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PicMonkey CollageWhat 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.

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].

Benji, Confirmand 2015

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.

Benji

Benji

If I were to pinpoint one event at Holy Blossom Temple that has had the greatest impact on my life, it would be my Bar Mitzvah. My Bar Mitzvah was a time of many firsts. On the Thursday before, I wore Tefillin for the first time, which allowed me to make a spiritual connection. After many hours of learning my portion, I read in front of the congregation. It was especially memorable and meaningful because I had my grandfather as my teacher. To add on to this, I learned my portion in the Sephardic trop, the oldest trop in Judaism. This connected me to my ancestors that had lived in Iraq and chanted this same trop. This culminated with my grandfather, my brother and I reading on the same day all together. It was a truly magical moment for me. Standing there with my brother, parents and grandparents at my side made the day even more extraordinary.

The meetings with Cantor Maissner leading up to my Bar Mitzvah were also very impactful. He shared many stories with us and we spoke about the Sephardic trop that my grandfather had taught me. My Bar Mitzvah had a very positive impact on my Jewish identity. As part of the main events in Jewish life, it made me connect more with Judaism. Another Jewish value that I had at my Bar Mitzvah was the value of family because many family members that I rarely get to see came to celebrate with us. That summer, I further connected with Jewish values when I travelled to Israel.

There was one activity in particular that I did not quite realize its true value and meaning until much after my Bar Mitzvah. Leading up to my Bar Mitzvah, I was told to complete a ‘mitzvah book’ where I would pursue different Jewish values and take record of this is the book. To complete the value of ‘visiting the sick’, I went to Baycrest. There, I played bridge with some of the seniors and had a lot of fun, especially knowing that the people I was playing with were also having a great time. It taught me how important and meaningful it can be to give people company who may not have it. They were so happy to see that I had come without even knowing me and the feeling was definitely mutual.

It was a celebration that I will never forget.

Chole, Confirmand 2015

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.

Chloe

Chloe

Living in Toronto, it is easy to take for granted my Jewish identity. After all, it is so easy to openly be Jewish and practice Judaism. Like other Jews in Toronto, I openly attend synagogue with my family, I can study Hebrew and learn more about our religion at classes’, and I can attend Jewish cultural and social events openly and freely. All of these experiences have had a strong effect on my Jewish identity, however, they made being Jewish seem like a sort of default – as thought it was obvious that I was Jewish and that these activities were normal. For me, the event that really had the most significant impact on my Jewish identity was attending Jewish sleep over camp at Camp George.

My Camp George experience strengthened my Jewish identity by teaching me more about what it really means to practice Judaism. At camp, I came to see and understand concretely that Judaism is about community, mitzvah, and it is about giving over receiving. At summer camp I am surrounded by people I love, who all share the same passion for their faith. Everybody is alike in the sense that we all are there to be one with G-d and that we care for and support one another.

As well, camp showed me a new way of practicing Judaism. At the young age of 8, the usual Friday night Shabbat services at Temple were a never-ending hour of sleepiness and boredom, but at camp I was pleasantly surprised. The Camp George service was completely different from anything I had ever experienced before. The prayers and the songs were the same but the energy was quite different. It seemed as though everyone was actually excited to be there. People were singing, praying with sincerity and a few brave girls were even dancing in the pews. It was at this time, that I finally started to understand the term “praising G-d”.

Finally, when I am at camp, I am surrounded by nature. There is a minimal amount of modern technology and this allows me to step back and really appreciate G-d’s creations. In the city, nature is treated as scenery or a background, but at camp it is something very important and present.

Overall, camp has been a place of enlightenment and discovery. I have learnt that Judaism is about community, mitzvot, and about appreciating God’s creations. I can fully credit a large majority of my Jewish identity to being in that environment and I am excited for years to come.

Neil, Confirmand 2015

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?

Neil

Neil

I’ve been coming to Hebrew School for ten years now. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that Holy Blossom is like a second home to me. Each year, I participate to the fullest during class time and always set a positive tone. I enjoy learning about all aspects of Judaism, especially the history and the Jewish perspective. These topics were the focus of many of my favourite lessons this year.

