jacob on Thursday night, June 11.
Aishet Chayil, or woman of valor, a special Shabbat song in honor of the Jewish woman, played in the background,
a tribute to what these young women will become when they set the tone of love, spirituality and personal growth for all those around them. The words are found in the Book of Proverbs and accredited to King Solomon.
Outgoing board President Harold Stiefel was the first to address the crowd, encouraging the girls to thank their parents and to use the time to reflect and be proud.
“After tonight, these girls are going out” into the world, he said.
Rabbi Ilan Feldman of Congregation Beth Jacob, who had to catch a plane to Phoenix for his grandson’s brit milah, spoke about and introduced Rabbi Menachem Deutsch, the evening’s honoree, who was instrumental in raising the funds to create and grow Temima.
Rabbi Feldman noted that Rabbi Deutsch, who led the Atlanta Scholars Kollel for 25 years, “built and strengthened every Torah institution in Atlanta,” including the Toco Hills eruv, the mikvah, Congregation Ariel in Dunwoody and the finances of Torah Day School of Atlanta. He was the founder of Temima, a girls high school with no building, no staff, no support and no money.
Temima just finished its first year in a new, state-of-the-art building on the campus of Beth Jacob after years in temporary classrooms next to Torah Day School down LaVista Road.
He remarked on Rabbi Deutsch’s unending humility despite his power, reliability and successful leadership. He said Rabbi Deutsch is blessed with the “Midas touch,” though G-d does the touching while he serves as His agent.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself,” Rabbi Feldman said. “It is thinking of yourself less.”
Joel Marks, the vice chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, talked about the Temima website, which states that the school’s mission is to “enable each student to reach her full potential as a committed, G-d fearing Jew and a productive member of society.”
“Imagine where we would be as a Jewish people” if we all took those words to heart, he said. “Imagine the possibilities.”
Sending girls to Temima is “an investment with infinite returns,” Marks added.
Seven of the 10 graduates gave moving speeches that were specific to their own interests and experiences but connected flawlessly to their faith in G-d and their character refinement. The powerful speeches drew gasps of enthusiasm, as well as tears and applause.
“There is no event that I would rather be recognized than at the Temima graduation,” said Rabbi Deutsch, whose third daughter, Malka, was graduating.
“I cry every year,” he said of the ceremony, which is known in the community for its emotional impact. He spoke of the magic of Temima, which “captures the minds and souls” of its students.
“To everyone who helped build this school, I am eternally and humbly grateful,” he said. “Temima is the perfect place for a complete education … wholesome, balanced, healthy and nurturing.”
Indeed, the Hebrew word “temima” means complete.
Rebbetzin Miriam Feldman, the head of school, said the girls’ “precious lives are about to take flight. … Where would we be without G-d, who has been with us every moment of our lives?”
She added: “We’ve gone through a lot together, ups and downs.”
As she and Jean Katz, who helped fund what is officially the Richard & Jean Katz High School, handed out diplomas, Feldman read a short poem she had prepared for each girl, encapsulating her unique strengths in a few heartfelt words.
“Each girl is a different world,” she said.
The Class of 2015
Gavriella Shoshana Greenberg
Chana Malka Lipschutz