From left: Caleb Goldman, Jack Brinkley, Graham Pake, Drake Suddreth, Ben Goldman


Rabbi Judith Schindler led Congregation Emanuel’s May 12 Shabbat service to honor five high school seniors.

“Today we not only celebrate Shabbat, but we celebrate each one of these boys – soon to be high school graduates. As a congregation, we reflect on the years gone by as our five graduates have turned from toddlers to boys to B’nei Mitzvah to high school graduates,” Schindler said.

The students honored during the service were: Jack Brinkley, son of Jennifer and Bill Brinkley; Benjamin and Caleb Goldman, sons of Marie and Mark Goldman; Graham Pake, son of Wendy and Lee Pake; and Joseph “Drake” Suddreth, grandson of Jack Celnik.

“Celebrating Sacred Moments,” the theme of the service from Parashat Emor (Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23), began with songs led by Cantor Mitch Siegel. “As we celebrate the beauty of this sacred time, we sing May Yafeh Hayom – how beautiful is this day.”

Schindler, Rabbi Emerita of Temple Beth El and Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University of Charlotte, reminded the congregation: “Time flies and when we allow time to pass by without awareness, we miss the miracles of life – both big and small.”

The rabbi also offered words of wisdom to the students. “All of you should celebrate your dreams. Celebrate your goals. But don’t be afraid to change your major if it does not feel right. For time is sacred and life is sacred and you need to feel a passion for what you study, for the work you plan to do, and for the difference you plan to make.”

Each senior honoree led a portion of the service, beginning with Brinkley’s reading of the Hebrew prayer, V’ahavta. Caleb Goldman led the congregation in the reading of the “Prayer for our Country.” Ben Goldman read the “Prayer for Israel” and Drake Suddreth led the congregation in the responsive reading of the “Prayer for Peace.”

As she shared insights into the week’s Torah portion, Rabbi Schindler related the lessons of moving forward and keeping a sacred calendar to the importance of sanctifying time and marking the moments of our lives. “As Jews, when we arrive at the summit of sacred time, we are meant to stop and look out to appreciate its beauty,”

Schindler referred to the seniors’ climb of a metaphoric mountain of achievement. While encouraging them to celebrate this milestone, she also reminded the seniors that “life is not about climbing Mt. Everest alone. It is about taking others with you on the journey. It’s about creating a society in which we do not abandon anyone, but embrace all. As you find your direction, help others to find their direction too. And as you do, you will climb summits, again and again, not alone but with others by your side.”

Introducing the Kaddish to commemorate and honor loved ones who have passed away, Rabbi Schindler recognized the birthday of Saul Gordon, who passed away on January 10. “As Jews we count days by counting up. Psalm 90 says, ‘Teach us to number our days so that we may acquire a heart of wisdom.’ Saul Gordon was one who counted his days and who made every day count. Today would have been Saul Gordon’s 89th birthday. He lived a life of service to Statesville. He lived a life of love for his family and for all. One of his employees described him “as a giver not a taker.” May we all follow his lead.”

Pake, grandson of Toby and the late Kalman Gordon and Saul Gordon’s great-nephew, led the congregation in the recitation of the Kaddish.

Following the service, the Class of 2017 families hosted an oneg (reception) in Congregation Emanuel’s social hall.