Temple has given me the opportunity to develop through many activities such as NFTY-NEL regional events and by inviting me to sit on the Youth Education task force. All these experiences have helped me discover my identity as a Jew. I know that a lot of effort is made to provide a meaningful education for me and my classmates and I show my appreciation for this by giving back to the Temple as much as I can. This year, I volunteered as a student teacher and with one of the grade 4 classes and became the Vice-president of Communications in the senior youth group, HABSTY. Student teaching gave me another perspective because I was the teacher rather than the student. Through all of these experiences I have developed many leadership skills, which I will further develop at Kutz camp this summer.

By progressing to my Confirmation, I have discovered the amazing effect Judaism has on me. I can affirm that I will progress in Jewish studies and mitzvahs starting with the Torah I read today. I love Temple because it helps me grow as a Jew.

Harley, Confirmand 2015

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?

Harley

Harley

I have one question: do I really have to cram ten years of experiences into one page? I can say upfront that this last year has been my favorite of all the other years. During the past year, I’ve done many things including: developing a Jewish identity, realising my potential for being a leader, and most importantly, embracing the skills that I learned and not only realising them, but expanding on them. Now, I’m about to be elected HABSTY Religious and Cultural VP, I’m going to run to be RCVP for NFTY-NEL next year, I’m leading Wednesday night services, I’m playing in the N’ginah band, I’m going to start leading tot Shabbat, I’m starting to lead HABSTY havdallahs, and even more, all because of the help and support of Holy (Awesome) Blossom.

I’m a musician. Music is literally my favorite thing in the world. So whenever I’m leading a service or playing Jewish songs, I feel a connection between my Jewish identity and me as a person. I have a powerful Jewish identity. It includes leadership, which is in my opinion a very important part of Judaism, it includes music, which I think makes Judaism more powerful and meaningful, and I also have a Jewish family, and not just by blood, but also by beliefs and ideas. The people from NFTY, HABSTY, Kutz, they’re all my family.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I definitely cannot pinpoint just one event in my whole life that reflects my whole Jewish identity. What I can say is that my time at Holy (Awesome) Blossom has been amazing. I used to not want to go when I was 10 years old because it was boring, but as I got older and matured, I realized I could use everything that I learned and use it in amazing ways, such as songleading and leadership in general. Don’t worry. My time at Holy (Awesome) Blossom isn’t at its end for another two years at least. I still have so much to do, such as securing the RCVP position in NFTY-NEL. I honestly can’t thank Holy (Awesome) Blossom enough for everything they’ve done for me (and my family). Holy (Awesome) Blossom is truly a reflection of its name.

Josh, Confirmand 2015

What does Israel mean to me as a Jew? What might I say to a peer who is considering a trip to Israel, but is undecided?

Josh

Josh

Israel, the Jewish homeland. We spend so much time learning about it in school, talking about it in our synagogues, and through innovative programs like the ShinShinim. But, what does this far away place really mean? What is its significance? In the little strip of land at the crossroads of the Middle East, thousands of years of Jewish History lie before our eyes. In Sefer Bereshiit, G-d tells Avraham to “Lech Lecha”, go for yourself. This is the first time we hear of this land, named Cana’an and later Israel. A land for Abraham and his descendants, promised to him by Hashem. But, G-d specifically mentions “Lech Lecha”, with the intention that Abraham will go for himself. After thousands of years of Jewish and world history, Jews have once again returned to their homeland. We have established a model nation, a leader in both the modern and ancient worlds. To truly experience Israel, one needs to go for themselves. There’s so much to offer; Israel is a haven for spirituality. This is our land, our time, our people. Lech Lecha.

