At HAFTR High School’s commencement ceremony at Hofstra University, all of the young men and women of the Class of 2021 gathered with their family, teachers and school leaders for the first and only in-person event of this school year.
Principal Naomi Lippman recalled she was struck by this grade’s sweetness, openness and inclusivity.
“Four years later, you have blossomed into a group of talented, accomplished, amazing young men and women and you have retained that remarkable good nature. You have formed meaningful, reciprocal friendships that have expanded and extended across the grade. You have been wonderful role models for younger classmen and you have left a wonderful legacy for the students who will follow your path through HAFTR HS,” she said.
Ms. Lippman acknowledged that although this class’ last year and a half will always be associated with COVID-19, the graduates did not let the pandemic define or discourage them. She recounted many examples of the gratitude, resilience and empathy that they displayed throughout their senior year.
“These qualities — gratitude, resilience, and empathy — are your unique legacy as the graduates of 2021, and they are also a gift for your future,” she told the students. “Long after the pandemic is over, you will be able to summon these extraordinary qualities, these precious inner resources, as you forge your individual paths in your yeshivot, your college communities and your professions.”
Dr. Joshua Wyner, associate principal, noted that “we will always remember the optimism, equanimity and simcha that you displayed during the most complicated times, enhancing our lives and showering us with powerful chizuk. At HAFTR we feel blessed that you were our seniors, stepping up at just the right moment to lead our yeshiva through the uncertainty presented by the pandemic.
“Throughout your years in high school, you took advantage of every opportunity, storing up the inspiration as advanced Torah scholars, fervent daveners, proactive ba’alei chesed, and staunch supporters of Israel. In truth, you brought great simcha to our yeshiva when we needed it most and for that we are eternally grateful.”
In his address, Valedictorian Daniel Singer commended the HAFTR administration for its hard work during the past year and a half, and for keeping school open for in-person learning.
“I am truly impressed and thankful for all of the behind-the-scenes work that you have done,” he noted. “Our grade has dealt with unprecedented challenges and all of the graduates deserve praise for their tremendous strength and adaptability.”
Singer is distinguished by his outstanding student leadership as well as extraordinary academic achievements. He was president of the Deah chapter of the National Honor Society, captain of the College Bowl and Torah Bowl teams, co-president of Speech and Debate, and editor-in-chief of the student Torah journal Haftorah. He volunteered for Tomchei Shabbos and served as a synagogue youth group leader throughout high school.
Next year, Singer will study in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh in Israel, after which he plans to attend the Honors Program at Yeshiva University.
Salutatorian Gabriel Kurlan-der recalled that he has been a junior scientist in HAFTR HS for four years, heavily invested in his scientific endeavors.
“I’ve learned better than anyone that for every one success in the lab there are 10 failures, and those failures are stepping stones to that one success. I’ve failed 100 times in my scientific endeavors, but at the same time I learned 100 things not to do,” he said.
In addition to his remarkable academic accomplishments, Kurlander was fully engaged in student life, serving as captain of Torah Bowl, president of Model Congress, and as a stellar competitor on HAFTR’s College Bowl, Debate, Chess and Math teams. He volunteered for Tomchei Shabbos and i-shine, was awarded a gold medal for math research in the Al Kalfus Long Island Math Fair, and was selected as Student of the Year at last spring’s HAFTR High School Celebration of Excellence.
After learning next year at Yeshivat Sha’alvim in Israel, Kurlander plans to attend the School of Engineering at Binghamton University.
Twenty-nine graduates are the children or grandchildren of alumni of HAFTR, Hillel or HILI. HAFTR congratulates those alumni on the next generation of children to join the ranks of HAFTR graduates.
The HAFTR family is proud of all the young men and women who excel in and out of the classroom, and congratulate the Class of 2021 on their growth in Torah, academics, and the fine characteristics they have honed over the last four years. May their legacy of achdut, enthusiasm, and love for life live on in the halls of HAFTR High School, offering inspiration that will promote strength and courage for years to come.