The Chaya Mushka Children’s House Elementary & Middle School and eight students shared a milestone Thursday, June 7, that marked the transition from one phase of their lives to another.
For the students, it was the end of eighth grade, marking the time to leave the school some had attended since preschool. For the school itself, it was the first middle school graduation, coming as the Chabad of Georgia-affiliated Montessori school prepares to move its first- to eighth-graders to a larger campus.
It was a bittersweet moment for the five boys and three girls, said Noson Sollish, the last of the eight to speak during the ceremony at Congregation Beth Tefillah and one of those who grew up with the school as it started with first grade in 2010 and added a grade each year: sweet because they are moving on to high school but bitter because they are leaving just before the school upgrades its space.
The graduation audience, which far exceeded the 100 seats set up in the social hall, could relate to the experience of the school, which has outgrown its 100-student capacity in rented space in Sandy Springs.
The students, each of whom spoke during the ceremony, received their diplomas from the two people who were there at both ends of their school journey: Dassie New, who founded the school, and Rabbi Michoel Druin, the head of school since 2015.
“What was important in preschool is the same in the eighth grade — except, of course, at a higher level. So here it is: Keep your curiosity alive. Keep asking the why questions,” said Sara Carter, a member of the CMCH board who taught some of the graduates in preschool.
The job of an educator is to go beyond information to transformation, Rabbi Druin said. “It’s about taking these young men and women over here and making them into adults, thinking adults, Jewishly proud adults, adults who are grounded in their Jewish values and tradition.”
He said Chaya Mushka’s first graduating class reflects that process and will lead the school’s climb.
The climb was physical and metaphorical for graduate Rachel Zeiger, who said that her personal growth and confidence in trying new things led her to embrace mountain hiking. You need a strong support system to get through life’s mountains, she said, and you must look ahead.
“You always have to remember to keep looking up at what you can achieve rather than always looking down at what has already happened,” she said. “You can’t change the past, only plan the future.”
Taking a cue from the week’s Torah portion, Shelach, Rabbi Yossi New advised the graduates to be involved in the outside world, just as the scouts Moses sent into the land of Israel were tasked to find a single tree.
“The ultimate goal is to become like a tree: to go out into the world, to influence the world, to impact the world, to provide spiritual sustenance to everyone you come in contact with,” said Rabbi New, the Chabad of Georgia director.
Commencement speaker Leslie Rubin said the graduates should learn from Joshua and Caleb, the two of Moses’ 12 scouts who expressed optimism about conquering Canaan, and go forth with courage and determination. “As long as you have Hashem in your heart, you can make anything happen.”
He also urged them to use the divine spark of creativity inside everyone, just as people ranging from polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster have done.
“When you think, dream, imagine, have a vision of what you want to be and what you want to do,” Rubin said. “Have the courage and have the spirit of Hashem in you, and just remember that spark of creativity.”
CMCH Middle School Class of 2018
The following are the eight eighth-graders who graduated from the Chaya Mushka Children’s House Elementary and Middle School on Thursday, June 7.