Lisa Langer, RJE, presented remarks at the School of Education Graduation Lunch on May 13, 2019, on behalf of the RHSOE Class of 1994 on the occasion of receiving their honorary doctorates:
Ben Zoma said: Who is honored? The one who honors all human beings. Pirke Avot 4:1
28 years ago, June 1991, our class met in Jerusalem. My friends, I could not have imagined the journey that would unfold for us! We have each travelled interesting paths, professionally and personally. My path has been informed by yours and I am so grateful for that.
Since 1991, we have sustained, supported, challenged, and cheered one another. We are a network of friends and colleagues with deep connections, respect, and awe for our accomplishments. Collectively, we have served the Jewish people well – as educational leaders for early childhood endeavors, families, congregations, day-schools, classrooms, after-school Hebrew centers, camps, our own HUC-JIR, local agencies, national and international organizations, and professional associations. We spread the beauty of Torah as teachers, coaches, mentors, consultants, authors, bloggers, directors, presidents. We are Jewish educational leaders.
Our impact has been vast and profound and deep. We have touched and stirred the minds, hearts, and souls of Jews. Each of us has honored others through our work as leaders, but more so by living as text people - by being authentic and kind, by being ourselves and bringing all that we are to others, every day, in the communities that embraced and supported us.
In turn, we have been honored by all of those who have enabled us to do this sacred work. What a blessing to have launched this journey with each of you and what a special joy to mark this milestone together. Thank you for showing up in Jerusalem in 1991, for stepping into your leadership, for well-representing HUC-JIR, RHSOE, and our Class of 1994, for living your Torah, and for being here today to mark our many individual and collective accomplishments. What an honor!
This milestone has offered me a chance to reflect on my path so far. To recall a variety of challenges, misses, wins, and successes. To remember what I’ve learned from my teachers, mentors, colleagues, supervisors, and students. It has been a gift to reconnect with memories that began during our years on the Jerusalem and Los Angeles campuses of HUC-JIR.
I was compelled to call Sara Lee, the Director of the RHSOE during our student years. What a pleasure to hear her voice and her enthusiasm for hearing mine. She was thrilled to be reminded that our class has reached this moment, sharing that she loved her relationship with us and was feeling very nostalgic. I asked what she remembered about us. With a little chuckle, you can hear her say "Oh, Lisa, I remember your class as being strong and compelling." She wanted us to know how proud she is of us, and I wanted her to know how grateful we are to her.
That gratitude extends to all of the past and current faculty, administration, and leaders of HUC-JIR, but most especially to Michael, Isa, and Bill, our RHSOE teachers. Thank you for seeing in us what we may not have been ready to see, for encouraging us to be our best selves and for insisting that our learning, our Torah, and our leadership would, indeed, make an impact.
And yet… there is so much more to accomplish! What have we learned from 25 years in the field that will inform and inspire our future contributions? Emma, Hannah, Mikah, our newest colleagues, mazal tov and welcome! We are so eager for you to bring all that you have learned and all that you are to our field! We need you; your passion, your experience, your Torah, and your imagination for what is yet to be in Jewish life. The network for HUC-JIR School of Education alumni is ready to welcome you, support you, and learn from you. Together, we have work to do! The Jewish future needs us. It needs the ambition, energy, enthusiasm of our newest colleagues, as well as the experience, insight, and wisdom of those of us having served longer.
Leadership can be lonely – and I’ve learned that this work cannot be done alone if we strive for success. We need each other, we need our spouses and families, we need our professional colleagues, and we need to nurture partnerships with lay-leaders. There is an abundance of talent in our Jewish community. We must harness that creativity and capacity to imagine and lead together.
Today, we will enjoy and be grateful for being recognized and honored for our 25 years of distinguished professional service. Tomorrow, we will return to the work that inspires us and brings us honor every day. Ben Zoma got it right, those who honor others are indeed, honored.