Two happy grads: Noah Schwartz, left, and Aryeh Lande, right, are all smiles after celebrating their confirmation. Courtesy of Daniel Malinksy
Confirmation is a staple of teen education in Reform Judaism. It is the time when sophomores, in many communities, spend the year doing social action and learning about a variety of aspects of Judaism. It marks a transition to informed, adult conversation about Jewish practices and beliefs. As students, we grow and learn throughout the year, shaping how we view Judaism for the first time through our own eyes rather than through blind acceptance of what we were taught as children. We confirm our beliefs and, therefore, the event is called confirmation. In the early 20th century some Reform rabbis thought of confirmation as a substitute for a bar or bat mitzvah, but since then it has universally become an addition to the traditional milestone. In many temples the confirmation year concludes with a ceremony before the congregation where each teen presents a statement of his or her thoughts, values or Jewish journey in the last step toward reaching full Jewish adulthood. Two confirmation speeches appear below. —Aryeh Lande
We Shall Overcome
By Aryeh Lande
I believe in the future of America. Across our country, new, and often provocative, ideologies have surfaced as resentment against our current political structures with their precise and manufactured platforms of the traditional politicians. In the past few months, the political landscape has changed right before our eyes. The country has stood in disbelief as Donald Trump has swept across the nation on the back of bigotry and hatred. His unfiltered and outspoken approach has led to insults aimed at Muslims, women and African-Americans. The people of this great nation came out and voiced their frustration by making him the Republican nominee. As a result, he has polarized Republicans and Democrats alike, causing a ripple so great that friendships and simple camaraderie have been exhausted, even violence spawned.
On the opposing side, Hillary Clinton came into this year as the de facto nominee, but a persistent Jew out of Vermont emerged AS a contender. Bernie Sanders has sparked a debate within the Democratic Party over super delegates, Wall Street and socialism. All this divisiveness is worrisome to me. Looking back at these past few months, I see the deep pain in the subjects of angry speeches aimed at gaining just the few votes necessary to win a town, twisted statements used to win a district and deceitful lies brought about to win a state. I am most outraged that Trump has gone after immigrant communities as my father, as well as many of my friends' parents, are immigrants. There are many stories of children who fear they will be deported if Trump becomes president, and it is a horrifying premise that immigrants bring crime and take away from American values when, in fact, they strengthen them. Looking ahead, I see a road that offers no immediate remedy for the deep wounds in our communities caused by this election cycle. It is a sad but true reality.
I am not going to stand here today and say how hopeless we as a country are, however, because I have faith that ultimately we will persevere. I say we put politics aside and focus on repairing shattered personal relationships. For what will we have gained if we fight futilely for the next four years just to watch a victory speech but not fight for the ever-lasting relationships with our neighbors? In Judaism we are taught that everyone is created in the image of God. We all have a common thread that unites us in goodness and peace. There is no need to defile our sacred bond with ugly rhetoric and divisions. If we heed the ideal of embracing everyone for who they are, we can stamp out alienation and create a United States of America once again. This is what I believe.
Israel And My Place In the Tradition
By Shuli Weinstein
From my earliest childhood years, one of my biggest dreams had been of traveling to Israel. In elementary school, I envied the kids who had been fortunate enough to travel there with their families. And for years, I counted down the years, months and eventually days to my first trip to Israel in 2012. When the day finally came to board the plane, I was bursting with excitement. A moment I will remember forever is when the first bit of Israeli soil came into view from the plane. The moment I saw the split between the Mediterranean Sea and the Tel Aviv coast, I began to cry quietly to myself. I was just so excited to finally experience first-hand the amazing land that I had heard so many stories about. I imagined in my head the forefathers and biblical characters that had walked this ancient land and in those few moments I realized the importance of keeping the Jewish religion strong and alive. There is so much history in this religion that at times, I had taken for granted; at that moment, I realized it could not be lost. (Photo: Shuli Weinstein, left, with friend Sophie Roling. Courtesy of Shuli Weinstein)
As a teenager, I am discovering my place with my beliefs in the Jewish world. At times I may disagree with Jewish decisions made by my parents, but through traveling to Israel and building friendships through the confirmation class, I have come to realize that the continuance of Judaism is necessary. And to keep Judaism going, my peers and I must be the strong link in the chain. I will continue to experiment with certain rituals and traditions that connect to me the most, but I have learned that many of the core practices — such as attending High Holiday services, celebrating Passover and doing something each week to honor Shabbat, such as Friday night dinner — must stay put in order to continue the Jewish religion as we know it.