The Meaning of Confirmation

Confirmation studies teach young adult Jews that they are entering "a sacred community" in which they can question, challenge, and debate Jewish questions without being judged. The confirmation model also encourages youth to work together as a community to contribute to the world around them. Confirmation emphasizes the importance of communal participation in Judaism. In our confirmation ceremonies, the students lead the service, including the Torah reading. Often a confirmation class focuses on a theme during its studies - such as God, tikkun olam, or Israel - which it incorporates into the confirmation service. Whereas bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies focus on an individual child becoming a Jewish adult, confirmation ceremonies focus on a community of young adults confirming their commitment to Judaism and Jewish living. 

Celebration on Shavuot
Reform leaders drew a parallel between the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai and Jewish confirmation students accepting the role of Judaism in their lives. Thus, it has become customary to hold confirmation ceremonies on the festival of Shavuot, which celebrates the anniversary of receiving the Torah.

 

Achduth Vesholom's Confirmation Program
Students in our congregation are expected to become confirmed in 10th grade. The rabbi teaches the Confirmation students in addition to their attendance in our high school program. The group also goes on a weekend class trip in the spring. The students  participate in the Shavuot Confirmation service under the guidance of the rabbi.

The History of Confirmation

Confirmation started with the beginning of Reform Judaism in Europe.  The founders of the Reform Movement were guilded by a number of principles that led them to the establishment of Confirmation as a practice in the life cycle of the Jewish young adult.  First , it was impractical to continue the observance of Bar Mitzvah in those dayd due to a number of factors.  Our Reform forebears were dedicated to eliminating sexism in Jewish life, whenever possible.  Bar Mitzvah was solely for boys and, thus, exclude girls and young women.  Confirmation offered a service in which boys and girls could particpate together on an equal basis.

Bar Mitzvah also came to be associated in those days with an Orthodox orientation toward Judaism.  We know now that the founders of Reform Judaism did many things to distance themselves from their Orthodox colleagues.  They want to establish their own identity and not be bound to the authority of Orthodox Judaism.  Thus, Bar Mitzvah was elimated.

Second, the German Jewish community in the 1800s was face with an emancipation that permitted them to particpate in general German life as well.  There, they were accepted in the school system and no long spent the majority of their educational time in Jewish parochial schools.  Prior to this emancipation, Jews had ample opportunity to study and learn the traditions and history of our people.  Now their Jewish education was limited to an after school or weekend religious school curriculum, which did not provide nearly enought time for a adequate Jewish education. 

Introducing Confirmation at the high school level, rathan than at the age of thirteen, brought with it an opportunity for further Jewish education beyond the Bar Mitzvah age.  Finally, German Reform Jews felt very much like their non-Jewish German compatriots and wanted to do all they could to indicate that they were simple Germans of the Jewish religious faith, just as there were Germans of the Lutheran faith or Germans of the Catholic faith.  Confirmation was an important life cycle ceremony of the Lutheran church, and so our Reform ancestors felt that it would help link them to their fellow German citizens by sharing that particular custom.

It is interesting to note that Confirmation is now practiced not only by Reform Jews, but by Conservative and Orthodox Jewish congregations as well.  It is one of theose innovations of Reform Jewish life that eventually evolved in all varieites of Judiasm today.