Head of School Circle Celebration reaches more people with virtual event


Photo by Harry Davidson

CESJDS celebrates its annual Head of School Circle Celebration over livestream with speeches from alumni and a performance by Shir Madness.

Harry Davidson, Reporter

For the first time online, CESJDS held its annual Head of School Circle Celebration on Wednesday. This event celebrates the success of the past alumni and the lessons JDS has taught them that influence where they are today. 

Every year, three members of the school alumni come and discuss what their life is like now and how JDS shaped who they are. This year featured speeches by Alina Kogan (‘01), a consultant in education and international development, Daniel Lieber (‘04), a computational biologist and Avi Rubel (‘90), Co-CEO of Honeymoon Israel. 

Head of School Rabbi Mitch Malkus believes that this event is a good opportunity for the school to acknowledge the alumni and recognize them as a community.

“We actually have a couple of goals for the event. One is to recognize three outstanding alumni for their accomplishments and the kinds of things that they’re doing in the world. The second is to recognize our donors to the school and thank them,” Malkus said. “And then the last is to bring the entire community: alumni, current families, grandparents, whoever wants to be part of this together to celebrate everything that our school is about by listening to the alumni honorees.”

There were many ways in which this year’s event was different from past years because the event was held online. For example, the school could not have the dinner they typically hold before the event, and it could not be in front of a full crowd in the Beit Midrash. However, the online format allowed for higher attendance because attendees could watch from their homes.

“Typically, we get anywhere between 100 and 150 people in attendance. Last night we had about 300,” Director of Alumni Relations Wendi Kaplan said. “We had a lot of alumni, alumni parents and grandparents attend that usually aren’t and were able to watch the event virtually.” 

The school also made the decision to do a live stream using a production team instead of a typical Zoom call.

“We recognize that there’s probably a little bit of Zoom fatigue going around, and we really wanted to make this a signature event for JDS this year and special and different,” Kaplan said. “So that’s why we had a production team come in and execute it the way we did.”

Overall, the event ran very smoothly and included a video from Shir Madness, introductions by members of the senior class and a video recap of what school has been like on Zoom and the transition to hybrid learning made by the video club. 

“I was a little concerned about [the event], but I actually thought that it went very well, and I received a lot of emails and texts afterward saying that it was a beautiful event, and it was so meaningful,” Malkus said. “So, I think it accomplished our goals. And I also think the advantage was that if you weren’t able to be at the event, now we have it recorded in a certain way and we can make that available.”

Lieber concluded his speech by talking about the impact JDS has had on his life and how his experiences at JDS influenced his decision to become a biologist. 

“JDS taught me to explain the world and also how to find meaning. How to analyze the world and also how to integrate my knowledge. How to understand the world at a molecular level and how to bind together to support one another and to do good,” Lieber said.