A celebration on the road to high school graduation is Confirmation, a highlight of Reform Jewish education. It is the policy of our congregation to require a commitment from parents and child at the time of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to continue religious education through Confirmation which is integrated with Kolel on Wednesday nights, and includes numerous learning and study opportunities with Rabbi Matt and Arnie Rotenberg. Students experience a vigorous course of studies and cement social relationships through informal gatherings leading to the creation of the Confirmation service.
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. It was the feeling of the earlier reformers that the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah was not appropriate for young teens to make any serious kind of commitment to continued Jewish practice and faith. Confirmation, not burdened by tradition could include young women as well as men. In the mid-20th century, when Bar Mitzvah returned to our movement, this time accompanied by Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation at the end of tenth grade remained as a next step in the process of Jewish growth.
Confirmation has been an important moment in the life of our teens and of our congregation. Walking downstairs in the hall you will see pictures in a place of honor representing the many generations of Confirmation classes at Congregation Gates of Heaven. The Rabbi can tell stories of people coming into the Temple and going to find their picture to show a fiancé, a child, or just to reminisce.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the individual child stepping forward into the world of mitzvot – of embracing the opportunity to become a link in the chain of tradition. Confirmation is an opportunity for affirming as a group the values of communal living within Jewish tradition. During the Confirmation year students study with Rabbi Matt and Arnie and strengthen their bond as a class
Confirmation is by no means the final step. When we bless our teens on that day of celebration we are imagining them moving on to a larger community of teens who will experience Jewish people-hood in the State of Israel and continued Jewish growth in our 11th & 12th grade program. Each step, from Consecration to Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation reinforces the notion that lifelong Jewish study is something to be cherished.