Graduates from six Touro graduate schools participated in a virtual commencement ceremony on June 16, where they were invited to close their eyes and imagine themselves at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall.
“This is a day of dreams come true,” said Dr. Nadja Graff, vice president of the Division of Graduate Studies in opening remarks to the Class of 2020. “Today more than ever, our city, state and nation need dedicated, well-prepared, courageous and caring leaders. As you join the ranks of practitioners and policymakers, accept the challenges ahead and be confident in the knowledge that you have the skills, dedication and determination to make a positive impact on our global society.”
After reflections from six class speakers, over 1,000 graduates from the Touro College graduate schools of business, education, Jewish studies, social work, technology and health sciences were congratulated by Patricia Salkin, provost of the Graduate and Professional Divisions, who then awarded their degrees along with instructions to turn the tassels on their caps from right to left. The ceremonies concluded with the familiar Pomp and Circumstance, as each graduate was recognized for their achievement.
“I am confident we have instilled in you a commitment to serve humanity,” TCUS President Dr. Alan Kadish told the graduates. Noting the particularly challenging times, he called on the graduates to join Touro in finding a solution to end racism.
Elisheva Friedman, Graduate School of Jewish Studies valedictorian and student speaker, recounted a meaningful lesson she learned from studying Jewish history. “The struggles and challenges that we face do not have the power to determine our happiness and success,” she said. “We need to make the conscious decision every day to use the skills we’ve been given. We will be tested, but we are also capable of overcoming every obstacle in our way.”
Sarah Fishman, MSW, was chosen student speaker by classmates at the Graduate School of Social Work. She displayed a passion for helping others while graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Before coming to Touro for social work, Fishman explored a business career and taught American history at two all-girls schools in Brooklyn. “As a teacher, I saw the need for better mental health care for my students and decided I wanted to improve the lives of children and teenagers,” she said.
David Regev also finished with a 4.0, and an M.A. in Web and Multimedia Design from the Graduate School of Technology. He shared his love for UX (user experience) design, creating a digital product so it works to help people achieve their goals. He also shared that he lost his mother to COVID-19, though he and his grandmother survived. Regev used the example of the coronavirus and the host of institutions involved with it — hospitals, medical schools, insurers, government, and their websites and apps — to illustrate his point. “Together they form one very large system. Anyone can research and find opportunities for improvement. The potential to help people and save lives is enormous,” he said.
Rivky Goldman was a wife, mother and pillar of her Chassidic community when she realized a need for mental health support in her community and went back to school. She began at Touro’s School for Lifelong Education and then went on to earn her M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the School of Health Sciences. While in school, she organized support groups for women whose husbands or teens were diagnosed with disorders, and directed a parent mentoring program. Goldman said at Touro she learned that to be a counselor means to be a special “human being,” human meaning to “keep our own weaknesses and struggles in mind” and being meaning “being present with the client in the moment and connecting, while maintaining awareness of your own experience and emotions.” So, she concluded, she spent three years in the graduate program “to learn how to be a human being.”
Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 18,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has 34 campuses and locations in New York, California, Nevada, Berlin, Jerusalem and Moscow. New York Medical College; Touro University California and Touro University Nevada; Touro University Worldwide and its Touro College Los Angeles division; as well as Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill. are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System.