Siyyum – High School Graduation
A high percentage of Beth El’s seventh grade students elect to go on to the high school and stay through the twelfth grade for a final year of study with the rabbi as their teacher. The Monday night road to siyyum (completion) involves learning around a seminar table in the library. Students read, ponder and discuss a selection of traditional and modern Jewish texts. We will ask ourselves: “Where do I stand in the world as a Jew?” “What does it all mean to me?” and “How might Judaism be more relevant in my life?”
In January, students are asked to begin assembling their thoughts for their siyyum paper, a graduation requirement. This is not a research paper, rather, it is a thoughtful expression of where the student stands on a Jewish topic of personal interest. Some of the subjects students have chosen over the years include: God, ritual, community, mitzvot, Jewish identity, and the exhilaration of an Israel experience.
After receiving the rabbi’s approval of their drafts, students elaborate on their chosen subjects. They can meet individually with the rabbi anytime in the process to discuss their ideas. Once finalized, the papers are passed on to the siyyum coordinator for editing and binding into a book. While the book at one time was printed for the congregation, it is now offered on the congregation’s website (member access). Copies of the book are printed for the students, their parents, their teachers, the library and the archives.
On siyyum night, congregants, parents, and friends gather in the sanctuary for a Friday night Shabbat service and the graduation ceremony that follows. The siyyum class students read excerpts from the papers they have written, and there is no doubt that what our eighteen-year-olds have to say about their Judaism on this night is a highlight in the life of the congregation….every year.