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Confirmation י״ט בְּסִיוָן תשע״ח 

A warm Mazel Tov to our Confirmands:

  • Mara Baker
  • Zachary Beutel
  • Ellie Davidson
  • Samara Hurowitz
  • Ethan Taylor

Below, please find a compilation of our 2018 Confirmation Students’ Reflections.

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.

Every Wednesday morning before school, I volunteer at a school in an underprivileged neighborhood in Toronto called Nelson Mandela Park Public School. The school is ages 1-12 (Preschool-Grade 6), and I volunteer with the 2 and 3-year-olds. When I am there, I play with the children, read to them, and teach them about things in the classroom. I really enjoy being with children and this has been a great experience for me as well as for them. I have gotten to know them all really well and I absolutely love being around them. I even went on some extra days to spend additional time with them.

During my years at Holy Blossom, I have learned about how being charitable and doing community service is an important part of being Jewish. People may think teenagers do community service just because we need it to graduate, but I see it as so much more than just for hours. I have developed a meaningful relationship will every single child and have gained so much out of the experience. Because many of the kids come from families where the parents can’t or don’t play with or teach the kids, I know they gain a lot from it too, which makes me feel good. It has made me realize how much I like being with kids and now I am looking forward to working at the Holy Blossom religious school next year.

Along with my time at Nelson Mandela, I also volunteer at Mitzvah Bakers and Out of the Cold at Holy Blossom. Those have been great experiences as well. One of the most memorable experiences was when one of the Out of the Cold guests who was an artist drew a portrait of me. This was so special and helped me to realize that this person was more than just a homeless man. The picture is still hanging in my room!

All of these community service activities are important to me, both as a person and as a Jew. Even after high school, I want to continue to do community service in my spare time. Something I really enjoy is spending time with kids and helping people, and community service is a great way to do both. In the future, I really hope to work with kids in my job and to help the community.

Mara Baker

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.

Volunteering is an important part of my life. This past year I became involved in Out of the Cold. Out of the Cold is a program that helps struggling people. You serve hot food to less fortunate people while they get to spend time in a warm and welcoming environment. There’s also entertainment, clothes, and things for them to take home. It’s a way for people to socialize and escape their hardships for a couple of hours. I did the program with my dad and we served food and met and talked to less fortunate people. My experience of Out of the Cold was eye opening on the amount of less fortunate people around the corner.

Judaism teaches us to be kind to one another, especially the less fortunate. Although they may not all be Jewish, they are still people who deserve to be treated with respect and a helping hand. We never know where we could end up, and I certainly hope that if I were in that situation, people would be kind to me and help me with a nice bowl of warm soup. My Jewish heritage is really important to me and Out of the Cold gave me an opportunity to practice some of the lessons and the Mitzvot that are so important to Judaism.

In conclusion, Out of the Cold has been an important stepping stone to the future of my Jewish identity. I am grateful for the opportunity to help others and appreciate my own good fortune.

Zachary Beutel
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?

Being a citizen of Israel, I have been travelling there almost every year of my life. Over the years, my connection and familiarity with the country has grown, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. To me, however, there is a very big difference between tourism and experience. Every trip, my time was spent with family, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and family friends. When I think of Israel I think of home. A place to explore, or maybe just sit and relax. A place where I can be comfortable being who I am, a place that makes me feel secure. Everything a home should be.

I’ll take the bus around the streets of Tel Aviv, visit the beach, go to the shuk, walk on Shenkin Street or drive to Yafo from time to time. Sometimes I’ll visit places in Israel I’ve never been to before just like you might do in your home country and feel as though I’m living a normal life. And just like any home, you miss it when you’re away. You miss the atmosphere, the smell, the sounds, everything about it because it’s a part of you.

I believe that my strong connection to Israel does not only come from my close bond with family but also because of Israel’s Jewish culture. You feel like you are part of a tight-knit community that all believes in relatively the same objectives, protecting and being part of our homeland. There are so many variations of Judaic practices in Israel which is what makes it so unique. Those who believe in God and those who don’t, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, Orthodox and Reform, and Israel is the one place where we all can gather together despite these differences because we are all Jewish and we all belong. It can be much more than that though, the progress of Reform Judaism in Israel is constantly growing, pushing through difficulties. Reform Judaism wasn’t always a part of Israel.

  • The Israeli reform movement has more than doubled over the past 7 years.
  • Other numbers indicated a more progressive trend in Israeli society, with 63% of Israelis saying they prefer to pray in a synagogue that does not separate men and women.
  • A clear majority of the population—58% versus 33%—supports the rights of Reform and Conservative Jews and of Women of the Wall to pray at the Western Wall.

