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.