Posted on June 6, 2013 by Ilan Weismark
Here is my Graduation Speech from yesterday:
From Masechet Eruvin:
R. Ilai said: By three things a person is recognized and it becomes known what his true character is: at a time of drinking; when he has to spend money; and in his anger. Some say that, in addition, the true nature of a person is revealed in laughter.
I learned this verse from David Bernstein, our dean, near the beginning of my time at Pardes when I started playing basketball with him each Friday. Even though he taught it to me in a different context, Rabbi Ilai is providing an important lesson for us as future educators.
Though it can be tough at times, as Jewish educators, we will be held to high standards by other teachers, students, and even parents who see us as role models, and judge everything we do by the standards we have chosen to teach. How we choose to conduct ourselves in everything we do will have great impact on the relationships we foster and the reputations we build.
So how does this text relate to us as young Jewish professionals?
A person is known by how he drinks: when we get together with other faculty after school, attend community events, or even when we spend time with our friends and family, are we conducting ourselves by the Torah and midot we teach and have chosen to live by?
A person is known for how they spend their money: I’d love to joke this doesn’t apply to us as Day School educators, but even more so it does! Are we giving of ourselves when we already feel spread thin? Are we giving tzedakah when we have loans to repay, car payments, kids in Jewish day schools, and other expenses on our tight budgets?
By our anger, when students are pressing us, when we get a few months into school and we’re tired and stressed out, do we keep things in perspective? How do we handle the adversity and remain true to the examples we set as Jewish educators?
So what does this have to do with David Bernstein and playing basketball on Friday morning? When David taught this to me, he added a 4th. Kiso, Koso, Ka’aso…and kadursalo — in his playing of basketball.
Coming to Pardes was a turning point in my life: choosing a path of higher education, pursuing deeper and richer torah study, and dedicating these two years to being in Israel where my family has such deep roots. I came off four great years of teaching in Atlanta that just had begun to whet my pallet for Jewish education. Having a brother that graduated from cohort 4 of the Pardes Educators Program, I knew what I was in for. Well, I knew what I was getting professionally but never expected it to seep into my personal life.
The past two years at Pardes have not only given me a stronger foundation in Torah and education, but my time in the Pardes Beit Midrash has helped me grow, forming a stronger identity I am confident in going forward, it has helped me become more of a mensch in times I struggled to be one before, and has even helped me strengthen my relationship with my parents (My mom asked if my speech was about Kibud Av v’em so there you go Ema!)
As my colleagues know, I love sports. I watch a lot and play even more. For many years before coming to Pardes I struggled to demonstrate the same menschlikite values on the court as I did off it. Playing in the Friday game at Hartman I learned how to bring the Torah I was learning at Pardes, the humility my teachers displayed in class, and the all around kindness and caring environment of Pardes into my basketball game. When I get frustrated on the court and want to lose my cool, I look to Bernie — as we call him — and realize it’s just a game — which isn’t always so easy. These two years I have worked to be honest, calm, and humble and playing with a role model like David has helped me put things into perspective.
People are watching us, people are judging us, and we’re the role models that set an example of what it means to live a Jewish life.
My Charge to Cohort 12, the graduation class of The Pardes Educators Program of 2013: Be THE example. Remember that you are a role model, not only for your students, but also for their families and other members of the community. My favorite radio host Colin Cowherd often says “celebrate rarely, grind daily”. Pardes has given us the tools to open the books and start studying, something we must not take for granted, but tonight we take time to celebrate and enjoy the hard work we’ve put in. As the statement from Eruvin finishes, a person is also known by their laughter. So enjoy the journey, laugh a lot, and good luck!