Before I begin, I need you to promise not to tell my wife what I wrote. She has a rule that I am not to write about my family in my weekly email. This week, however, how can I resist?
On September 6, 2019, I wrote a Marc’s Remarks titled, “Off to College.” It was all about my daughter (and oldest child) going off to school. I wrote:
When it was time to leave campus and say our goodbyes, we shared a long hug, some tears, and smiles filled with pride. She was starting a new phase in her life and I could not be more excited for her. But when I returned home late Sunday night and awoke the next morning, it finally hit me. Her bedroom door was open (which I am unsure ever happened throughout high school) and she was not inside. Instead, she was far away at school. And will be for quite some time. Sarah and I only wish her great joy and fulfillment in all her college endeavors.
Well, four years have passed and this Sunday my daughter graduated from Brown University (mazel tov to all the proud parents whose children recently graduated). For far too many, it was not an easy time to go to college as their first year was cut short due to Covid and the other years greatly impacted by the pandemic.
Being there for the commencement festivities was more than special. Hearing praise about your child from professors and students alike and watching them receive awards and accolades made me both blush and smile. It was the perfect ending to a challenging college experience.
At graduation, the university did not have a “big name” commencement speaker. Instead, they asked students and alumni to share their thoughts with the graduating class.
One student talked about the life lessons they learned while at college:
- Prioritize your mental and physical health.
- Be very proud of the hard work you put in to get where you are.
- Cherish everyone – you are who you surround yourself with.
- You are not alone. Be thankful, especially for your family, peers, teachers, mentors, and everyone around you.
- Show up for your friends. You are happiest when you are happy for others.
- Try new things to learn more about the world and yourself.
- Before you do something special -- just do something. (This was a quote from Jon Krasinski from television show The Office who graduated Brown University in 2001.)
Another speaker, an alumnus who is from Ecuador and the first person in his family to go to college, shared some other important insights:
- Now that you are graduating, these are no longer days of learning. Now these are days of doing. Take what you learned and be who you are to better our world.
- What are the two most important days in your life? "The day you are born and the day you find out why," Mark Twain famously wrote. That is quite the comment. And one I have been thinking about ever since.
I go back to what I wrote in 2019. With a few tweaks, my message is almost exactly the same.
When it was time to leave and say our goodbyes to campus, we shared a long hug, some tears, and smiles filled with pride. She was starting a new phase in her life and I could not be more excited for her. When we returned home late Monday night and awoke the next morning, it finally hit me. Her bedroom door was closed and she was inside – no longer far away. But she was older, wiser, and ready to take on the world. Sarah and I only wish her great joy and fulfillment in all her future endeavors.
Last Thursday, the White House released its long-awaited National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. It contains 200 recommendations -- 100 for government and 100 for the private sector -- that have been formulated over months of engagement with leaders and organizations from the civil society, interfaith, and Jewish communities, including Jewish Federations of North America.
At the same time, I invite you to a special briefing at 10:00 am this morning (hopefully you read this in time) with Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism. Amb. Lipstadt was one of the architects of this plan. The briefing will include more about the strategy and what we can expect from the Administration. Register here.
Interestingly, in that same email from September 2019, I shared this:
In these difficult times, and with antisemitism on the rise in our country, the Jewish Federation’s Portland Area Jewish Educators (PAJE) and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) sponsored a workshop on “Confronting Antisemitism and Intolerance” The workshop was open to students in grades 6-12, their parents, and Jewish educators and provided practical tools for young people on responding to antisemitism and hate in our society.
Almost four years later, some things, sadly, never change.
This coming Tuesday is the 103rd Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation. It will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and a major part of the program will be the release of the 2023 Jewish Community Study from Brandeis University. Join us and make sure you register here.
Finally, it is hard to believe that yesterday, June 1, was my 29th anniversary in the Jewish Federation world. I still have the same passion and love for this work as I did in 1994.
Shabbat shalom and it sure is nice to have my daughter home (at least for a few weeks before her next adventure).