Roz Landy is the Dean of Students at CESJDS.
It is always a privilege for me to speak to the senior class at their graduation ceremony, but, because of who you are, this is an especially meaningful year for me. You, Class of 2019, entered the high school with a reputation that made all of us excited to welcome you to the ninth grade.Your lower and middle school teachers spoke about your kindness, your accepting nature, and your willingness to look out for one another. You had opinions and you were not shy about sharing them, but you always did so with respect and an open mind.
The teachers were right on target. Our high school faculty speak about you in glowing terms, how they love teaching you, and how eager they are to chaperone your trips and Shabbatonim. I remember well the first day that you took over the senior lounge. I walked by that day, and hundreds of times since then, and was always impressed with how “good” you were, how welcoming and how engaged with each other; there was never any drama. No matter who was in the lounge, everyone was welcome and included. You were always “chill” and took everything in stride. You followed rules, policies and decisions easily, with grace and acceptance.
Not only were you always “good”, but everything you did was good….even outstanding.
You have shown great prowess in the athletic arena. You have led our JDS teams to championships and many of you have been involved in athletic adventures outside of school. One of you is an ice dancer who just finished third in the USA competition and will compete in the Junior World Team, and another is a synchronized ice skater who qualified last week to go to Nationals for the third time. You can brag about a successful equestrienne who competes nationally, a long jump record holder, a state champion runner up in ultimate frisbee, and a fencer.
You have been highly successful inside and outside of the classroom, embracing and embodying our core value of Torah Lishmah, or the passion for lifelong learning. We are proud of our eight National Merit Commended Scholars and six Semi-Finalists. One of you studied in a highly prestigious US State Department Arabic program in Amman, Jordan. You have worked as an NIH research intern and as an intern at NASA. One of you was a blog writer for the Times of Israel and another secured an internship at Harvard Medical School this spring. You have shown your entrepreneurial spirit, creating your own clothing line and a snow shoveling businesses.
You have worked as an intern at Georgetown in Alzheimer's research and interned for congressman Jamie Raskin. Among you are a legislative assistant for the Anti- Defamation League and a clothing designer. One of your peers has won numerous awards for her films including “Symphonies of Silence”, another conducted high-level scientific research at the Technion in Israel and another placed 3rd at Haifa Teen Tech Hackathon. Within your class are a standup comic, a Teen Court volunteer, a classical pianist, and many youth group leaders.
You are good at everything you do and you have made us plenty proud of all of your accomplishments and leadership in our school activities. Ten of you have won a JSA best speaker award, two of you won best position papers at the Model UN conference and another won the International Compost Awareness Poster Contest. You showed passion and creativity when you established our Talks for Tolerance club and our very successful Codergals club where you taught coding to Lower School girls. You organized our first school Hackathon. And on the fun side, you re-envisioned the struggling MORP (junior prom) and made it the party of the year where 175 partygoers had a great time.
You have reached out to the community in many ways and taken our mission of Tikkun Olam to heart, working towards making the world a better place. A group of you volunteered with a Syrian refugee family to tutor their children. One went to Uganda and worked at the Nyaka AIDS foundation. Another was selected for Seeds of Peace, a highly selective program which promotes dialogue between Jewish and Arab youth. You volunteered and won an award for your work at the Association for Safe International Road Travel. Two of you worked as tour guides at the Holocaust Museum in their Bringing the Lessons Home program. You have volunteered thousands of hours at the Hebrew Home, Friendship Circle, hospitals, DC Central Kitchen, Fight 4 Diabetes, and Tech Cafe where you helped seniors with computers. One of you initiated the program, Bras4BRACA, to raise money for breast cancer research. Another raised funds to build water wells in Africa while one worked in Costa Rica on a Sea Turtle Conservation project. You have a EMT in your class who has spent thousands of hours working to help our community in emergencies. You stood courageously at Kabbalat Shabbat to share your struggles with mental illness and created a club to raise awareness and help eradicate the stigma. You stood together and led the entire school in a walk-out in support of gun safety after the tragic Parkland shooting. We are proud of all that you have done to raise awareness and improve life for those less fortunate. You have done not only GOOD work but fantastic work.
There is, however, one thing that you were NOT so good at. You are probably one of the few grades at JDS who have never, ever won, or even placed at our annual Zimriyah, Israel Independence Day song fest. Despite that fact, in my survey in the fall, all of you pointed to Zim as the highlight of your HS career -- because it brought your class together. You never took Zim, or anything else, too seriously; you did what you needed to do without drama and you had fun doing it. Even when you lost Zim your junior year, you came together in the lounge, singing and dancing with great enthusiasm. Some of you said that that memory was even better than winning!! And that positive attitude is one of the things that has made all of us love you so much.
I hope that by now you have figured out what my gift for you is. All through your high school years, I have thought about you as so “good” but you are even much more than good; you are fantastic. So I give each of you a unique, kosher box of candy - Class of 2019 GOOD AND PLENTY FANTASTIC -- to remind you how wonderful you are. With it comes your very own good and plenty fantastic luggage tag. I know that I speak for the entire faculty when I say that we have mixed emotions right now. On one hand, I am so proud of you for all that you have accomplished but more importantly, for the wonderful young men and women that you are. I am excited for you and for what lies ahead. On the other hand, I am SO sad that you are leaving us. You are a very special class, we love you and will truly miss all of you.