With Class Stuck at Home for COVID-19, Jewish Day School Brings Mobile Graduation Truck, Ceremony to 85 Student Homes
COVID-19 has sidelined graduation ceremonies around the country, but not so for Yeshivat Noam, a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school in Paramus, New Jersey.
Rabbi Chaim Hagler, head of the school, told graduating eighth-graders, “since you couldn’t come to Yeshivat Noam, we’re going to bring our floating graduation to you.”
He was speaking from aboard a parade float decked out in the school colors of white, blue, and orange and the school insignia. The parade float moved from neighborhood to neighborhood over Sunday and Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. They held 85 ceremonies in front of the houses of their graduates. Rabbi Hagler told the Algemeiner, “We did it once in 85 different ways.” He said what helped made each unique were the families and friends at every stop. “This created the energy and made each special and unique.”
The graduation song “Pomp and Circumstance” played from the parade float. “Each child had their moment and their time,” Rabbi Hagler told the Algemeiner.
“It was incredible to pull up and see the kids’ faces with the excitement in their eyes. We let them know that we were coming, but not what was coming,” Hagler said. The students were instructed to stay inside dressed in cap and gown with a prepared speech in hand.
The graduates emerged from their homes once the parade float arrived.
At each such movable celebration, Hagler spoke with pride at what the graduating eighth graders had accomplished.
On the float was a school podium. One graduate, speaking from it, thanked “families, parents, rabbis, teachers, guests and random people just walking down the street.” There was laughter at the mention of that final group
The idea was the product of a town hall meeting with the school’s eighth grade parents to brainstorm about ideas to make graduation meaningful to the students.
One parent, Chanan Vogel, initially suggested renting a helicopter to fly overhead for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That didn’t happen, but Vogel soon got in contact with a parade float company to custom design the “Yeshivat Noam Class of 2020” float.
Rabbi Hagler said at one ceremony, “We’re proud of you, we love you and will get tremendous nachas from you for many, many years to come.” To emphasize social distancing, Hagler handed down a cardboard cut-out of himself from the float and onto the street where a graduate was waiting for a photo op.
Asked about the role of a day school in the life of a pupil, the rabbi told the Algemeiner, “It’s their formative years. They literally grow up at the school,” which goes from Pre-K to Eighth grade. He said, “This is really leaving home.”
Watch a video of one of the ceremonies below: