On May 25, Prozdor of Hebrew College graduated 75 outstanding 12th graders after their many years of Jewish education. Berenson Hall was filled to capacity during the 80-minute ceremony that included six speeches by graduates. Here are six excerpts from the speeches- one from each of the students who addressed their peers.

Naomi Silverstein, from Weston High School and Congregation Or Atid

Naomi Silverstein
Naomi Silverstein

Prozdor gives opportunity. Everyone there — all the teachers, all the administrative staff — they all really care about each and every student and want more than anything for us to explore, succeed and reach our potential. Prozdor enabled me to find something about which I am passionate, gave me the opportunity to explore my Jewish life beyond this campus, and empowered me to determine how I want to live my Jewish life. Prozdor started me on a path, pushed me to take the first step. With Prozdor’s encouragement, I’ve gone in a direction that I never expected, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Naomi will attend the University of Michigan

Josh Nathanson, from Needham High School and Temple Aliyah

Above all, Prozdor has been a spiritual compass. Throughout my time at

josh nathanson
Josh Nathanson

Prozdor, I’ve seen countless students and even a few teachers develop theologically and intellectually. Here, the focus is not on academic achievement, measured by grade deflation or standardization, but on learning in its purest form.  Prozdor’s curriculum–which centers on learning, alone and untampered–stimulates debate, introspection, curiosity and all other requisites for intellectual growth. It sparks genuine interest in Jewish history, Jewish arts or any other part of Prozdor academics, and it has completely restructured my worldview, intellect and identity…Generations of Prozdor students have unpacked perennial Jewish questions and have studied a wide spectrum of Jewish topics. Not every class a student takes is life changing, but every student takes a life-changing class. That, in my opinion, is the trademark of Prozdor.

Josh will attend Cornell University

Rutie MacKenzie-Margulies, from Lexington High School and Temple Emunah

Prozdor encourages personal growth in a way that no other form of

Rutie Mackenzie Marguleis
Rutie MacKenzie-Margulies

organized education in my life ever has. It provided me with a community where I felt comfortable sharing and evolving my personal ideologies, but that is only possible because of the huge amount of respect that each student has for one another, and that unspoken camaraderie between the students as well as the teachers is one that I’m not sure I’ll ever find anywhere else.  I am the Jew, and the person that I am today because of Prozdor, and I’m so thankful for that.

Rutie will attend the University of Puget Sound

David Roizin, from Lexington High School and Temple Beth Zion

Very much like our parents, our religion has guided us and nurtured us. As

David Roizin
David Roizin

with our parents, we may not appreciate every lesson yet, or perhaps never will. As with parenting, religion is such a human exercise that I cannot say that I believe it is perfect. But, as with growing up, I believe faith is a personal journey. It is a journey inward and can only be made by you. But how, then, do we know what is right, just, and good? I encountered a similar problem throughout my career learning and playing the trumpet. For those of you questioning whether the topics of this speech just hit a serious drop in magnitude, any musician in the audience can assure you that practice is spiritual endeavor. I don’t know we’ll ever see world peace or prosperity for all humanity, but if we do, music will have helped bring us there. Anyway, I discovered what defines good playing defines a good person. There exist certain standards which everyone will meet; there are some which you will never. But you must be the judge of what that is enough.

The stigma attached to this way of thinking comes from wrongful reasoning that playing for the standard of your own self-satisfaction is easy. On the contrary, it doesn’t take any effort to be told that you need to be better. It takes true strength to say “I need to be better.” A step past strength is courage, and courage is necessary to say “I have done enough.” (I practiced this a bunch to get the emphasis) right. Here it goes. “Finding faith in yourself begins with finding faith in yourself.”

David will attend Carleton College

Ruth Landis, from Lexington High School and Temple Emunah, Lexington

Prozdor was the first opportunity I had to truly take my education into my

Ruth Landis
Ruth Landis

own hands. I got to choose which subject areas mattered most to me, which teachers I most wanted to learn from, and of course- if I really cared whether my friends were taking the same classes as me or not. In doing so, I had to first learn about myself, and discover what I valued in this Jewish education. And I found that the classes I loved the most, the ones I still think about, are the ones where I had to form my own opinions and stand up for them. This is the part of Prozdor that will stay with me- and hopefully all of us- long after we leave for a final time. This courage to create opinions, beliefs,  and entire forms of thought. The belief in ourselves, our knowledge, our ability to take our education into our own hands and create meaning in what we find- is what Prozdor is all about.

Ruth will attend the University of Chicago

Erica Bowe, from Minuteman High School and Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton

Prozdor classes have caused me to look deeper into my Jewish identity. I

Erica Bowe
Erica Bowe

decided a little more than two years ago to keep a Kosher diet. It is a bit of a challenge being the only one in my house keeping Kosher, but it is doable. I feel I am eating healthier and my way of eating has become a topic of conversation among my friends; they are impressed as to how diligent I can be.

Ours is the first class at Prozdor to have graduation after the twelfth grade. I am so happy that I had the option of another year of classes at Prozdor- my brother is actually a bit jealous that I had the option and he did not! I am looking forward to taking a Birthright trip in the future and exploring more of my Jewish heritage and identity.  Prozdor has been a big stepping stone in this process and I feel privileged that this opportunity has been available to me and that I have been able to take advantage of it.

Erica will attend Middlesex Community College