What is it that you hope your children will achieve through being involved in Jewish life?
Our Grade 10 students discuss how impactful their time has been here at Holy Blossom Temple and on our Israel trip.
After many years of Jewish education, time spent learning in our building, doing Mitzvot and engaged in Jewish life, they tell us how it has affected them, to this moment, as Jews about to confirm their place amongst the Jewish people.
Interested in learning more about the path to Confirmation?
Contact Debbie Spiegel at [email protected].
If I had to choose a temple event that has impacted my Jewish identity it would have to be going on my confirmation trip to Israel. I feel this way because, before I went I felt connected to God in a way that felt far away. Like my messages and prayers were not getting fully through to him/her, I’m not sure why, but it just did. And I didn’t really understand Israel and whenever we spoke about it I couldn’t connect or visualize anything. And for me personally, when I’ve been talking about my “homeland” for 10 years without ever going there, it’s tough to fully understand it. But when we traveled there and my religion was surrounding us I felt a connection with God which was so much stronger than the one I had felt back in our synagogue in Toronto. I felt connected with my homeland and with my religion in a way it is hard for me to describe. When I spoke my limited Hebrew vocabulary to locals and they responded to me I felt yet another connection, a connection which told me that even though we live in different parts of the world, here, in Israel we come together and we unite as one. When we spoke and ate and played with people from Israel, and when they were so accepting of us, it just felt like I belonged there, it really did feel like home. Which again, I guess that’s why it is our “homeland”. All of this impacted me in such a powerful form it pales in comparison to anything I have ever felt. When I’m in Hebrew school learning about Israel is so different than being IN ISRAEL learning about Israel. I got to learn so much in just that one week it was incredible. That trip has matured my Jewish identity and has connected me in several different ways which I feel has made me closer with my religion then I had been.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”What does Israel mean to you as a Jew? What does Israel mean to you as a Reform Jew? What might you say to a peer who is considering a trip to Israel but is undecided? By Max Borins“]
As a Reform Jew, my trip to Israel was extremely fun and meaningful. When I went to Israel in December of 2011, I was extremely privileged to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah there. During my 10 day trip, I had the opportunity to explore many parts of Israel, from Jerusalem to Masada to the Golan Heights.
My trip to Israel was very special and made me feel an especially strong connection to my Judaism as we went to some very significant locations to our religion and our history as a people. If a friend was considering a trip to the Holy Land, I would strongly recommend they go as it is both beautiful and meaningful. I would mention to them some of the highlights for me. These highlights include going to Tel Aviv, a very modern, cool and warm city where you can enjoy the beaches or some of the incredible restaurants. Another very meaningful spot as a Reform Jew was Robinson’s Arch, a section of the Western Wall where I had my Bar Mitzvah service. The reason this is so important is that it allowed me to have a very unique experience of being at the Wall during my service, but at the same time, my family and grandmother were able to stay together, as opposed to having the men and women separated as we would have at other, more orthodox parts of the Wall. Another thing I would mention to a friend in order to urge them to go on this holy pilgrimage is the experience I had at Masada. Masada was a former Jewish fortification, atop a mountain in the dessert. In the ancient Roman period, this place was taken over by the Romans, causing a mass suicide among the Jews instead of being enslaved by the Roman people. Now, going as a tourist to the sacred and historical site was absolutely incredible. You can still see the ramp the Romans used to scale the mountain, and many parts of the daily life of the Jews were still intact, such as the pantry where the food and oil would have been kept.
Israel is an extremely moving experience for all Jews and it is very important to visit at some point or many times throughout one’s life. It is a great place with great people, amazing food, and very interesting religious sites. I strongly urge any Jew who has not yet made the trip, to do so immediately.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”If you could pinpoint one event in your life at Temple (or at a Temple sponsored program) that had the greatest positive impact on your Jewish identity, what would that event or moment be? Please describe this event / moment and its effect on you. By Michael Friedland“]
The one event in my life at Temple that had the greatest positive impact on my Jewish identity was my Bar Mitzvah. The whole experience of becoming a Bar Mitzvah and becoming a Jewish adult was amazing. My Bar Mitzvah made me closer with my family, closer with my friends, closer with my congregation, and closer with my religion. This experience specifically because it was at Holy Blossom Temple made me truly feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself. I felt united with the congregation here, I felt honoured to read from the Torah at services, and I was delighted to do it in front of so many family and friends.
