Thoughts and Take Aways From the HMJDS Graduating Class of 2015
Each year at graduation time, HMJDS 8th graders reflect on their academic, spiritual, and social journey. Here are a few excerpts from the 2015 HMJDS graduating class. We wish them all well in high school and beyond. L’hitraot! Until we see you again!
HMJDS taught me how to stand up for myself and how to stand up for others. We studied the core value, "Because you were strangers in a foreign land." We discussed how to welcome others, how to be friendly, courteous, and kind. We talked about what it’s like being new to situations and having new people come into our community. I decided to connect this to when I go on to high school, when I hope that other people will be welcoming, and I will do my best to be welcoming, too. I have had a great 9 years at this school through the many ups and downs and hope to carry these lessons and great friends with me throughout the rest of my life.
-Talya and Natan Tapper (Pictured above)
I am able to connect the school’s core values to my everyday life. For example, the value "If not now, when" can be applied to most aspects of my life. I will treasure this value as I enter St. Louis Park High School. There I will remember this value as I plow through my homework. This value can also apply to the necessary skill of time management, which I will need to apply to every aspect of my teen and adult life.
For my entire time at HMJDS I've learned to be proud of my accomplishments and to be happy about educating others. Among other things, these are the tools that HMJDS has given me that I will use going forward.
Because of these amazing teachers, I have such a strong Jewish identity and I am comfortable going out into the world identifying myself as a proud Jewish woman.
My teachers here at HMJDS have helped me to get over my one greatest fears, the fear of failure, while also giving me the tools needed to ensure my success.
One of my favorite things about being Jewish is that it is part of our culture to argue. Not for argument sake, but to express thoughts, ideas, to challenge others and ourselves. I felt acknowledged that my opinions were taken seriously.
Being part of this community has been inspiring. Each individual person is beautiful and it shows.
Work Hard, Have Fun
Daniel Vinitsky Learned the Right Balance at HMJDS
Walking onto campus brought back a flood of memories for HMJDS alumnus Daniel Vinitsky. Daniel graduated from eighth grade at HMJDS in 2005 but has since spent many hours on campus assisting with the HMJDS play as well as acting in local community performances. He now makes a living performing in plays throughout the Twin Cities area and working for the National Theater for Children, helping to schedule tours of educational shows.
Many people at HMJDS helped shaped the man he has become, Daniel said. A smile appeared on his face as reflected on a particular teacher who had a lasting impact on him as a person.
“Mr. Adler was my science teacher in seventh and eighth grade at HMJDS,” Daniel explained. “He was always very passionate about [the] subject he taught, and he set the bar high. But he was also very friendly and open. He was able to create a friendship with his students and helped me see that you can be very serious about your work but also have fun with it.”
Daniel didn’t find his passion for theater right away. He attended the University of Minnesota for theater but shifted focus to accounting and economics. The passion, however, just wasn’t there for him. Remembering what he learned from Mr. Adler, that success should be based on hard work and having fun, Daniel made the big decision to transfer to a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin to pursue his passion.
Daniel offered this for advice for current HMJDS students: “Students should remember to work hard at whatever they decide to do. No matter what it is that you choose, put focused time and effort into it. Whether it is sports, arts, schoolwork, friendships, etc., always dedicate yourself 110 percent.”
Vinitsky is proud of his HMJDS education and hopes that all students will find their passion, work hard, and have fun while pursuing it.
What I Learned at the Day School
HMJDS Alumni Matan Appelbaum Reflects
This spring I graduated college and, for the first time in many years, had no immediate obligations, projects, or work of any kind. Reflecting back on all of the experiences leading up to graduation from Princeton, there were a few parts of my time at HMJDS (then known as MJDS) that proved critical in my growth as a student, leader, and community member.
One of my fondest memories from the day school was a semi-regular occurrence in Mr. Portnoe’s math and Judaica classes, where the structured part of a lesson would end and we would have an open question-and-answer session. Students chose the questions. We might ask to review a difficult concept or inquire about a new, advanced topic. This gave us practice in coming up with the right questions, not just the right answers. Years later, as a mathematics major, I would often work on problems where progress was best made by challenging the questions, or looking to see how far I could push the concepts I learned in class.
The teachers at HMJDS were all extremely supportive of me as a student and encouraged me to engage deeply in what I was learning. They also encouraged me to study the subjects that interested me most, which at the time were math and sciences. My decision to major in mathematics and minor in computer science came partially from the confidence I received from my teachers that I would be successful.
Between day school and Princeton I attended St. Louis Park High School. I went in with a group of friends from HMJDS and remained connected to the HMJDS community and the Jewish community as a whole. The support and connections I had at HMJDS taught me the value of finding a strong community and being an engaged member. At Princeton I sought out communities of value and took on leadership roles in the communities I joined. The volunteer involvement at HMJDS taught me how to connect my volunteer and leadership activities to the needs of the community.
In October I started working as a software engineer at Facebook. I quickly learned my new surroundings and selected a team to join. I am certain the experiences and lessons learned from HMJDS will help guide me as I go forward.
HMJDS alumna and St. Louis Park High School senior Jamie Halper (second from left) at a gathering of National Merit Semifinalists to honor their inspirational teachers in December, 2015. Jamie invited her HMJDS fifth grade teacher Maia Poling, HMJDS math teacher Tim Broms (at right), and St. Louis Park High science teacher Alan Wachutka (far left). Jamie chose to honor these teachers “because each one has helped me love learning,” she said.