Mazel Tov, Michael Eldred and the Class of 2020!

Graduation is a milestone that marks the completion of one season of a person’s life and points to the next.

Like all life milestones, graduation should be celebrated as a culmination of years of hard work, academic vigor, and intellectual investment. Such celebrations often allow the graduate to be honored in front of and celebrate with their family, friends, and community. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, educational institutions from high schools to colleges and universities had to find ways to celebrate their graduates with the customary pomp and circumstance, without formal in-person ceremonies.

MJTI would like to congratulate all the graduates of 2020. We regret that you are not receiving the pomp you undoubtedly deserve—but are confident that we are leaving the future in talented, visionary, and passionate hands. Your strength, resilience, and perseverance are an encouragement to us all.

We would especially like to congratulate our own 2020 Master of Jewish Studies graduate, Michael Eldred!

We joined the ranks of many other educational institutions by honoring him via Zoom, surrounded by family, friends, and the MJTI community. During the call, staff, faculty, and fellow students shared memories of teaching or studying with Michael during his years at MJTI. We all also offered words of praise for Michael as well as words of encouragement as he looks forward to the next stage in his life’s journey. Many of Michael’s family members and friends also offered their encouragement and congratulations, with his wife having the last word. Though the march across the stage has been postponed until it can be done at a time the degree can be physically conferred, the virtual celebration marking Michael’s milestone was a special moment; Michael was surrounded by family, friends, faculty and colleagues who had the sole goal and desire to bless Michael at this special time.

Michael and his wife Jaimee at the MJTI Zoom Virtual Graduation.

Here are some of Michael’s words in response to virtual graduation:

“You are the company you keep.”

Similarly, King David outlines this in Tehillim 1:1 (Psalm 1:1), “The praises of a man are that he did not follow the counsel of the wicked, neither did he stand in the way of sinners nor sit in the company of scorners.”

The praiseworthy or blessed (Ashrei) path and the opposite path both have a trajectory and it begins with those you choose as friends, counselors, and guides. Even though you can’t choose your family, you can still choose the council you keep.

My accomplishments then are a reflection of you; my family which has stuck by me, friends who have supported me, and mentors who have spoken the words of truth in love. My success, therefore, is reflected in the wise persons with whom I have surrounded myself. Since the choice of such wise persons appears to have been orchestrated rather than of my own doing, even in this I can claim very little except perhaps in being receptive to your wisdom, compassion, generosity, and love.

We look forward until we can hand you your degree and shake your hand in person. Until then—mazel tov, Michael!

For more mazel-tov worthy articles, read our interviews with MJTI grads Yahnatan Lasko and Michael Hillel, read about Mark Kinzer’s debate with N.T. Wright, or brighten up your day with a good news flash!

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