The entire process of becoming a Bar Mitzvah at Holy Blossom Temple was magnificent. From the tutoring with Happy and Dory to the mitzvah booklet, to the services that I attended before officially becoming a Bar Mitzvah, all of these things made the big day, October 22, 2011 so much more powerful. Getting up on the bimah and chanting Torah in front of so many people was just one of the magnificent parts of my Jewish Education and Life at Holy Blossom Temple.
While I have had a lot of great experiences in my life at Temple, (NFTY, High Holidays, Out of the Cold Volunteering, Sunday/Hebrew School, temple retreats, Making interesting Jewish friends, and much more) the moment that had the greatest positive impact on my Jewish identity was certainly becoming a Bar Mitzvah.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”What does Israel mean to you as a Jew? What does Israel mean to you as a Reform Jew? What might you say to a peer who is considering a trip to Israel but is undecided? By Matthew Gotlieb“]
Israel, to me as a Jew means a lot because when I went there with my family and some other people it felt very different and interesting. But when I went on the grade 10 confirmation trip with 6 of my friends it felt fun and awesome because I got to spend a week with people I only see once a week and it was also educational because it was a Hebrew school trip also. Not having my parents right next to me for a week was good in a way because I felt free and not being nagged day in and day out but we did have some responsible adults there with us (Debbie and Lisa). Being with friends and being with family are two competently different experiences and I’m glad I got to feel both of those experiences.
The feeling of being in such a holy place was overwhelming some times and I got to feel a different way that people live every day and some of them don’t have the luxury that I have. It gives me a new way of looking at life. What I would tell somebody who was deciding to Israel is go for it because if you were to ask somebody what their first thought of what Israel is they would say desert and more desert and I would tell them that everything that they think of Israel is wrong.
What Israel actually looks like is green and interesting people all over the place and there is always a surprise around every corner and the food there is amazing and it’s a never ending party with the markets everywhere and the bargaining is what keeps it alive. I would tell them to stop deciding either to go or not and just decided to go because it’s an experience that changes every time you go so every time you go it’s like going for the first time.
It’s a beautiful place and is just utterly amazing and I will never forget all the fun times and the bad times there and all the memories of my friends and what we did there and how it has brought us soooooo much closer together basically like a family because before we got there we were basically just friends but as time passed in Israel we became sooooo much closer and got to know so much about each other that we never knew and that is a memories that I will cherish forever and I will tell my kids to go and hopefully they will have the same feelings maybe even better ones. I’ve gone with my best friends and I’ve gone with strangers that at the end of the trip became my family and even though I’m finished holy blossom as a student I will still see everybody there every now and then whether it is just stopping by and saying hi or student teaching because I don’t want to leave somewhere I’ve been for like 11 or 12 years and I have so many memories in and now that I’m all grown up and mature I now understand what I’ve been taught and what they had to put up with for years and I thank you for reading this or if I read this I thank you for listening and thank you to all the teachers and the rabbis for all the good years you have given me so that’s my reflection.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”If you could pinpoint one event in your life at Temple (or at a Temple sponsored program) that had the greatest positive impact on your Jewish identity, what would that event or moment be? Please describe this event / moment and its effect on you. By Michael Gotter“]
I have been going to Holy Blossom for a few years now, however not as long as some people in my class. There have been a lot of fun times and serious ones too. The greatest thing about Temple is the people. They are so nice here.
