As the academic year comes to an end, college seniors all over the country will be celebrating their graduations and attending commencement ceremonies. Jewish seniors at UCLA have an additional graduation ceremony to attend— the student-led Jewish graduation that will take place June 18 in the Grand Horizon Room. The event was organized by a group of Jewish student leaders in collaboration with Dean of Students Maria Blandizzi.
Some might argue that organizing a separate graduation for Jews isolates Jewish students from the larger Bruin community. After all, as Jews, we learn from Hillel in Pirkei Avot, “al tifrosh min hatzibur,” do not distance yourself from the community. Establishing a Jewish graduation could potentially separate Jewish Bruins from their fellow students with whom they have spent time learning and maturing academically.
I do believe that creating separations between our community and others at UCLA may cause unnecessary divisions and hinder our growth. However, there is a very obvious and necessary reason for organizing a separate, Jewish graduation. For those Jews who observe Shabbat, there is a serious time conflict for the school-wide graduation ceremony that is set to take pace on Friday night and other departmental ceremonies scheduled for Saturday morning and afternoon.
One of the event organizers, Nicole Mashian, a senior cognitive science major, explained that the purpose of the ceremony is not to isolate students from the greater UCLA community. Instead, it is meant to create the opportunity for Jewish Bruins to celebrate their accomplishments together with friends and family, when they otherwise would not be able to because of their religious observances.
Another committee member, Matanya Goldsman, said the Jewish graduation is a way for Jews to unite as a community because the ceremony provides a unique way for graduating Jewish Bruins to come together and celebrate their accomplishments alongside friends.
I have chosen to attend the Jewish graduation ceremony and feel proud to be part of a strong community of Jews who take value in living a religiously observant life while also celebrating their academic achievements.