Reflections from TST’s Graduating Seniors

Temple Shir Tikva is so proud of our graduating seniors and congratulate them on the next exciting steps into adulthood and college they are about to embark on! During their final semester, they participated in a Senior Seminar with Rabbi Danny to reflect on what role Judaism has played during their time at Temple Shir Tikva and what it will look like while they learn and grow in college and beyond. Below you can find their reflections:

Allison Chase

As a young kid, I was never excited about going to religious school at Shir Tikva. My friends and I would pass notes and paint our hands with glue so we could cure our boredom by peeling it off. At that age, I found the Jewish language, history, and culture I was learning to be boring. As I got older, I learned to appreciate those years of religious school, because they planted the early seeds of my Jewish journey. I had been learning to love the Jewish community by making connections with the other students in my classes.

In middle school, I met other Jewish teens through extended learning programs at Shir Tikva and bigger social events in the New England region. I started feeling a strong sense of belonging everywhere I went. I constantly saw familiar faces and found friends who shared my passion for profound involvement in the Jewish community and my desire to better connect with my culture.

In high school, I was selected to be Vice President of Social Action on Shir Tikva’s Teen Leadership Board. This position allows me to share my passion and impact my community as a leader. My most significant responsibility is to research and identify organizations and people in need who need our support. I work with like-minded peers to plan social action and community engagement events such as a fall festival for little kids in religious school, a bake sale to support a local food pantry, and a region-wide Halloween-themed sleepover for Jewish teens. When I reflect on my experience on the Teen Leadership Board, it has taught me to take initiative with my passions, work within a team, and lead others diligently.

For me, being Jewish means to have a home wherever I go in the world. I can simply step into a temple or spend time with a Jewish peer and instantly feel like I belong. I think this is something very powerful, and I feel lucky to be able to experience it. When I step into Shir Tikva now, I feel excited for whatever activity I am about to do with my best friends. I get excited to feel included in this special community. Wherever I go in life, I know that my peers in the Jewish community will always have my back. Shir Tikva has taught me this, and for that I will always be grateful.

Sydney Glickman

As a young kid, I was excited to start religious school, until I got there and found myself bored, with no desire to engage in anything we were learning. My friends and I viewed religious school as an opportunity to socialize and were probably viewed as obnoxious by our peers. We would intentionally disrupt the class and annoy our teacher, more times than I’m proud to admit.

As I got older Jewish overnight camp was a major influence on me to get involved and figure out what my Jewish identity meant. While participating in Friday and Saturday Shabbat services, I fell in love with a different aspect of Judaism. I discovered how much I also value the Jewish community – the people, culture, and traditions.

I began to feel a strong connection to my Judaism that I also wanted to feel during the school year. So, when my parents gave me the choice to stop attending religious school after my Bat Mitzvah, I made my decision to continue, which ultimately transformed my temple experience from my parents to my own. Since then, I have been involved with the temple in a variety of ways, currently as the Teen Leadership Board’s Programming VP. In this role I have grown as a leader by collaborating with my peers to think creatively and organize/facilitate events for our community. I am confident that this experience will help me to be a leader in other aspects of my life and inspire me to try new things.

The Shir Tikva community is so special, and I am lucky to have been a part of it for the past 17 years. I know that wherever I go in life, I will always be supported and feel a sense of belonging in the Jewish community. I’m forever grateful for Temple Shir Tikva and the positive impact it has had on my life.

Hannah Gordon

Temple Shir Tikva has meant different things to me at different times in my life. When I was very little, I was a student at the ELC. In elementary school, I went to religious school. At this point in my life, I didn’t have the ability to appreciate the Jewish values I was learning. I didn’t look forward to religious school; instead, I used it mainly as a social activity. Once I started preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, I started to realize that being Jewish was important to me. I started to enjoy learning about Jewish history and culture and the Hebrew language. Following my Bat Mitzvah, I started getting involved with AISH. Middle school was when I really started to appreciate my Jewish identity. Now, as a senior in high school, I am the Co-Vice President of Programming on the temple’s Teen Leadership Board. I am able to work with other Jewish teens to plan fun events for the religious school students at Shir Tikva. Over the years, my interest in getting involved with the Jewish community has evolved greatly, and I am grateful that my experiences at TST have grown with me.