At the end of the 2nd Temple period, Jews were exiled from their homeland, scattered across nations far and wide. Communities were established in many places, often held in high esteem as great centres of Jewish development and learning. Despite the successes, we were never truly home. Still, even after many catastrophes and triumphs, struggles and strides living in the Diaspora, we were always trying to fit in. Nearly two thousand years after our exile, we had the chance to return home. Much like Ezra and Nechemia paved the way for the return from Babylon, the early Zionist pioneers came to the land around the turn of the century and started to build our homeland once again. In 1948, already in the midst of the War of Independence, Israel, a fledgling state, was declared. Our two thousand year exile was finished, we could return to the land of our ancestors. Over the sixty-seven years of the Modern State of Israel’s existence, we have grown in exponential ways. A country rich with awesome tourism sites, people, experiences, programs, and yes: definitely falafel. After centuries away from home, our people have finally returned. Why not take advantage of this? There are countless programs available for teens and young adults who wish to visit our amazing land.

As I write this, I’m sitting in Jerusalem, the most amazing city in the world, on a high-school semester called Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim. This program takes people from all different backgrounds and locations, teaching you about various Jewish rituals, our connection to our Jewish home, and our place in Jewish History. I’ve made 45 new best friends, learned the language, lived the land, and most importantly: I’m having an experience I’ll never forget. My Israel experience has brought me closer to Judaism, Israel and the Jewish People as a whole. Growing up at Holy Blossom, I learned so much about Israel, the culture, the religion, the issues and the people. However, only once I’m living here do I truly realize that this is where we belong. Part of my Jewish identity is in Israel, our home. It is a place in which I will never forget, a place where Jews can be Jews. I’ve grown and changed so much over the past three months alone, and I’m anticipating my final month on the program to be even better. When I return to Toronto, I know this won’t be the end of my journey. As Jews, we all have a piece of Israel in our hearts and minds. Especially as a teen, my journey is just starting. Forward we move as a community, working to advocate for Israel and rejoice together, wherever we are in the world. Israel is our past, present and future, the modern-day miracle. For anyone considering an Israel trip: whichever program you go on, you will be blown away by what our land, culture and people have become. Take the first step, and Israel will do the rest. Lech Lecha, go for yourself.

Nathan, Confirmand 2015

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.

Nathan

Nathan

During my time at Holy Blossom Temple I have shared so many unforgettable experiences with my classmates, my family and the rest of the congregation. Of all the great times that I have had, one moment stands out. On February 11, 2012, I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah at Holy Blossom. I can vividly remember standing in front of the congregation on Shabbat morning and looking out at all the people who mean so much to me as all of their eyes were fixed on me. I remember belting out my portion without any regret. I felt a divine presence help me push through and do a fantastic job. That day was so momentous for me because of the connection to my Jewish identity at Temple, which led to a lively celebration recognizing my achievement.

Without a doubt, even more meaningful for me than my Bar Mitzvah itself was the preparation that went into the monumental event. I had the privilege of having my grandfather be my tutor and my mentor in preparing for my Bar Mitzvah. He taught me the traditional Sephardic trop, which he had heard rung out in Baghdad, Iraq. This was the perfect “L’dor vador” (from generation to generation) experience. He prepared me for my Bar Mitzvah and went far beyond his call of duty when teaching. He undoubtedly inspired me to do a great job for my Bar Mitzvah. It was so rewarding going to him and learning from a maestro. It was so special hearing him tell me how proud he was of me. As happy as he was for me on that day, I was equally happy to have been given the opportunity to have him as a teacher.

I was able to share my Bar Mitzvah day not only with my twin brother, Benji, but also with my grandfather, who recited the Ten Commandments in the same Sephardic trop that he had taught me. Having the three of us chant in succession really made that day a family affair. This day has affected me so much as a person because it showed me the importance passing on traditions to the next generation. Not many people know the Sephardic trop and it was an absolute blessing to have learned it from someone who means so much to me. My Bar Mitzvah day, and the process leading up to that day, undeniably had a massive positive impact not only on my Jewish identity, but also generally speaking, on me as a person.

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  • Cheryl Sylvester
    Reply

    Yashar Koach! Such wonderful reflections from these confirmands. You make yourselves, your parents and your Temple community proud!

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