Earlier this month, the Class of 2017 officially joined the distinguished ranks of Duke alumni. To mark this occasion, Jewish Life at Duke hosted our annual Jewish Baccalaureate – a ceremony celebrating their intellectual, personal, and Jewish journeys at Duke. Parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends traveled from near and far to give a resounding “mazal tov!” to the new graduates and wish them well as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.
Larry Moneta, Vice President for Student Affairs, offered the opening remarks. Dr. Moneta spoke about the value of “doing Jewish,” which he defined as: remembering the Holocaust, leading an ethical and moral life, working for justice and equality, being intellectually curious, and caring about Israel. In closing, he encouraged the students to “do Jewish” in their own unique ways.
Rabbi Elana led a meaningful recitation of the birkat hakohanim, the traditional priestly blessing that parents give their children on Shabbat. The ceremony continued with Rebecca Simons, Director for Jewish Life at Duke, presenting gifts to the new grads – JLD-inscribed mezuzzahs for them to hang on the doorposts of their new homes as a reminder of their enduring connection to Duke’s Jewish community. Finally, the ceremony concluded by reciting the tefilat ha'derech, the travelers' prayer, to bless the graduates as they prepare to journey into the next phase of their lives.
It is always bittersweet to witness the transition from students to alumni. From the first time we met the Class of 2017 at the JFAM Welcome Back BBQ, we knew they were a special bunch of students. We’re grateful to have been a part of their journey over the past four years and we can’t wait to see what incredible things they’ll do next. They may have moved off Duke’s campus, but they will always have a home here at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life.