Rabbi’s Review – May 2018

My Last Confirmation Class

Rabbi Charles K. Briskin


When I bless Elissa Luce  and Leah Hannah at our Service of Confirmation on Friday, May 11, it will be a bittersweet moment as they will represent my last confirmation class at Temple Beth El.

I blessed my first class of confirmands in May, 2006. I had been warned at the beginning of that year that they were going to be a tough class. Indeed, they were. However, when we stood together on the bimah, and I offered each one a personal blessing, I saw how many of them had been transformed by that experience.

Over the years many of them have stopped by to say hello. Invariably, they always gravitate to their class photograph on the confirmation wall. That group of unruly teens back then are now close to thirty years old, mature and responsible adults who continue to forge their own paths and hopefully still retain some of the lessons that the confirmation class and Torah School provided. After confirmation and then high school graduation, it can be easy to lose touch. In recent years, I have reconnected with a few of my confirmation students from my previous congregation in Northern California. One shared with me that her career into advocacy and justice work was inspired during our confirmation class experience and our trip to the L’taken Seminar for teens at the Religious Action Center. Another student of mine is in rabbinical school.

I have taught confirmation in some format for twenty five years in four different congregations. I know that some of my former students are engaged actively in Jewish life, others not so much yet. This is the case with every confirmation class in every community. A goal of any confirmation class teacher is to kindle a small Jewish flame that will always burn, and in many cases will be ignited into something much larger.

When I look at our confirmation photographs, I see the faces of each teen who spent many hours in my office, laughing, learning, sharing and growing. I appreciate each student’s unique contributions that enriched my experience of being their teacher.  I wonder which lessons they retained from their Torah School experience that will guide and inspire them? I wonder what their Jewish lives will look like years from now?

Elissa and Leah represent the smallest Confirmation Class that I’ve taught. However, it is never about the numbers; rather it is about how each student touches the lives of their teachers and classmates, and it’s about how they integrate their Jewish learning and perspective into the world that they inherit.

I hope that over the years, I’ve made a positive impact on our students. I know that each one has impacted me tremendously; that is one of the greatest gifts that TBE have given me.