I was once talking to a man and he said something that was very inspiring and important as a Jew. It was, in order to be successful in life you have to try. Know that, what you put into life is what you get out of life. I will take this important message through my life.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”If you could pinpoint one event in your life at Temple (or at a Temple sponsored program) that had the greatest positive impact on your Jewish identity, what would that event or moment be? Please describe this event / moment and its effect on you. By Georgia Hacker“]
It is hard to choose just one event during my 10 years at Holy Blossom Temple that had a great positive impact on my Jewish identity. There have been amazing field trips, insightful speakers, and volunteering opportunities that have been both educational and meaningful. However, if I had to choose one moment that affected me the most, it would be my Bat Mitzvah in 2011.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the English meaning of ‘bat mitzvah’ is “A religious initiation ceremony for a Jewish girl… regarded as the age of religious maturity.” Becoming an adult in the Jewish community is more than just reading from the Torah. Yes, the actual day of my Bat Mitzvah was a day I will never forget, surrounded by my close friends and family, chanting the words of Torah that I had been practicing and studying for the past 6 months. However, it was the days after becoming a bat mitzvah that really meant something more.
Becoming a bat mitzvah made me think about my role as a young Jewish adult. I not only became more of an active participant in my community, but I became a leader for others to follow and look up to. I took on more religious responsibilities such as performing mitzvot, and also found myself taking on more leadership roles at school, at home, and amongst my peers. Becoming a bat mitzvah allowed me to have a different perspective on what being Jewish really means to me.
Although I am saddened that my learning years at Holy Blossom Temple are over, I will always look back on the moments that shaped me into the person I am today. My bat mitzvah was truly a turning point in my Jewish education, and I hope to have many more of these experiences for years to come.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”What can you affirm today about your Jewish identity? In other words, what is so clear to you? At the same time, what is left unclear which you would like to tackle in the future? By Jonathan Kirsh“]
At this point in my life, and at this milestone especially, I can affirm that I am an active member of the Jewish community at Holy Blossom, and in the Jewish population as a whole. The past confirmation year has less directly taught me about Judaism, and instead allowed me to learn many things myself. I found that my student teaching was very fulfilling, as I was taken back to my own Jewish learning (in my case, in SK), and I realized that this new generation of Jews was learning the same things and more. My favorite part of the teaching process was when each child in the class told the teachers what mitzvahs they did during the week. This practice teaches the students the importance of mitzvoth, and eventually, they will begin to do them on their own. I loved being able to teach these values to a future generation of Jews, and to know that my Jewish community was teaching them practical and important values for their futures. In terms of my personal time at Holy Blossom, it is clear that even though I have only been attending this synagogue for a comparatively short time to the other students, I have developed a strong connection with this community. However, my life has changed drastically in this short time, and a large part is due to Holy Blossom. First of all, my first year here was in grade 8, where I became bar mitzvah, and learned a lot about my Jewish identity. Back then; we all believed we were becoming young men and women, at least religiously. However, this was far from what really happened. Yes, it is true that a bar mitzvah is the ceremonial day where a Jewish child becomes a Jewish adult, but in truth, the bar mitzvah is merely the beginning of the process. Becoming men and women, mentally, spiritually, and physically, has taken us just about the entire time up to our confirmation since our bar/bat mitzvoth. I can safely say that we have all learned much more about ourselves, and about being adults in that time than only on the day of our bar/bat mitzvoth. It has been a long journey for all of us, but as we are confirmed, I believe that what we are really confirming is that we are men and women in the Holy Blossom Jewish community, and that we will continue to serve as leaders and role models in the years ahead.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”What can you affirm today about your Jewish identity? In other words, what is so clear to you? At the same time, what is left unclear which you would like to tackle in the future? By Michelle Liberman“]
My Jewish Identity involves actually feeling Judaism as a permanent part of my soul, taking pride in Israel, to feel a special connection to Jewish history, and to think in Jewish ways. For instance, the number 18 is symbolic in the Jewish tradition because it means the word “Chai” which means life, so for special occasions we would give gifts in multiples of 18. Knowing where you came from and where your family lived previously helps you figure out your Jewish Identity. My ancestors come from Europe (Russia, Romania, and Austria), which makes us Ashkenazi Jews. Being an Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jew changes some stuff that you would do. For example, on Passover Sephardic Jews eat rice while Ashkenazi Jews do not.
