MARBLEHEAD — Before an audience of family, friends, and the faculty and staff of the school, 11 eighth-grade students of Epstein Hillel School’s graduating class of 2022 joyfully received their diplomas on the evening of June 15. While family members sat at beautifully prepared tables of crudités, desserts and beverages (and boxes of tissues for the emotional moments), the ceremony kicked off with an invocation by Rabbi Samantha Safran, EHS’s Director of Jewish Life and Learning. Amy Gold, Head of School, addressed the students next. She shared inspiring quotes from famous people – from Mahatma Gandhi to the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Larry Bird – and connected those insights to the six core values of Epstein Hillel School: Potential, Identity, Curiosity, Intellect, Compassion and Community.
Gold reminded the students that, “Compassion will always lead you to make good choices and to think beyond yourself.” And reflecting on the next chapter, as the graduates move on to high school, she said, “Remember that learning doesn’t happen in a straight path. … Trust yourself, rely on the values you’ve learned here at EHS, and from your family and heritage. Remember that hard work, perseverance, and patience will lead you to success and fulfillment.”
Graduates also heard words of guidance from Epstein Hillel School alumnus and current EHS Facilities Manager Yaniv Havusha (’00). His message to the students was that they should always try to do things that make them happy. “Don’t be afraid to take a different path, to do things that aren’t expected of you,” advised Havusha. “Because if you love what you do, it will show, and you’ll excel.”
Perhaps the most moving remarks came from the graduates themselves. Five students reflected on their time at Epstein Hillel School and the incredible impact it had on them, whether they were at the school for all nine years or only two. Several themes were consistent across all of their speeches: Students felt supported and accepted at EHS; they were grateful for the faculty who helped them become mentors and leaders both at EHS and in the greater community; and they feel well-prepared for whatever comes next.
“The EHS community embraces diversity and acceptance, which in turn assists its students in discovering their identities,” said graduate Jamison Moore. “We are provided a safe space where we can grow, learn, make mistakes and explore together.” All of the speakers – a mix of both outgoing and more reserved personalities – demonstrated incredible poise and confidence while speaking, manifesting those transformative leadership skills they all talked about.
In addition to the pomp and circumstance, there were also some light, fun moments. Most notably, the five members of the “9-Year Club” (EHS graduates who have attended the school since Kindergarten) surprised the audience with a flawless performance of The Kindergarten Song – complete with accompanying hand gestures. This is a song that these teens last performed at their Kindergarten Breakfast at the end of their first year at EHS. The 9-Year Club’s performance was kept a secret from nearly everyone, including their beloved Kindergarten teachers, Barbara Sidman and Beth Tassinari, both of whom were in attendance. “What an amazing surprise!” said the now-retired Sidman. “I can’t believe they remembered all of the words.”
Another touching moment came when it was time to hand out diplomas. Each student was presented their diploma by a middle school faculty member, who shared a few personal reflections about that student. Each presenter also incorporated a passage from traditional Jewish teachings that best represented that graduate. Along with their diploma, each graduate received a wooden bookmark engraved (using the school’s laser cutter) with the same passage and their name.
In one last assignment at EHS, the Class of 2022 presented their class gift: two water bottle-filling stations that are now installed in the lower school and upper school hallways and will help hydrate the students and staff for years to come. “We greatly value protecting our environment and reducing the amount of plastic that we use,” said graduate Noa Brochstein. Her words are representative of a group of graduates who are sure to leave an impactful and lasting legacy on Epstein Hillel School and beyond.
Members of the Class of 2022 will attend the following High Schools in the Fall: Marblehead High School (4); Swampscott High School (3); Salem High School (1); Stoneham High School (1); The Academy at Penguin Hall (1); Gann Academy (1).