Touro College Los Angeles (TCLA) conducted its eighth graduation ceremonies recently at Sapper Hall, TCLA’s West Hollywood campus.
The proceedings began with a recitation of Tehillim on behalf of the three Israeli yeshiva students – Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach – who had been kidnapped several weeks earlier. They were later found murdered.
Keynote speaker Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, the Los Angeles-based grassroots organization that supports Israel on campuses with young people around the world, delivered an inspiring address to the more than 200 audience members and the 21 graduates. Rothstein urged the graduates to consider what brought them to this stage in their lives, and to express appreciation to their parents, teachers and friends who helped them reach this milestone. She recounted how 16 years earlier, while pursuing a successful career as a therapist and counselor, she was appalled at the absence of any protest in support of Israel when the Jewish state was a target of terrorists. She recalled the tears of her mother, a Holocaust survivor, while viewing the news during the 1967 Six-Day War.
“You Touro graduates are automatically soldiers in [Israel’s] struggle, and we count on you,” Rothstein told the graduates. “We take heart in knowing you won’t let us down.” She gave each graduate a Jerusalem stone as a symbol of his and her commitment to support in the future.
Valedictorian Chaim Lowy spoke of the Torah’s emphasis on the value of hakarat hatov. Commentators say that the gifts and tithes given to the biblical kohanim were offers of thanks for the blessings that the kohanim bestowed on the nation of Israel. The commentators ask, however, why such thanks were required; after all, weren’t the kohanim commanded to bless the people? They answer that even though the kohanim were doing their duty, one must give thanks for every benefit one receives. Lowy asked his fellow graduates to thank everyone who helped him or her reach this important chapter in their lives.
Dean Esther Lowy and Dr. Aaron Brownstein presented the following academic awards: the Business Major Award to Moshe Cohen, who arrived at Touro from England and became an active supporter of Touro student life in his capacity as student council president; the Psychology Major Award to Rina Kamravvapour; and the Spirit of Touro Award to Illana Drubach, who exemplified Touro’s commitment to community service and to Jewish life everywhere.
Dean Lowy pointed out that the biblical figure, Korach,sought honors– not because he had earned them, but because he believed he was entitled to them. “You will find,” she warned the graduates, “that this sense of entitlement is rampant in modern society. People seem to have all but forgotten the inspiring words of the late President Kennedy: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’ ” She urged the graduates to never overlook an opportunity to grant another person kindness and consideration, for one never knows how and when that kindness will be repaid.
Lowy’s words were precisely the attitude of the school’s founder, Dr. Bernard Lander, zt”l, who never allowed an opportunity to be considerate and helpful go by – even during busy times.