Most high school reunions are months or even years in the planning. Not so the 10-year reunion of the Class of 2001 at the Jewish Educational Center’s Bruriah High School for Girls in Elizabeth.
The idea for the gathering came up at a Shabbat lunch in October. Elana Krul Katz was at that lunch, and when one person suggested there wouldn’t be much interest — given how few JEC class reunions there have been in the past — she offered to prove them wrong.
Armed with a list of e-mail addresses, she sent out a “Hold the Date” message just a few weeks later, and on Saturday evening, Jan. 7, 42 out of the 83 class members turned up at their old school on North Avenue for a great big party in the ballroom.
It wasn’t that hard to organize, insisted Katz, now a teacher and a married mother of two living in Teaneck. “These days, with Facebook and all the technology, it’s easy to keep tabs on everyone.” With help from friends, she and her committee tracked down all but five of their class members. Those who could come did — some from as far afield as Buffalo, NY, and Chicago and Florida.
Husbands and children were not invited. Katz said the most wonderful thing about school was the “unconditional affection” the classmates felt for one another, and that was what they wanted to celebrate. “The friendships between the students were so strong and loving,” she said. “There was none of that meanness you hear about between teenage girls in other places.”
They were joined by administrators and teachers, including their history teacher, Joel Glazer, who served as master of ceremonies. “He was always very entertaining in class,” Katz said, “and he was hysterical as the emcee.”
Among the highlights of the evening were the videos of mother-daughter performances and other events from their time at Bruriah. Given that not much time has elapsed, appearances hadn’t changed much, Katz said. But what did underline the time elapsed since graduation was the talk by school principal Rabbi Joseph Oratz. He recalled how he told them then about “the butterfly effect,” how each person has the ability to send out ripples with far-reaching results.
And the graduates have had effect. Among other professions, the girls of 2001 have become doctors, teachers, and therapists of various kinds. About 70 have married, and many have children, but almost all are also working outside the home. And, Katz said, apparently all have been to Israel.
Katz had a special gift for attendees: a book she had compiled listing where the graduates are now, their favorite memories from school, and a favorite recipe. Despite the rush, she got 56 entries for the book. With the confidence of her generation, she insisted that none of this took much effort. “I created a vision, and I got it done,” she said. “As a teacher, that’s what I do.”
Lois Schlar, recently appointed director of alumni affairs for the JEC, helped organize the event — though she said Katz did almost everything. She said the JEC hopes to have more get-togethers for its graduates, the men as well as women, and to build on the kind of bond these women were celebrating.
Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz, the associate dean of the JEC, said he thought the event was a wonderful success. “We have wanted to start an active alumni association for a number of years,” he said. “Finding funding for staffing has always been a challenge. With the realignment of executive positions at the JEC, we were able to use some freed-up money to hire a part-time alumni director. This particular reunion was in a nascent state when we hired Lois. She took on the project and together with Elana brought together a wonderful program.
“Our hope is that with a dedicated staff member, we will be able to reach out proactively in the future,” Teitz continued. “In fact, we are already formulating plans for reunions of the classes of 2002, on their 10th anniversary, as well as looking into reunions for classes on their 25th, 36th, and 50th anniversaries. Perhaps the most exciting project we are contemplating is the 50th anniversary of Bruriah’s founding, to take place in the fall of 2013.”