Weekly Newsletter – June 7, 2019

Photo by Jocelyne Halle

Last night, families, friends, King David staff, and students filled Beth Israel as we all came together to celebrate the King David High School Class of 2019. 

Our Deputy Head of School, Alex Monchamp was the evening’s Master of Ceremonies and he did an excellent job of balancing the right amount of sentimentality and humour.

Each year, the graduates select a peer to give the student D’Var Torah. This year, we heard from Adam Rosengarten, who gave a beautiful speech, explaining that Judaism is a privilege. He gave the Jewish perspective on graduation, comparing the transitional ceremony to the principles of Shavot:

"The reason for graduation is not to herald an end to our youthfulness, but to celebrate our passage into adulthood. In two days time, we will be celebrating one of the most important days in the Jewish calendar: Shavuot, the day in which we received the Torah, our holy book. It is almost uncanny how much our own graduation echoes the principles of this holiday. At the foot of Mount Sinai, we received perhaps our most foundational form of graduation: our covenant, which is the figurative marriage between Hashem and His people. 

At King David, we have made many thoughtful preparations, both spiritually and physically, that will usher in our own new season. We have had to work on ourselves, and our relationships with each other; we have been exposed to multiple acts of Tikkun Olam and we have been imbued with all the beautiful teachings of our heritage. Our time in this school has refined us into the individuals that we are today. We were not always ready, but in the past 5 years, we have all matured tremendously. We have been encouraged and nurtured to maximize our potential, to come together and be steeped with a strong Jewish identity that makes us ready to embark on the new world that awaits us. This is one of the most important themes of Shavuot: spiritual growth and character development. This holiday, amongst other things, marks the anniversary of receiving our Torah at the foot of Mount Sinai. It is with immense gratitude to our incredible parents and the amazing staff at King David that we stand here united, at the foot of our own mountain of potential."

Our grad speakers – Solly Khalifa and Adam Rosengarten
Next, we had the opportunity to hear encouraging words from our Co-Presidents of the Board of Directors, Neville Israel and Jackie Cristall Morris, before hearing from our very own Rabbi Berger. He addressed our graduating class, taking the opportunity to offer them some final words of wisdom, and remind them that if they have faith and trust in G-d, they will always receive exactly what they need.

Our Head of School, Russ Klein, gave a fond farewell address to our Class of 2019. He encouraged our students to use the concepts of aerodynamics to live an inspired life: 

"There are 4 basic forces to consider that affect a plane’s ability to fly: lift, weight, thrust, and drag.

Lift is about the wings. You are in control of their shape and their angle – you are the designer. So, think about where you want to go and how you want to get there. And if you do not like the trajectory, redesign.

There is unfortunately a yin to the yang of lift. It is called weight – or better yet, gravity. Gravity is not in your control. Gravity is all the things holding you down and pulling you back to earth that you cannot change. Accepting the things one cannot change is simply acknowledging gravity. Having the courage to change the things you can, is lift.

If only gravity, which we cannot control, was the only thing holding us back. There is another force – drag – and it really is. Drag holds us back, it is friction, it is what we need to overcome in order to move forward.

Forward movement, or growth, is thrust – and it requires energy. And this is totally about you, about your heart, about your stick-to-it-ness, your perseverance, your willingness to push and work hard. You have choices – make them, and when you make one that does not work out, reflect, ask questions, get help, and move forward."

The Sanctuary was filled with proud supporters who cheered as each Grade 12 student received their Graduation Ceremony certificate, and King David staff and other community members handed out individual student awards and scholarships.

For the list of award recipients, please click here

Photo by Jocelyne Halle

Before a fun evening of dinner and dancing, Solly Khalifa, who was also nominated by his peers, concluded the ceremony with an inspirational – and very funny – student address, where he talked about the importance of resilience and determination.

"At King David, resilience and determination gave our grade the strength to not only survive the daily, pungent, walk through the Grade 8 hallway, but to see through our personal challenges and road-blocks – getting us to this day, this room, and this stage.

As has been the case in our Jewish history, it is out of difficult times, when we are not happy with our status quo, that we have grown and we have made ourselves and our world better. When life throws challenges at us, we have a choice. We can feel sorry for ourselves and kvetch, ‘Why me?’ or we can stop and ask ourselves, ‘What can we do with what we have?’

I would like to share with you a short story that illustrates this point: one day, a donkey fell into a pit. The animal cried and whined for hours while his owner tried to figure out what to do. Finally, the owner decided that since the animal was old, and the pit needed to be covered up anyway, he’d just bury the old donkey right there. He got a shovel and started filling in the pit. After an hour of furious shovelling, the owner paused to rest. To his amazement, he saw his old donkey jump out of the pit and trot away! 

At first, when the donkey realized what was happening, he cried. But then the wise animal called upon his resilience and determination. As each spadeful of dirt hit his back, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up on the growing mound of earth. Eventually, the mound grew high enough for him to jump out of the pit.

Guys, life is going to shovel dirt on us – all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the pit is to shake it off and take a step up. As we leave high school and set on off on our life journeys, we will encounter some challenges. We will face these challenges, perhaps not always successfully at first, but if we have learned anything these last 5 years at King David, it’s that we will not be defined by our challenges, or by our failures. Rather we will be defined by our commitment to our heritage, to our families, to ourselves: we will be defined by our determination to get back up with every fall, to persevere when hope is wilting. We will be defined by our focus, keeping our purpose crystal clear and our connection to the Torah unfailing.

A heartfelt thanks goes out to the wonderful team of parent volunteers who assisted in planning such a wonderful event, as well as decorating Beth Israel so beautifully.

Todah Rabah to our Parent Action Committee (PAC), who gave each graduating student a very special gift: a handcrafted mezuzah. When our graduates use their mezuzah, they will know that a small piece of their King David home will always be with them. 

Thanks also to the many staff members who made the evening such a success. A special thanks goes to our Graduation Teacher Sponsor, Julie Lane, who spent so much time coordinating all the details relating to the ceremony. 

Thanks as well to the Beth Israel Synagogue for their support of our graduation evening, and to Jocelyne Halle, who took the wonderful photographs of our grads.

Our 56 graduates – the largest graduating class we’ve had to date – have spent the last five years becoming responsible and socially conscious community members, and we are so proud of all they have accomplished. We look forward to seeing what they achieve in the next stage of their lives. 

Kol Hakavod, Class of 2019!

This past Saturday evening, our graduates and their families, along with King David staff, came together to send our Class of 2019 off with a beautiful Havdalah celebration. 

Rabbi Berger said a few words, and likened the students’ King David journey to one long Shabbat. It began in Grade 8 with a large Shabbat dinner, and Havdalah closed the circle before we send our graduates off into their bright futures. 

The students then each had the opportunity to thank the people who have helped them along the way. Their speeches were heartfelt and moving, and reflected the thoughtfulness and maturity they have developed over their time at the school.

Everyone then moved outside for Havdalah, lighting the candles and singing the blessings. It was clear by the smiles on the students’ faces that it was a moment they would always cherish.

Our sincere thanks to Rabbi Berger and Director of Jewish Life, Ellia Belson, for organizing such a meaningful evening. Thanks also to Home Economics teacher, Hilit Nurick, and her students for providing a delicious dessert reception.
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King David High School, 5718 Willow Street, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4S9 Canada
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