Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What is Confirmation?

from the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:

From the desk of …                    
 Rabbi Barry Schwartz

What is Confirmation?

When I work with each bar and bat mitzvah student here at the congregation, I urge them to continue through Confirmation.

Some students and parents know exactly what I am talking about, others have a vague idea, and some are mystified. So a few words of explanation are in order; after all, as I ask our students: if you dropped out of regular school at age 13, would you consider yourself to be an educated citizen? The same applies to your Jewish education, I emphasize. At 13 you are only beginning to gain a mature grasp of your heritage.

Confirmation has its origins in the mid-19th century when the early Reformers in Germany and later America actually tried to do away with bar mitzvah altogether. They claimed that at age 13 a child was too young to meaningfully take on real responsibility. Instead they advocated for a ceremony at age 16 as more appropriate for a teen to “confirm” their faith. It became apparent that bar mitzvah held too much popular appeal to be abolished, so Confirmation was added as a communal, rather than individual ritual. The holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah, was chosen as the most appropriate time for this ceremony. Confirmation students were asked to read the Ten Commandments and the Book of Ruth, both traditionally recited on the holiday, to offer a commentary on their portion, and to publicly affirm their commitment to Judaism.

Confirmation remains a three year course of study (grades 8-9-10) that culminates in a beautiful service that takes place at our synagogue on the Shabbat closest to Shavuot. Students study with me on a bi-weekly basis on Sunday mornings. Bible, history, ethics, theology, current events… all these topics are discussed and debated. All three grades participate in the year-end service; the chanting, speeches, and class song always make us truly proud of our committed teens.

This year Confirmation takes place on Shabbat evening, May 22 (7:30 pm). I invite you to support our youth and see for yourself why we take such pride in them. The involvement of some of our youth as teaching assistants in our school is another positive thing we do. That being said, I will not hide my regret that too many of our b’nai mitzvah choose not to continue with Confirmation, and that we do not have a youth group. We share a common goal of keeping our youth connected through the end of high school. Let’s challenge ourselves to be more creative and committed so that all our graduates can affirm their connection to community and continuity.

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