Each stitch of the basket

The following is Sam Slater’s graduation speech at Shoresh Hebrew High School in Rockville. The graduation was June 5.

My shoreshim in Shoresh are very deep and something of which I am very
proud. I am the fourth Slater to graduate from Shoresh and I still remember my first
Shoresh class – I was in 5th grade and had to go to class with my brothers instead of
staying home alone. As the youngest, I have made distinct choices all of my life to
distinguish myself from my older brothers – I never played lacrosse seriously nor
continued the dynasty of USY leadership at Beth El, for example. However, I knew
that I couldn’t let Shoresh fall to the wayside in my quest for individuality. The
stories that my brothers brought home from Shoresh seemed both impenetrable and
enchanting to my younger self, and something that I knew I needed.

Now reflecting on six years dedicated to this place, I can only think of a story
that Maryana told us just a few weeks ago, which I hope she won’t mind me sharing.

While in high school in Iran, she questioned her mother about the way they spent
their money. While other families bought summer homes in the mountains and
drove the nicest cars, Maryana’s family sent her to the best private school and spent
vacations in the great museums of Europe. Maryana told us it wasn’t until after the
Iranian Revolution, when she was living in Jerusalem and studying at Hebrew
University, that her mother came to visit her and began listing off what everyone had
lost in the Revolution. Despite all of this, the Harounis hadn’t lost a thing, because
their investment was in Maryana’s development, which could never be lost.

I understand this all the more this spring, at a time of transition after
experiencing my own family’s losses. At each of my brothers’ graduations I had a
different grandmother sitting beside me at Ohr Kodesh. Now all that I have left are
stories, both of my late matriarchs and of my time at Shoresh, and unsurprisingly
these two influences on my life have led me to similar places. When my father’s
mother died three months ago, we brought back the basket that had been used in my
parents’ Navajo wedding ceremony. Each stitch of the basket is like a different story,
a different lesson, and different way of looking at the world. These past six years at
Shoresh have been like adding a new stitch with every class. Every Sunday night I
come home with something new that feels like I’m completing and fulfilling a stitch.
Navajo way, the basket represents your thought process, which always ends with
hope. And it is in hope that I am leaving Shoresh, because I know that the stitches
formed here will help hold me together for a long time to come.

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