Taking pride in Israel and feeling a special connection to Jewish history is a big part of my Jewish identity. When I go and visit Israel I feel as though I am at home. Even though I was not born there or I never lived there, I feel the spirituality in the various cities and everywhere you go people are so welcoming and alive. It’s a place where all Jewish people can come together and say this is our homeland. Jewish history plays a huge role in my Jewish identity. An event such as the Holocaust caused my heritage to be the way it is, because my ancestors were deported to Umosk, which is south of Russia.
There is one thing that is left unclear to me and that is how did my ancestors live and what was their life like. This would help me with my Jewish identity because it may reflect on how I live today. Were my ancestors living in a very large home? Or were they living in a small village with many people? I would love to visit Russia and see where my parents and their parents grew up. I think that it will give me a good understanding of how their lives were and I would be able to compare it to how my life is now and see what is similar and what is not. Clearly it will not be exactly the same as it was back then but it will be as close as I can get to going back and putting myself in their shoes.
Overall, my Jewish identity has a lot of tradition in it. Where I come from and how I was raised strongly affects who I am. I love knowing where I came from and why we do specific things because it reveals more about myself that I didn’t know before. I am looking forward to finding out more about myself in the future because being Jewish will always be a part of me and after all you can never know enough about history.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”What can you affirm today about your Jewish identity? In other words, what is so clear to you? At the same time, what is left unclear which you would like to tackle in the future? By Mathew Malinsky“]
My parents raised me the same way they were raised. They passed on their moral values which I carry to this day, such as honesty empathy, kindness and loyalty. My Mom taught me to be grateful for what I have and my Father showed me the importance of hard work. Among these wonderful values and beliefs; which I still hold to this day, they also passed on their Jewish beliefs.
As time went on and I reached adolescence I went through a difficult period of my life and I couldn’t cope with what was going on around me. This brought me to a dark place emotionally where I was damaged, scared and lost. I was feeling unsure of who I was and losing my identity as a Jew. As time went on things progressively got worse and I felt there was nowhere left for me to turn to.
That was when I found God. The only way for me to overcome what I was faced with was by aligning my will with what God wanted it to be. Essentially, I started fresh and now lived to serve God. I began to develop a spiritual identity and very strong belief system but still lacked religious belief of any sort. Going to Israel changed that.
I didn’t know what to expect at all, but as I spent time there I quickly re-connected with my long lost identity as a Jew. Praying at the Western wall was a very intense experience for me and I was fortunate enough to be able to pray there 3 times during our trip. The second time I prayed there I asked God about my religious identity and prayed for guidance. A received a message from God that I can’t quite describe. I knew in that moment more than ever that I was born a Jew and was going to die a Jew.
My experience in Israel was so dramatic and powerful that I came back to religious school, which I had not attended in years. Since then I have not missed one week. During my daily prayers I have found new meaning as a result of my re-established Jewish identity. I had to stop thinking with my mind and start thinking with my heart to discover who I truly am, but I know now and feel proud to say that I am being confirmed as a Jew.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”If you could pinpoint one event in your life at Temple (or at a Temple sponsored program) that had the greatest positive impact on your Jewish identity, what would that event or moment be? Please describe this event / moment and its effect on you. By Elijah Nadler“] There have been many moments during my time at Temple that have impacted me and made memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Some of my favorite memories definitely would have been during the Grade 10 confirmation trip to Israel. Learning about Jewish history and Israel’s history outside of the classroom, with friends that I now consider family was unforgettable. Coming to Holy Blossom in grade 6 I had the mindset that I would do the required religious school, have my bat mitzvah and Holy Blossom would have a place in my life, maybe once or twice a year during high holidays. For many it might be surprising that I remained until confirmation, and it definitely surprised myself the most. What I wasn’t expecting was the people I’d meet and the Jewish community that I would be introduced to that would make me feel so welcome. In addition to the often eagerly awaited Monday nights, I had the opportunity to meet members of this community and learn about Judaism on Monday nights and continue my learning in a country 5,812 miles away from home. Though my Jewish education was short (however sweet!) I know that what will prepare me for my future is my knowledge of my family and my support group at Holy Blossom. It will be a challenge being away from this group of wonderful grade 10 students who have traveled with me to Israel and sat beside me every Monday for the past 5 years. Whether it’s shown through supporting each other through our bar/bat mitzvah year, retreating and Israel, “Let it Go” international, KLIK and converse, this grade 10 confirmation class is maybe unusual or special but I am lucky that I am a part of it and that I decided to come back Monday after Monday. I honestly feel bad for Holy Blossom, they are going to go through a rough time trying to get rid of us after this.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”If you could pinpoint one event in your life at Temple (or at a Temple sponsored program) that had the greatest positive impact on your Jewish identity, what would that event or moment be? Please describe this event / moment and its effect on you. By Aly Oaknine“]
Over the past eleven years as a student at Holy Blossom Temple, I have grown from the young, curious and religiously uneducated little girl that I was in senior kindergarten to the mature (I hope!) and confident teen that I am today. I have gained so much here at Temple, such as the amazing friends I have made that are like a second family to me, the rich knowledge of my religion and its history that I have acquired, the great appreciation that I have developed for my ancestors and their immense struggles in the past, as well as my strong Jewish identity.
