In the early ’80s I was involved in Yeshiva High School of Atlanta (now the Atlanta Jewish Academy). I served on the board and sent all of my three children to the high school. I attended all of their graduations, and each one was exciting because each graduate spoke about the school and about their future. I was so impressed that I sent a letter to The Southern Israelite, the forerunner of the Atlanta Jewish Times, about one such graduation. Rabbi Herbert Cohen, then head of school, liked the letter and posted it at the school for many years. This is the letter I sent that was published on June 17, 1983:
Observations of a graduation
It was only a class of 10, but it was like no other graduation ceremony I’ve ever attended. Last week the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta held their annual graduation at the Jewish Community Center with a packed auditorium. The experience was both moving and uplifting.
For two solid hours we sat on the edge of our seats, moved by the sheer simplicity of the ceremony, cheering and applauding for the graduates, and saddened by the thought that those who would graduate that evening would never be quite the same. The teenagers we had come to know were now adults in age, thought and action.
The Yeshiva’s graduation, unlike other graduations, is a personal experience. In the course of the evening you come to know the graduates, each of them – where they came from, why they are here, and where they are going. You find out that one came from Russia four years ago, but speaks English fluently, another was born and bred in Atlanta and others entered the Yeshiva only several years ago. And gradually, you are impressed with their caliber, individually and collectively. They are off to some of the finest colleges in this country and Israel – Duke, Tufts, University of Pennsylvania, Tulane, New York University, Emory, Clark, and Hebrew University – a very impressive list. Every one of them has their own sights set very high.
The highlight of the evening is the speeches of the graduates. They speak for themselves, of course, but collectively they speak for the Yeshiva. They represent the finished products of years of intensive and personal attention. They represent the best and the brightest of our Jewish generation to come. And we, who sat in the audience, came to believe that evening that we were putting our future in good hands.
These graduates spoke beautifully. Boris Penchenik held us in rapt attention with his sincerity and his strength; Mindee Nodvin displayed her brilliance as a straight A student; Liz Levy spoke with an eloquence and forcefulness rarely displayed; and Robyn Peskin conveyed the idealism and determination that will take her to Israel. Some spoke from a prepared text, quoting Tennyson and Leo Rosten, while others spoke without notes at all. Yet, all of them spoke with sincerity that seemed to say in ten different ways, “Thank you, Yeshiva, for what you did for me.”
The climax of the evening was a riveting audio-visual presentation of the growth of these graduates from baby pictures on up. Produced by Ronnie Minsk, another of the graduates, it was both professional and touching – a fitting end to a very personal graduation.
I have attended these Yeshiva graduations and each of them is something special. I go because it makes me feel young and excited again. I go because it makes me believe in our youth, in their commitment to a Jewish identity. I go to see their love of learning and to hear their optimism about the future.
It was a marvelous evening for the Yeshiva High School and a rousing send off for this elite class. But more importantly, it was a statement to all of us that a first class Jewish and secular education will pay dividends for the rest of their lives and ours.
– Allen H. Lipis
Because I was curious what happened to these graduates and others, I asked my daughter, Pamela, to help me track what those from the ’80s and ’90s she knew were doing today.
We got the names by going to a Yeshiva group on Facebook and sent several hundred requests for an update on their lives and their experiences at the school.
A few returned detailed responses.
Joe Levenson and Judy Brown, who both attended YA were married in 1981 by Rabbi Cohen and Rabbi Emanuel Feldman of Congregation Beth Jacob. Joe is a national key account director for PharmaLink. Judy works for the Jewish Federation of Broward County. She said, “Yeshiva Atlanta changed our lives, made our life!”
Rebecca Levin graduated in 1990 and is a musician and actor. She says of Yeshiva Atlanta that even with her learning disabilities they, “could accommodate my needs, even to rearranging my schedule so that I had a one-on-one math class during school hours.”
She said she had Rabbi Cohen as an “English teacher that no doubt helped my career as a Shakespeare performer.” She concluded, “I have no doubt that the identity I still claim as a Jew is due in large part to the encourage-without-pushing attitude of the school and the Judaics teachers. … It makes me an ambassador for Yiddishkeit. Yeshiva gave me both that desire and the ability.”
Here are 30 graduates and their careers as we know them:
Benyomin Cohen, author and journalist
Dani Cohen, senior rabbi
Danny Frankel, lawyer
David Frankel, dentist
Pamela Lipis Glinsky, registered dietician
Danny Glusman, real estate agent
Debbie Held, spins yarn
Adina Hirsch, pharmacist
Raphael Hirsch, mortgage underwriter
Kim Hoelting, executive
Saul Jacobs, physician
Darren Joel, entrepreneur
Nonny Spotts Kelly, immigration lawyer
Jane Leader, senior recruiter
Alane Levy, registered nurse
Kim Slovin Linsider, speech pathologist
Meira Merlis, TBS writer
Alan Minsk, lawyer
Elisa Minsk, entrepreneur
Aria Mansouri, Los Angeles restaurant owner
Hallie Raab, real estate agent
Rachel Kessler Roth, AIPAC director of the real estate division
Daniella Shloush Rudoff, marriage architect
Dvora Meltzer Sinkoe, insurance agent
Chanie Wilson Steinberg, physician
Jeff Tuvlin, physician
Joey Wilson, senior director
Yaachov Ben Yaachov, technology innovator
Arnold Zilberkant, Marine and psychologist
- Allen Lipis
- Yeshiva High School
- atlanta jewish academy
- The Southern Israelite
- High School
- Atlanta Jewish Times
- Boris Penchenik
- Mindee Nodvin
- Liz Levy
- Ronnie Minsk
- Allen H. Lipis
- Joe Levenson and Judy Brown
- Congregation Beth Jacob
- Jewish Federation of Broward County
- Rabbi Herbert Cohen