On the evening of March 24, a modest crowd of parents and family members filtered into the Byers Theater in the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center to celebrate the Epstein School Class of 2022. Shortly after the audience was settled, the eighth-grade graduates entered, walking down to their seats to Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”
The ceremony began with renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah,” both sung by Naomi Brager, and continued with remarks from the school’s staff and community members, most of whom had come to see their children or grandchildren graduate.
Jake Shulman’s father, Matt, who is the president of the board of trustees, set the tone with a reflection on the importance of the Epstein community, telling the students, “The Epstein School you love, just know: it loves you back.”
The head of school, David Abusch-Magder, encouraged students to search for their passion in life, and to “find a way to make a tangible mark on the world.” He also took a moment to recognize the families of those graduating, some of whom had been at the school for over two decades. Several parents in the audience had graduated from Epstein decades before and now watched their children do the same.
Marty Kogon, former chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, prefaced his speech with the fact that his granddaughter, Marion, would be embarrassed to be called out in front of her classmates, so he would not, in fact, be doing that. He described the monetary contributions JFGA had made to Epstein and its students, which, through the combination of the annual fund, an additional fund for COVID-19-related preparations and the ALEF fund scholarships, totaled over $1.2 million.
Rabbi Joshua Heller, father of graduating eighth-grader Ezra Heller, could not be at the ceremony in person, but sent a prerecorded video of his remarks instead. Focusing on Parshat Bechukotai, he noted that the students had been, for the past couple years, in their own sort of exile — from school and from normal life.
Rather than dwelling on the negatives, the rabbi made this a point of optimism for the students: “Exile is always temporary. You always get to go home.”
Judah Becker, president of the student Knesset, started off his speech in Hebrew before switching to English. Becker spoke of his excitement in getting back together with his friends, and how he hoped to hold onto those friendships for many years to come.
As students took the stage to receive their diplomas screens played video footage of their reflections on their time at Epstein. Each student received compliments from their eighth-grade advisor (Robbie Medwed, Debbie Levine or Laura Bidlack), a diploma from Abusch-Magder, and a hug from their principal, Susanna Ames.
The night culminated in a video montage of the students’ years at Epstein, as well as a final call to action from Abusch-Magder: “Take your skills and commit to making the world a better place, like the generations of Epstein grads before you,” he said.
- Robbie Garber
- Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center
- Byer's Theatre
- Epstein School
- Class of 2022
- Green Day
- Time of Your Life
- The Star-Spangled Banner
- Naomi Brager
- Jake Shulman
- David Abusch-Magder
- Marty Kogon
- jewish federation of greater atlanta
- Ezra Heller
- Parshat Bechukotai
- Judah Becker
- Robbie Medwed
- Debbie Levine or Laura Bidlack
- Rabbi Joshua Heller
- Robert Garber