How Do We Say “Graduation” in Hebrew?

Rabbi/Cantor Meeka Simerly

She’elah (a question): Eich omrim “Graduation” be’Ivrit? (How do we say “graduation” in Hebrew?)

Ha’T’shuva (the answer): ka’sheh lim’tzoh milah achat. (It is hard to find a ‘one word’ answer.)

In 2004, I finally stood proudly on the stage of San Jose State University to accept my Cum Laude Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. Very few people knew this was my first experience with such a wonderfully orchestrated, official, yet emotional (and long!) ceremony. Here is a “shocker:” As an Israeli, I never had experienced an American-style “Graduation,” and I honestly didn’t know what to expect.

In Israel, the experience of school graduation is different: we may have a party, a yearbook, our parents give us a gift with a hug and say: “Kol Ha’Kavod!” (Similar to “yasher ko-ach!” Go from strength to strength!), and that’s about it. Sometimes, high school graduates would take a trip to Nepal, India, South America, or other countries that we consider “exotic” because they need a little break before beginning the next stage of their lives, their army service. Questions that occupy the young minds of Israeli high school graduates include:

“In which armed force branch will I serve? Air Force? Navy? Cavalry? Shall I be kravi (combat) or jobnik? (Non-combat position, a secretary for example.)

Completion of high school, college (BA) or graduate level programs, are not celebrated with the same grandiose ceremonies as they are here. That is why there isn’t a specific word for graduation in Hebrew, with the same connotation as in the United States.
However, in Israel a magnificent ceremony happens in the army upon finishing weeks of tironut (boot camp: every division of the IDF has its own number of training weeks). There are mits’a’dim (parades, marches), marching bands, special celebratory uniforms, and flags, with everything at the highest level of military presentation. The parents are ferklempt, crying with pride, filled joy and nachas.

I tried to describe to my family in Israel my excitement in graduating SJSU, telling them how amazing the ceremony was, that we all threw our hats in the air, and that there were 5 hours of speeches, etc. They asked, “Like on TV?” I could tell that even though they tried, they couldn’t fully understand what the big deal was! I felt hurt at first, but then I understood.

In Israel, graduating high school means one thing only: “our son/daughter is heading for 2-3 years of army service.” Graduating university means, “Now the real challenge begins: finding a job to support a family.” Somehow an ending of a schooling period does not register with Israelis as “an end,” but only as another step into the next stage of either more schooling or finding a job.

While in modern Israel many universities and colleges (mich’la’lot) have nice graduation ceremonies – we still don’t have a specific word for this occasion, which would translate directly into the word in English portraying “Graduation.” Perhaps this approach stems from the fact that Jews are mandated to keep studying throughout their lives: we value the process and not the accomplishments. We value the essence of learning and not the “goal” because the goal is to “continue to study” all year around for the rest of one’s life. Even though graduation is important and should be celebrated, we acknowledge the accomplishment but not the end (of study).

The Talmud (Berachot 63a) states: “Anyone who is negligent in their Torah study will lack in strength on a day of distress.” This can be understood in two ways: a person who is negligent in Torah (teaching and learning) will lack in their strength of character and will not be able to withstand the difficulties when challenges require us to come up with intelligent, learned solutions. Or, we can learn that a person who is negligent in their Torah study (expanding one’s horizons) will lack necessary qualities on a day of distress and danger and will not be able to survive.

When I graduated both programs from the Academy for Jewish Religion CA (AJRCA) with Masters, Cantorial as well as Rabbinic degrees, I didn’t even try to explain to my family in Israel the tremendous value these events held for me. Instead, I simply invited them to watch it via Skype.

As we enter the “season of graduations,” from High School to College, from Middle School to High School, from Kindergarten to First Grade etc. – I am filled with a sense of nachas: this year, for the first time, I’ll get to take part in the graduation of our 4 Temple Beth Tikvah Religious School graduates, who kept up with their Jewish education thru 12th Grade. During my last sessions with these Fab Four young men: Adam Lang, Matthew Schwed, David Skolnick, and Scott Moroch, I must admit that I have had a real sense of “missing out.” This past year I got to know them a bit, but not nearly enough. Nonetheless I became so fond and impressed with the quality of their character and greatness of their souls. This feeling is accompanied by a mixed sense of pride and regret that I didn’t get to ‘hang out’ with them more at our Temple.

I also want to congratulate our 10th graders, who will soon become Confirmands, and our 7th graders, most whom have already had their Bat/Bar Mitzvah celebrations. With this past year of transitions, I regret that we didn’t get to spend more time together. Nonetheless, I am hoping that next year this will change, and you will all come back for our newly forming Youth Program. 7th graders: your Jewish journey has just begun, and I am so looking forward to getting to know each of you and your family members during the next five years of your future Jewish education at our joint program with Shomrei Torah. 10th graders: our new combined high school is sure to bring new opportunities for fun, education and exciting adventures. Join us!