If you are considering going to Israel, I would ecstatically tell you that you’re making the best decision of your life. There are so many places to see, so many things to do, and Israel being a small country gives you the advantage of being able to travel throughout in a short span of time. Many Israelis take a trip to Eilat during breaks as it’s a very beautiful place to visit. Other places to visit are Ramon Crater, the Dead Sea, Masada, Sea of Galilee (which is very symbolic for Christians as well), Golan Heights, and of course the cities you hear about most, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

I can confidently say that cuisine in Israel is by far my favorite. When you’re in Israel there is some unknown source that makes you feel like a part of such a rich history. Every stone, every building, everything has a fascinating story.

Ellie Davidson
[1] “Poll: Number of Reform Jews in Israel Doubles.” Ynetnews, www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5048733,00.html.

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?

Over the past few weeks, I have learned there is no correct way to be Jewish. I believe there is more to Judaism than simply following the study of Torah, going to synagogue and obeying Gods commandments. I do not do all these things regularly, but I would still consider myself a good Jewish young person. This is because I believe what makes someone a good Jew is how they affect their community. Volunteerism is a great way people can help their communities. Simply donating your time you can affect so many others’ lives in such a positive way.

Over the past year, I have been a part of many volunteer opportunities, but I feel one that has really stood out to me is volunteering at the charity Wellspring Cancer Support. I have a personal connection to this charity as my parents are both involved in many of their fundraising events and my mother benefited from the charity when undergoing cancer treatment. Being able to give back to an organization that has affected my family in such a positive way was a rewarding experience. Last winter I was able to volunteer at Wellspring’s annual fundraiser “Well Dressed for Spring”. This is a fashion show where Wellspring partners with Holt Renfrew. The models in the show are all Wellspring members who are either cancer patients or survivors. The show was such an inspiring event for me to volunteer at because it was so uplifting to see cancer patients participate in a show that not only benefited Wellsprings programs that many of them use, but where they were directly donating their time and energy to a charity that was helping them. At the end of the summer, I will also be participating in a 100km cycle with Wellspring to raise money for their various cancer support activities. Being able to donate both my time and raise money for the charity through the ride will also be a great experience to be a part of.

I feel all volunteerism relates to Judaism because Jews are taught to be good people. We should all strive to help others in any way we can, through giving tzedakah, offering up the Temple to those in need like Holy Blossom does with “out of the cold” program or simply volunteering our time. No matter how small the act, we can all have a positive impact on our communities by simply volunteering.

Samara Hurowitz
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a young Jewish person in his/her university years?  How would you suggest that your Jewish education has positively prepared you to face this challenge?

When one enters their university years, they are faced with independence and self-responsibility as they move away from home and start to live on their own. This transition can often be challenging and this is especially true for young Jews. All young Jewish people in their university years have to decide what their Judaism means to them because of the step away that they take from the other people in their lives at this time. Many young Jews also move into an unfamiliar city with no ties to any of the Jewish communities there and this can make it harder for young Jews to continue being involved in their Jewish community. These cities may not even have a substantial Jewish community. It is true that nowadays, more and more universities and colleges can be found to have a Jewish community, however being Jewish at this time in life can be very difficult due to the sense of isolation that comes with being on your own for the first time.

As young Jewish people leave for university, they may no longer have friends or family telling them how to be Jewish. There is no one making sure they light candles on Shabbat, or keep kosher, or go to services. This means they must actively decide for themselves what practices they will keep. Jews in their university years may become separated from most of their former Jewish community and are forced to make their own decisions about what being Jewish means to them.

When young Jews leave home for university in another city, they find themselves in a new place with no connections to the Jewish community located there. Trying to find a place in a new Jewish community can be a daunting task, and many Jews in their university years don’t find a Jewish community as a result. This can make being Jewish feel isolating because of the essential role community plays in Judaism.

Some Jews in their university years also simply lack the tools to continue to uphold specific Jewish practices. This could be due to the lack of a Jewish community within their university or city that makes simple Jewish customs a struggle to keep. For example, If there is nowhere in their city to buy kosher-for-Passover food that presents the problem of whether or not they can continue to keep kosher during Passover. The absence of Judaism in the particular town or city that university students have moved to can be a problem when completing the most basic Jewish customs.

I am glad that I have had a Jewish education, and I think that attending religious school since kindergarten has prepared me to face these challenges as I move off to university in a few years. Learning about Judaism at Holy Blossom has taught me what being Jewish means, and I now understand how I want to continue to connect with the Jewish community as I move away for university. My Jewish education has equipped me with the knowledge to confidently make decisions about my Jewish identity. My connection to Judaism wouldn’t be nearly as strong if I hadn’t attended religious school.

Ethan Taylor

 

 

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