Special graduations held for US Jewish students because of Shavuot

Universities across the country scheduled alternative ceremonies, in one case even for a single student.

Jewish students from Binghamton University graduate at a special ceremony last week (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jewish students from Binghamton University graduate at a special ceremony last week
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Several universities across America held special graduation ceremonies for Jewish students who were unable to attend their graduation because it fell on Monday – the second day of Shavuot.
Rockland Community College in New York, California State University in Northridge, Binghamton University, Hofstra University and the University of Rochester were among the universities that held alternative ceremonies.
Chabad on Campus and Hillel worked with university and college authorities to give observant Jewish students alternative graduations around the US.
Shmaya Honickman, a student at Rockland Community College, was dejected when he realized that his graduation ceremony clashed with the Shavuot, which prevented his family from attending.
“There would be no one for me to celebrate it with. It would have been me alone up there and it feels like something that’s meant to be with friends and family because I didn’t do it alone – they were the ones that carried me,” Honickman told Rockland Journal News.
The campus Rabbi Dov Oliver stepped in and took it upon himself to work with the college leadership, and together they organized an alternative graduation ceremony for the observant Jewish students last week, with the college president and provost taking part.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, 40 Jewish students were presented with their doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s degrees at another alternative graduation ceremony at California State University in Northridge.
Binghamton University held an alternative ceremony last Friday, with around 50 students taking part. University president Harvey Stenger spoke about the importance of faith.  “Through your faith you stand apart from most of your fellow students. Recent surveys of religious detachment tell us that millennials in particular are less likely to identify with a religious faith. I think we lose something as society becomes more secular. I still believe religion is a positive force in an individual’s life. One that can shape and develop one’s character and values.”
Rabbi Aaron Slonim, the executive director of Chabad at Binghamton who played a major role in helping to organize the alternative ceremony, explained: “As I fielded calls from anxious parents who cited financial constraints and other difficulties, I felt strongly that I had to try to help make this joyous event less stressful for these families.”
An alternative graduation ceremony was also held at Hofstra University while the University of Rochester held a special ceremony for just one Jewish student, Jacob Niebloom, who independently arranged it with the university administration.