Congregation Beth El 10th Confirmands explore Jewish identity

by | Jun 8, 2015 | Other News

On Saturday, May 16, Jaden Baum, Hannah Foleck, Olivia Kamer, Maya Lipton and Matthew Specht celebrated their Confirmation at Beth El with their teachers Leon Covitz and Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz. The 10th graders led nearly every part of the service and read almost all of the Torah portion (their parents helped with a couple of the readings). At the centerpiece of the ceremony and the Confirmation experience were the powerful and insightful essays the students wrote about their Jewish identities and futures.

Jewish identity is the focus of the Confirmation experience at Beth El. Over the course of three trimesters, the students explore as many different aspects of Jewishness as possible. There are lessons about Torah study and learning as an expression of Jewish identity, as well as about Jewish practice and worship. There is also a “Gemilut Hasadim” or “Acts of Loving Kindness” component expressed through volunteering opportunities such as working at Beth El’s NEST Homeless Shelter and visiting Lifenet Health in Virginia Beach to explore the topic of organ donation. The class discussed ways of connecting with Israel and viewed the movie, Under the Helmet, and discussed how the Shoah might fit into their Jewish identity and how to express their connection to Judaism.

The results were obvious in the “Jewish Identity Statement” essays the students produced. Each student focused on a different aspect of Jewish identity, not by design, but because every Jewish person connects with his or her Jewish self in a different way. For example, Olivia Kamer wrote, “Serving the homeless at NEST and visiting LifeNet let me get back into the swing of community service. Helping those who need it and observing people working to save lives made me appreciate Jewish morals. These opportunities shaped my Jewish identity and helped me develop as both a Jew and an overall person.”

Maya Lipton focused on how her Judaism interacts with her secular life, “Another thing that makes me feel Jewish is being one of the only Jewish people at my school. At HAT it was completely different because the whole school was Jewish kids. At my school now a lot of people ask me if I’m Jewish…People asking me about being Jewish makes it apparent to me that I am not like everybody else. Being Jewish makes me different, but it is a difference that makes me feel proud.”

The other students’ topics included Israel and the media, having Jewish friends, family Friday night dinners and honoring survivors of the Shoah by telling their stories when they no longer can. It was clear the students were greatly affected by the Confirmation experience. As Maya Lipton says, “It was one of the most life changing experiences I’ve had.”

by Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz