Vassar Temple Confirmation

Left to right: Rabbi Paul Golomb, Wayne H. (top); Olivia D, Ally B, Brianna E (bottom).

Left to right: Rabbi Paul Golomb, Wayne H. (top); Olivia D., Ally B., Brianna E. (bottom).

Though bar or bat mitzvah marks the transition from childhood to Jewish adulthood, the decision to celebrate bar or bat mitzvah is usually made by a child’s parents, precisely because the would-be bar or bat mitzvah celebrant is still a child while the plans for the ceremony are underway.

Confirmation, by contrast, gives young Jewish adults the opportunity to make what is often their first major Jewish decision as adults: will Jewish study be a central part of their lives?

Yesterday at Vassar Temple, four young Jewish adults — Ally, Brianna, Olivia, and Wayne — answered that question with an enthusiastic “yes” by leading their congregation in worship and by offering words of Torah.

In keeping with Jewish tradition, their remarks bridged their religious and secular worlds. Neither focusing too narrowly on the minutia of Jewish text nor ignoring their Jewish values, they spoke about human dignity, our obligation to care for the world, and the enduring value of Judaism.

The issue of global climate change speaks directly to our Jewish obligation to care for the world, as Wayne reminded the congregation. He spoke in favor of dealing with climate change now, and not bowing to pressure from those whose financial interests align with dismissing the problem.

The minimum legal drinking age is not a mere number but a decision about people’s welfare, Ally said as she argued that lowering it back to 18 would help people more than it would harm them, and, in addition, that a drinking age of 18 would better match the other rights and obligations that people earn when they turn 18.

School-wide dress codes have significant benefits, Brianna noted, but she still spoke out against them because in her eyes they do more harm than good. They make it harder to hold people accountable for their actions, restrict expression, contribute to inequality between men and women, and even indirectly promote misogyny.

Judaism focuses on this world more than any potential world that might follow, which is one reason Olivia said she was glad to confirm her Jewish identity. For her this was a particularly conscious choice because her family background gave her two clear paths in life, only one of which was Jewish.

“The world is based on three things,” our sages teach: “Torah, service to God, and acts of kindness.” It was a joy for me — and, I know, for the congregation — to see how these four young Jewish adults incorporated Torah and kindness as part of their service to God, continuing a tradition that began hundreds of generations ago, and, thanks in part to them, shows every sign of continuing for untold generations to come.

Left to right:  Ally B., Brianna E., Olivia D., Wayne H.

Left to right: Ally B., Brianna E., Olivia D., Wayne H.

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