And as I am about to have my own little “graduation” celebration (completing one year cycle as Temple Beth Tikvah’s rabbi!), I want to say how grateful I am to each and every one of you who have been so helpful, accommodating, kind, and supportive of Dave and me as we have begun our joint journey with this wonderful community, our House of Hope, Beth Tikvah. I truly feel blessed and so fortunate to have been accepted into your midst. On behalf of Dave and myself, we want to say, “Thank you, todah rabah.”

I will end with one of my all-time favorite quotes, which reflects how I feel about the process of teaching and learning: it is not a Jewish quote per se, but inspiring to me nonetheless:

“Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.”
—Benjamin Franklin

Happy chapter-closings, happy beginnings, happy graduations, and happy summer!!

Your loving Rabbi Meeka, May 2017

May-June 2017 Bulletin

House of Caring…

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Compassion and caring are at the core of everything we do at Temple Beth Tikvah. Meet the heart and soul of our House of Hope by visiting our Our Clergy and Staff page.

House of Study…

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Temple Beth Tikvah proudly continues the ancient Jewish tradition of lifelong learning. Visit our Education page to learn more about our education programs.

House of Gathering…

Temple Beth Tikvah schedules a continuous selection of fun, educational, and inspirational activities for the entire family. Visit our Events page to see the full temple calendar, and visit our Bulletins page to learn more about upcoming and past events.

House of Worship…

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Our worship services at Temple Beth Tikvah are a joyful experience. You’ll find the full range of services on our Worship page.

House of History…

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Temple Beth Tikvah has a rich history of Tikkun Olam and social involvement. Visit our History page to learn more.

House of Hope: Your Spiritual Home

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As you learn more about us and experience all that Temple Beth Tikvah has to offer, we hope that you’ll consider joining our House of Hope, to make it your spiritual home. Learn more on our Membership page.

March-April 2017 Bulletin

Feasting and Silly-Making

purim_meekaIn Megilat Esther (scroll of Ester), we read that Purim is a time for “feasting and silly-making,” as well as sending baskets of food (mish’lo’ach m’anot). In addition to reading the whole M’gillah, we are to dress in costumes, poke gentle (loving) fun at ourselves and those around us, and have fun at a variety of parties. Many communities use this holiday as an opportunity to “unleash” hidden passionate acting skills to participate in “Purim-spiels,” silly theatrical adaptations of the story of the M’gillah. As part of the carnival-like atmosphere of Purim, many of us children of all ages wear costumes and engage in “silliness.”

From a practical perspective – with chillness of winter – time to take off heavy winter coats and galoshes – and have fun!!!!

The following is a VERY SERIOUS (!) form!
We are in desperate need of your opinion!

Send it back in by 6776!!


During the last High Holiday season, many members of TBT expressed concern to us over the seating arrangements. In order for us to place you in a seat that will best suit you, we ask you to complete the following questionnaire and return it to Rabbi Hammantushy, The III, as soon as possible.

1. I would prefer to sit in the… (Check one)

___ Talking section
___ No talking section

2. If talking section, which category do you prefer?

___ Stock market
___ Sports
___ Medicine
___ General gossip
___ Specific gossip (choose)

___ Rabbi Meeka
___ Cantor Romalis
___ Rabbi Meeka’s attire
___ Cantor Romalis’ shoes
___ Real estate prices
___ Fashion news
___ What others are wearing
___ Your neighbors
___ Your relatives
___ Your neighbors’ relatives
___ Presidential election (uh oh)

3. Which of the following would you like to be near for free professional advice?

__ Doctor
__ Dentist
__ Nutritionist
__ Psychiatrist
__ Podiatrist
__ Chiropractor
__ Personal trainer __ Stockbroker
__ Accountant
__ Lawyer:
__ Criminal
__ Civil
__ Real estate agent
__ Architect
__ Plumber
__ Golf pro [tentative; we’re still trying to find a Jewish one]

4. I want a seat located (Indicate order of priority)

__ On the aisle
__ Near the exit
__ Near the window
__ In Aruba
__ Near the bathroom
__ Near my in-laws
__ As far away from my in-laws as possible
__ As far away from my former in-laws as possible
__ Near single men
__ Near available women
__ Where no one will notice me sleeping/snoring during Rabbi’s Sermon

5. Please do not place me anywhere near the following people (use additional space on back of form – it is probably needed):


Your (real or stage) name: _________________________________

Purim Spiel Pledge (sorry, we don’t accept gelt) $____________________