Dear Class of 2022,
I write to you today in a way I have never written to a graduating class before. The festive note, listing your achievements and what you ought to look forward to, are not part of this letter. Yet, at the same time, your graduation should fill you with hope and optimism–you are the generation of the dove, the generation of Noah’s children charged with rebuilding a broken world.
No, you are not like the previous class who have seen some significant challenges: the rise of antisemitism, remote learning through the perils of COVID, and the social upheavals our world has seen. You are the first class to see what a more normal world looked like and are here on the other side of it, dealing with the aftermath and destruction. Like Noah’s children, you are here looking around at a desolate world.
You have lived through the flood, seen the horrors of a humanity that did not know what would be of its future, and have seen the winds that attempted to uproot our faith and people. And you made it. You are the generation who knows to check on one another and the generation who knows it’s okay to say you are not okay because there is so much in this world that has gone wrong. You are the generation of Noah, the generation that will rebuild our future. You are indeed our greatest hope.
Graduation to you is an end to nothing and a beginning to everything. It is the beginning of your journey to reconstruction. With this responsibility comes a great opportunity. It is for you to imagine what this future world you will build might look like. What mistakes of the past must never repeat themselves, what dreams are to be realized, where is it that you wish we would have been there for you and were not, and how you would like to be there for others in the future. You have no illusions about the fragility of the world, but you have also seen the power of recovery. You are fully aware that in your hands–and yours alone–lays the ability to build and shape this world in your own image and the image of your dreams.
So, as you head into the next chapter of your life, dream big. Dream of our world. Dream of the future of the Jewish people. Dream of the future of your families. Dream of the careers you will have, many of which are not even in existence yet, as we live in such a rapidly changing world.
Most importantly, remember that from Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai rebuilding Judaism in Yavneh after the destruction of Jerusalem to the builders of the modern state of Israel, our future depends on your dreams, your imagination, and your ability to rebuild ancient glory, using every modern tool available to you.
I conclude to you with the words of God to our great leader Gideon, who didn’t know where he might have the strength to lead the Jewish people:
“And the Lord turned toward him and said, “Go, with this your strength, and save Israel–lech be’kochacha zeh“
I have deep faith in each and every one of you; you are our greatest hope.
With deep faith and respect,