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Senior class co-presidents Ben Kaplan and Shoham Benmelech addressed the dedication crowd on Dec. 13. Following is Shoham’s speech.

I’m no stranger to moving.

I was born in Israel, and moved from a Kibbutz to Jerusalem to Hyde Park to Cambridge to Boston to Skokie. Every new city, town, and, in some cases, farm, that I’ve lived in has lent itself useful in my journey to self-improvement. I find that with each house I call home, I’ve bettered my life and my abilities. This concept is by no means unique to humans; the idea of progress through relocation applies to schools as well.

I moved to Skokie just before I began the ninth grade. During my first day of high school, I was anxious. I didn’t know anyone at the Academy, and as I walked up the stairs to the building, all I could think about was that I had no one to eat lunch with. I expected my peers to be apathetic and indifferent – after all, I was the new kid countless times, and my assumptions in that regard were typically correct. But Ida Crown is not a typical school. Before I even got to the front door of the building, three girls introduced themselves to me, and we bounded into the building together. They demonstrated the fundamental ideals of Judaism before we even learned about them. Already on the first day of school, I saw that the students at Ida Crown are inexplicably nice.

Throughout my time at ICJA, I have grown and accumulated self-confidence as a result of the kindness in this school. The Academy has helped me become the loud, gregarious person I am today. I am talkative – my teachers might say overly so – but I find that every speech, every class presentation, every interaction I have in which I am confident is a testament to who the Academy consists of: inherently good people.

I am honored to be associated with the students here – they are the nicest, most compassionate and genuine individuals I have ever met. It is precisely this altruism that has helped me succeed in everything I do. My move to Ida Crown has improved my life – and now the Academy’s move to the new building will improve the school.

Our community’s kindness will not remain on Pratt. This building will only enhance the already ideal life at ICJA. This building will allow our school to expand its capabilities from within. This building will soon be home to an environment that has no boundaries to its warmth and inclusion. No school deserves this new building more than Ida Crown does.

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but the Academy’s beautiful exterior building finally reflects the nature of its students.

And now, in the middle of my senior and final year of high school, I see that I have grown since my freshmen year. This past August, instead of walking up the stairs to school alone, I stood outside the building doors and greeted incoming freshmen as their Senior Leader. I have faith that in four years, they will find themselves in the same situation I did: better people because of the Academy.

We move because we grow, and we grow as a result of moving. Academy values are known to improve with time, and I’m excited to see them flourish.

This will not be my last move. But I can’t wait to see what our community will gain from it.

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