For many people, college is a time to explore new things and take risks, but for many Jews, it is also a time to continue their Jewish journey and to deepen their connections to the Jewish faith. Personally, as a future college student who values my Jewish identity, I am taking Judaism forward with me by continuing my participation in Jewish communities and activities during the next phase of my life. Judaism has been a part of my identity and my life since I was born, and I hope it will continue to be a part of me for the rest of my life. In college, I want to get involved with Jewish life on campus, whether that’s through Jewish student organizations, events, volunteer organizations, or some kind of Birthright trip to Israel.

Regardless of where I end up in the future, I know that along with the Jewish community at large, the TST community will always be a source of comfort and support, and I know they will always accept me for who I am. The connections I’ve made at Shir Tikva are some of the most important to me, and some of these people I met in the ELC. The TST community consists of people that I am always excited to see and spend time with, and I’ve come to appreciate these relationships more than I can describe. Shir Tikva will always be a place I can call home, and I hope that never changes.

Zachary Gordon

I have been a member of Temple Shir Tikva from a very young age. The way I see Judaism has evolved with me as I have grown up and experienced things, like a recent trip to Israel. Through TST, I have learned things like how to read Hebrew, prayers and how to pray, and the importance of community. I have realized Judaism is not only a religion, but also a culture, a much broader community, and a way of life. It is this multifaceted nature of Judaism that I have come to appreciate, more than anything else. I feel a connection to its rich history and many traditions, and religion in my life guides me by providing rituals and numerous values to live by.

Over the years, the religious aspect of Judaism has become more important to me. Celebrating holidays and observing the Sabbath are meaningful parts of my life. On my trip to Israel, I realized the importance of interpretation as it relates to different sects of Judaism. It has recently been a source of intellectual fulfillment to start to understand how Jewish law is received differently by different groups, among other things. I have also learned how past and present hardships, like persecution and anti-semitism, have become a central part of the Jewish and Israeli identity. Consequently, I feel a sense of pride in the resiliency of the people, and a connection to many who have similar values as I.

I am taking Judaism forward with me in a few ways; primarily by committing to various Jewish values, such as t’shuvah and lomed m’kol adam, and the ten commandments in my daily life. However, I will continue to expand my knowledge of Jewish rituals and texts, knowing that it is perfectly acceptable for me to live by my own interpretations. These commitments will ensure I keep learning and growing as a person. I am also planning to be involved in the Hillel at the university I attend, and I hope to join a congregation after that. Overall, I am grateful for the learning opportunities and sense of community I have found at Temple Shir Tikva.

Olivia Lappin

In 2010, when I was in 1st grade, my family decided to join Temple Shir Tikva. In 1st grade, my Jewish life looked very different than it does today, and I wonder what 1st grade Olivia would think of where my journey has led me and what lies ahead.

Outside of this building I have gotten the amazing opportunity to go to Israel and summer camp. I have learned so much during my Jewish journey, but I also know there is still so much out there. Through religious school and being a madricha, I have gotten to work with so many amazing people in the school, both teachers and students. This religious school is the basis for my Jewish learning and knowledge, but also for leadership and teaching. Being a part of AISH brought Jewish education into a new lens and into the context of pop culture, science, and storytelling. I joined STIFTY in 7th grade and have gotten the privilege of not only attending the events, but also making them happen and helping bring a community together.

There is another place that has emerged in my life during my Jewish journey thus far, and that is my summer camp. Sci Tech gave me this amazing community to which I have learned so much about STEM and Judaism both individually and how they intersect each other. Being able to realize how STEM and Judaism work hand in hand has changed my life and has given me a new outlook on life and understanding. Spending my summers at camp, especially with the people, is a great joy and I can’t imagine my life without it.

Along this journey I have also had the privilege to go to Israel twice. These two trips had their similarities and differences, but both taught me a lot. Driving through the Negev desert or walking through the streets of Jerusalem, you take in the rich history and the current culture. I got to learn about the people who lived upon Masada and about the startups growing in the cities. My family is also a large part of my Jewish journey from all the holidays and the big family dinners that come with it, as well as our family coming together and supporting each other for our B. Mitzvahs.

As I look to the future and all the uncertainty that comes with it, I know my Jewish life will still carry on into the next chapter of my life.

Erica O'Donnell

I cannot describe how much Temple Shir Tikva has meant to me throughout my life. It has been with me from before I was born, with my grandparents being some of the founding members. I have grown up through the Hebrew School and am now preparing to leave AISH and STIFTY. My Shir Tikva community has been with me through my best and my worst, my strongest and my weakest.

