Baltimore, MD - June 17, 2020 - The recent graduation exercises of Bais Yaakov Eva Weiner High School will be long remembered as the most unique closing program in the storied history of the school. Conforming with COVID-19 requirements for social distancing and for the donning of masks, the outdoor program was not merely an officially sanctioned event; it actually turned into an exquisite exercise in Kiddush Shem Shomayim, at the same time that it provided the graduates with the sweet gratification of a poignant, yet elegant, closure to their Bais Yaakov experience.
A daunting challenge had presented itself to the high school administration as June was approaching: the senior class had been abruptly torn from their Bais Yaakov moorings, their “home away from home,” in mid-March, never imagining that they would be denied a chance to bid their good-byes and to experience the last exciting and emotionally laden weeks of school. As time wore on and COVID-19 took on greater force, the possibilities for inspirational closing lessons, dynamic programming, and moving farewells, all of which annually fill the spring calendar of graduating classes, slowly vanished. No traveling floats, no car caravans circling the school parking lot could possibly satisfy the students’ need to join together with classmates and teachers for a tearful farewell and a heart filled closure. What to do to address this conundrum?
Administration meetings about the matter yielded an obvious conclusion – if at all possible, a graduation had to be real; virtual would just not do. A late August date would serve as a fallback plan, but was fraught with its own set of problems. Could a June gathering possibly take place with legal sanction? Sure, the original June 10 date was not realistic, but could any June date work? It seemed unlikely, but the high school administration was determined to do all possible to make this happen, if Hashem would will it so.
Daring to dream, one of the principals walked out the parking lot measurements in late May. It seemed there was enough space for a social distance affair. Hoping against hope, tentative plans were drawn up. Then, before Shavous, the big break came, when it was announced that the county was allowing limited, larger outdoor gatherings. Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, Agudath Israel of America Executive Director for the Mid-Atlantic Region, himself a father of graduating senior Miriam, was asked to advocate before the county leadership, with the enthusiastic support of the Bais Yaakov upper administration and lay leadership. But no gathering even approaching the numbers for a Bais Yaakov Graduation had been permitted. Would the county go for such a huge event? Could they trust Bais Yaakov to execute it according to its commitment to safety guidelines?
A Dream Come True: Just several days before the originally scheduled calendar date, a green light was given by the county for the program to take place. Two days later, the Va’ad HaRabbonim added its imprimatur, as well. Notwithstanding the short few days available to prepare, with the students not being able to join at school for rehearsal, added to a discouraging weather forecast, the high school administration nevertheless saw a window of opportunity and preparations shifted into high gear.
The day arrived, with possible thunderstorms on the horizon. Through the afternoon, the school was in contact with the forecasters at the weather bureau, and the final decision to proceed took place seventy-five minutes before the event. So on the originally scheduled date, June 10, the clouds parted, and the One Above shone His countenance on the program and its participants – graduates, parents, and Bais Yaakov Rabbonim and staff.
The exercises then proceeded flawlessly, as if part of a rehearsed symphony. The students marched in both their processional and recessional with pride and exultation, as the truly historic event brought great joy not only to all who attended, but also to the hundreds who watched through live streaming. The program exceeded all expectations with its dignity, precision, and inspiration. When the rains came pouring down seventy minutes after the program’s close, many attendees thought and expressed virtually identical sentiments: all had witnessed another Bais Yaakov Baltimore miracle! But it was only those sentiments that were virtual; all the rest was a real live event, not soon to be forgotten.