A celebration on the road to high school graduation is Confirmation, a highlight of Reform Jewish education. The 10th grade year, which leads to Confirmation, is integrated with Merkaz, the community’s Hebrew high school, and includes numerous learning and study opportunities with the Rabbis Schultz and Marion and Alexa Cohen. In addition, there is a class trip to Washington D.C. coordinated with the URJ’s Religious Action Center and the creation of the Confirmation service. Students experience a vigorous course of studies and cement social relationships through informal gatherings. It is our hope and expectation that all B’nai Mitzvah remain in religious school through, at least, Confirmation.
Confirmation is a Jewish ceremony generally unique to Reform synagogues. In the late 19th century, when the movement was coming together, it was observed that young men were disappearing from the synagogue after becoming Bar Mitzvah. In fact, many synagogues did not even offer any educational or social opportunities for these newly minted “Jewish adults”; they were expected to start attending Shabbat worship.
Confirmation has been an important moment in the life of our teens and of our congregation. Photos of classes going back to 1915 (although B’nai Israel likely began celebrating Confirmation earlier) are in a place of honor on the wall outside the library. Our rabbis report that when they have an appointment with a couple who is about to get married, they can often find them in that hallway, with one fiance showing the other their picture!
By the end of 10th grade, we believe students have been asking important questions for a while and finding the answers they can use to connect with their Jewish community and to Judaism in general. During the Confirmation year, they spend part of each night at Merkaz (the weekly community high school for Jewish studies) learning with one another. They spend their time with Rabbi Schultz exploring a variety of issues — many of their own choosing.
A highlight of the year is a class trip to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s L’taken Seminar. They spend four days in our Nation’s Capital with more than 200 other teens from Reform congregations across the United States learning about how lobbying impacts lawmaking and how Jewish values can guide us in determining how we should advocate for different causes with our elected representatives.
They explore 12-15 different issues from the perspectives of both public policy and Jewish values. They prepare speeches and on Monday go up to Capitol Hill and argue their beliefs with congressional aides from the Connecticut delegation. Every once in a while, one of our Senators or our Congressman have joined in the conversation. And our teens are taken very seriously. The experience is exhilarating, and it serves to bond the members of the class more closely with one another. It has also led to a few careers in government!
It is a wonderful, joyful celebration as these young men and women say “count me in” to the Covenant.