Siyyum is the Hebrew word meaning “conclusion” or “graduation.” It is also the name of a ceremony held at the completion of studying a tractate of Talmud, whose liturgy expresses the following hope: “May it be Your will, Lord my God and God of my ancestors, that just as You have helped me conclude this tractate, so may You help me begin and complete other sacred works and holy books, that I may learn and teach, observe, do and fulfill all the words of Your Torah, in love.” The spirit of the Siyyum ritual emphasizes not only the attainment of one’s goals, but the charting of new paths into the future. No religious concept more fittingly describes a program designed to celebrate the transition of Jewish teens from high school to college.
At the Jacksonville Jewish Center, Siyyum is the name of our 12th grade program, which serves as a capstone to Setzer Youth Education. The high school seniors who participate in the program decide upon a project of social action to address needs within the larger Jacksonville community. Through informal study and dialogue, Siyyum fosters leadership skills among young adults and strengthens their connection with Jewish identity as well as the ethical imperatives of our tradition.
With thanks to the generosity of the Zimmerman Family Foundation, Siyyum participants receive a full scholarship to attend the Panim el Panim seminar in Washington, D.C. at the end of their junior or during their senior year of high school. This outstanding 3-day program enables students to interact with a broad network of teens from around the country, while exploring the linkage between community service, political action and Jewish values. Participants meet with Jewish leaders of national prominence, as well as their own congressional representatives and senators, to lobby for legislation addressing issues such as hunger, homelessness, health care, and education among others.