After eleven years, the amount of amazing experiences that I have undergone and memories that I now cherish are overwhelming. Seeing as I have had the opportunity to do things such as send a letter to a soldier in Israel, pack boxes full of food for those less fortunate and meet/talk to multiple holocaust survivors, it is hard to pinpoint one event here at Temple that has had the greatest positive impact on me and my Jewish identity. Having said that, there is one event that takes the cake (or rugula, for that matter). My bat mitzvah was an extremely meaningful milestone in my everyday life as a Jewish adult. I remember standing up on the bima in front of my friends, family and congregation and feeling so much pride and honor. Reading from the Torah was the moment where my Jewish identity became really clear to me for the first time. I finally felt like I was a part of something special; part of a community full of people similar to me.
Overall, attending Holy Blossom Temple almost every week for most of my life has had a huge positive impact on my life and has actually been a ton of fun. Now that I am about to confirm, I can honestly say that I am going to miss Hebrew School. Writing this reflection, I’m finding it hard to stop myself from crying. For all of you oldies, think of the day you first moved out of your childhood house. I bet it’s a similar (okay maybe not as intense, but still!) feeling! All I can say is spending nine months practicing for my bat mitzvah, getting up early all of those Sunday mornings as well as staying focused on all of those Monday nights after long days of school have without a doubt been worth it.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”What does Israel mean to you as a Jew? What does Israel mean to you as a Reform Jew? What might you say to a peer who is considering a trip to Israel but is undecided? By Isaac Quiroz“]
Israel is a homeland to me like it is to other religions. It is the center of all Jewish activity. There is the Kotel which is the holiest site for Jewish people. Jerusalem especially, when doing a pilgrimage to the Holy Land you learn about the past roots of the Jewish people. When visiting Israel recently I learned about the Jews’ roots in the holy city. This pilgrimage had a great impact on my Jewish identity by feeling closer to G-d when praying at the Western Wall also. Israel is the centre for all three main religions, it is holy to Christianity and Islam. It is where our religion started and where it is based. For me Israel is more than just a country, it is our home.
As a Reform Jew, Israel means the same as any other Jew whether Ashkenazi or Sephardic. As mentioned previously Israel is the homeland for all Jewish people. For me the meaning of Israel is the same for me it is no different as for any other Jew. It is still the home for me as a Jew.
If one of my peers is considering a trip to Israel, I would for sure be positive about it if he/she is undecided. Israel is a small country with many wonders such as the Kotel, the markets, Masada etc. It would be the right choice for my peer although there is also the Birthright trip to Israel. It is good to learn about Jewish roots in the place where it all began. You learn from before the Common Era all the way to today in Israel. It is full of beautiful history and architecture, especially Jerusalem having been conquered many times by different empires and now part of the state of Israel. After all there are many sights to see all over the country other than the Capital city. Undecided decision turned to a positive decision.