If you know me, then you have probably heard at least something about my health struggles. Over the course of my high school, I have fought through pain and sickness, and Temple Shir Tikva has been by my side the whole way. When I had my first surgeries, families from Shir Tikva volunteered to bring my family and I food several nights a week for nearly a month, members of the clergy and community sent me videos with well wishes, and my Shir Tikva family just continued to support me in every way imaginable. Shir Tikva has also given me opportunities to give back to others through community service and my time on the STIFTY board, and got me involved in NFTY-NE, which had been another one of my favorite communities.

I have felt so blessed to be surrounded by a group as special and supportive as Shir Tikva, and I can’t thank the staff enough. Not only are Jenna, Alison, and Danny some of my favorite people at Shir Tikva, they are also just some of my favorite people. I would not be the same person today without the influence of Jenna, she has taught me to be kinder, more open minded, and more inclusive.

I am so lucky to have grown up in this wonderful temple, and even as I leave it for my next steps, I feel happy to think about all of the people after me who will get to grow from and be supported by this community the way that I have. Temple Shir Tikva, thank you for everything.

Megan O'Donnell

I am proud to say that I hold Judaism as an important part of my life today, and I value all I have gained from growing up Jewish. While I have learned so much from lessons on Hebrew, Jewish traditions and the history of the Jewish people, the strongest influence on my Judaism has been incredible people who make being Jewish special. I cherish the traditions that my family holds around each Jewish holiday. Each holiday offers values to explore, and many simply provide an excuse to get together. I have been so incredibly lucky to grow up with a Jewish mother who cares that her children remember quality time on the High Holy Days, Hanukkah celebrations in the darkest months, and Shabbat challahs at the lowest moments of our quarantine together. Throughout everything, Jewish traditions have provided respite from the difficulties of everyday life.

Another influence not lost on me is the outstanding Temple Shir Tikva community. Since I became Bat Mitzvah, the temple has given me room to grow and learn more about myself. Starting with AISH, I found friends whose company I enjoyed so much that I couldn’t wait to come back each week. The Shir Tikva staff has created an amazing program that provides meaningful learning while allowing space for everyone to get what they need. Through youth group programs, I have participated in social action movements, led projects to fight injustices, and even lobbied at Congress. As president of this year’s STIFTY Teen Leadership Board, I am so proud of all the leadership that TST fosters by creating a strong Jewish community that is passionate about pursuing justice.

I am incredibly fortunate to have the Jewish role models in my life that I have, and I attribute many of my values to growing up watching their example. I have been blessed by Jewish communities that have helped me explore how I want to live my life and what kind of person I want to be. As I graduate from Shir Tikva Youth Group and prepare to move away from my family, I can only begin to explain all the appreciation I have for the gift that Judaism has been to me.

Lily Rosenstein

Being Jewish, to me, means a sense of community that brings people together. It can help bring a diverse group of people together, because it is a connection you

can find anywhere: no matter where you go, being Jewish, you can have that connection and community. Shir Tikva, for me, has helped me grow that sense of connectedness: the feeling that this is part of my community. It has helped me come more to terms with my Jewish identity and express what that is. I feel this sort of connectedness a little bit in other ways – each community overlaps a tiny bit, but not massively – but the type of connectedness you have with Jewish community is not something you get anywhere else. (After all, Jewish geography is a thing, and who else has that?) For me, being Jewish is important because that sense of community that comes with being Jewish feels so unique. Next year in college I am hoping to join Hillel to find that sense of community.

Gavriel Stock

They say the cobbler’s kid has no shoes, but I wouldn’t happen to agree with that. I think that by having clergy parents, it was likely that I would have been pushed away from religion because it was “expected” of me. This was far from the case.

My parents, both cantors, have raised me involved in Jewish culture and practices for my entire life, and that has helped me form a connection with my personal Jewish identity. They have always been supportive of my decisions relating to my Judaism, from my first fast for Yom Kippur, to my decision to loosen up on kashrut. Because they did not control my Judaism, I have found a connection with my Jewish identity that I feel quite blessed to have.

Although I may not spend Shabbat at the synagogue like I used to, Shir Tikva is an incredibly special place for me. I have quite literally grown up here, having had my mother be the cantor since before I was born. I am beyond grateful to have been with Shir Tikva through every stage of my life, from birth to Bar Mitzvah and now graduation.