Senior class co-presidents Ben Kaplan and Shoham Benmelech addressed the dedication crowd on Dec. 13. Following is Ben’s speech.
I find it especially poignant that we have gathered to dedicate our new building on the final day of candle lighting for Hanukah – the festival in which we commemorate the rededication of the Temple. Just a few days ago, I finished writing an article for The Crown Prints, the ICJA school newspaper, discussing the Talmudic debate concerning the order in which the candles of the Chanukiah are lit. What resonated most with me in these lessons is the symbolic act of lighting a new candle each day to seek growth and inspiration. As we open our new ICJA home, we, too, seek the flame of inspiration in the education of students today and for generations to come.
Jewish composer of the Romantic period Gustav Mahler once said, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” That is exactly what we are doing in eagerly moving forward, relinquishing our building of many decades yet carrying with us the fire and inspiration of our traditions. Ida Crown itself is a tradition in my family. A second-generation Ida Crowner, I will soon join seven family members as an ICJA alumnus. From hearing years of stories about their experiences over several decades, I know for certain that we all received that same unique blend of faith, academics, and nurturing. Perhaps, their Friday Talmud class also began with an “Ask the Rabbi” session addressing anonymous students’ questions – all of which are expertly and lovingly answered – and their day may have also ended with a teacher singing “happy birthday” to a student by spontaneously playing his guitar. Without doubt, one of the characteristics of Ida Crown that makes it so exceptional is the community we have with our friends, teachers, staff, and the wider family of alumni. I cannot imagine that a college admissions counselor at many other institutions would visit with a student and his family at their home during summer break in order to include a family member who was sick and unable to attend a meeting at school. I received that gift from Rabbi Fliegelman when my mother was undergoing chemotherapy this past summer.
This high school is special in giving all of us the tools to stay strong in our faith, and the aptitude to continue as lifelong learners and leaders. For many years, all of this has taken place in a building that has served its purpose well. Those were the same walls, floors, and lockers that my sister, brother, mother, uncle, aunt, and cousins called their own. Our experience at Ida Crown, of course, has less to do with the walls than with the words that echoed against those walls, our fire of inspiration. We are privileged to be the first senior class to carry the Ida Crown traditions to this wonderful new building. When my class departs in June, we will leave here with the building blocks and skills – and, yes, the traditions – that will help us cope with a world that is exciting, slightly scary, beautiful, and welcoming, all at the same time.
The education at Ida Crown will continue to be as warm, inspired, and vital as ever, but now this new building can ignite generations to come. For this we most deeply thank you.