Rabbi’s Review – May 2019

Commitment of Our Students

Rabbi Douglas Kohn


Confirmation will be marked late in this springtime month of May, and it is a time of  recognizing and celebrating notable devotion and achievement. Not only will three wonderful students—Hannah Brooks, Jordan Davidson and Emmet Paul—lead our worship, teach Torah, and take their places beside those of previous Confirmation Classes, with their pictures on our Confirmation Wall, but they will be part of one of Temple Beth El’s most sacred, ongoing commemorations.

For most, the meaning of Confirmation has been diminished or lost over recent decades. Until the early 1970’s, when bat mitzvah emerged and gender difference in Jewish rite of passage ceremonies dissolved into modernity, the Confirmation ceremony was far more compelling in Reform congregations. It was the time that a class of high school students arose, dressed in white robes, and presented themselves as the next cohort of Jewish leaders. They had competed a course of study, arguably more rigorous than the then-rote preparation for bar mitzvah. And, as a class, the group traveled their temple journey together.

Today, other outside pressures demand far more from our teens. School expectations, social media, extra-curricular activities, and more, drain our youth of their temple and Jewish communal focus, and our Confirmation classes have dwindled in size. This is true not only at Temple Beth El, but at most Reform Congregations across the country. And although the sizes of our classes have diminished, the caliber  of our classes and students hasn’t dwindled in intellect or Jewish experience, or the impact which our students have made, or likely will make, in their Jewish lives. While fewer students are completing the Confirmation program in recent years, the concentrated Jewish dedication, knowledge and commitment of these students may even eclipse that of those of earlier years. Our students are just plain stellar. In our Confirmation Class of 5779, our students this year have devoted countless hours to Jewish youth activities, social justice undertakings, Shabbat attendance, theater and music, complex engineering problems, student leadership, health and wellness, and Torah. They are more than merely the leaders of tomorrow; they are leaders of today, and we applaud who they are and what they have accomplished. We revel in pondering their futures.

Thus, we extend a proud and joyous invitation to our Temple Beth El community, and beyond, to join us—Hannah, Jordan and Emmet, our faculty, lay leadership and clergy—in marking their Confirmation in Judaism at Erev Shabbat Services on Friday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m. It will be an evening of special celebration and one for all of our synagogue community to celebrate together.