Elia Davide Janeš
Elia Davide Janeš - Graduation Address - June 10, 2020
Good afternoon everyone. First of all, I would like to thank the staff for adapting in this chaotic time, to create this amazing graduation ceremony.
Now, a little bit about my development. Back in lower school, I attended Brookside Elementary. I was not respectful of my teachers, I always wanted help to make sure something was perfect, I would work hard but not put anything more than required, and lastly, I would not take part in new activities. If you were to judge me based on my personality, no one would ever suspect that the lower-school me is the same person standing here today. When my parents told me that attending a Jewish Day School was a possible option for middle school, I said, “How is studying a Hebrew Bible going to help me develop?” Little did I know that that little Jewish Day School would help me develop in ways I could have never expected.
It was the beginning of fifth grade and my Jewish Studies teacher was Merav Alterman. At the start of the year, we were given textbooks. The first thought that came into my head was, // Here we go again, rote style learning, nothing different than Brookside Elementary had. Now, Brandeis had the same materials as a public school but how we used those materials was vastly different. We were assigned to research multiple Jewish leaders that interested us from that textbook. Then we learned their perspective, and what their attributes were. So, I found three common traits that I saw over and over again, and those were hard work, sacrifice, and passion. It was just that simple for me, I realized if I wanted to be successful in any field I needed to work hard, be able to sacrifice, and be passionate. This was my first taste of the amount of possible change I could undergo at Brandeis if I was willing.
Then I moved into middle school and had Mr. E as my J.S teacher. He taught us to ask questions based on text, and answer those questions in a formal manner. I was familiar with asking questions. At Brookside Elementary I used to ask questions all the time, but they were usually ignored for time’s sake or very briefly answered. At Brandeis, it was up to me to find the answers to my own questions. Don't get me wrong, my answers were far from perfection, but that was not what mattered to me. What mattered to me was that I was able to answer a question, that I struggled to find the answer to earlier. This feeling of independence and confidence surged in my veins. It was as if everything I wanted to conquer and my path to success had just moved within reach.
When my class and I traveled to Israel I was pushed out of my comfort zone many times. One such example was the Western Wall. When I first approached the wall well I hesitated because I didn’t understand the value, but one of my classmates convinced me to be open. So I joined some dancing groups, I touched the wall, and I prayed. I gained more knowledge about my identity than I had ever had before. That experience taught me that sometimes the places that don’t appear to have a large impact can have the most value of all.
So, yes I do think attending a Jewish Day School and studying a Hebrew Bible helped me become a mature, independent, motivated, and open young man I am today. For that, I thank you, Brandeis.