Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What Does Temple Sinai Mean to Me?

On May 14th three of our Chai School students were Confirmed.  Rabbi Glazier asked each of the Confirmands to prepare a speech on the topic above.  Here is the first speech, from Eli Rachlin:

Ever since I moved to Vermont from France in the year 2001, Temple Sinai has been the place I have most associated with Judaism. Now while I know that is a fairly obvious statement, I think that it has the most to do with what the temple means to me. Although my first memories of Jewish holidays or traditions do come from the age of 4 or so in France, whether it is the search for the afikomen or the lighting of Hanukah candles, the most memories, and certainly the most vivid and meaningful, come from here.  

Coming every Sunday, Wednesday, Tuesday, or Thursday for Hebrew school may have not always been how I would prefer to spend my afternoons, but looking back, I really do value the knowledge I received about my heritage, as well as the ability to meet up with others in the Jewish community in my area. Now it is true that for the past five summers I have gone to a Jewish camp, but in truth I don’t go to that camp for Judaism as much as I do for the people that go there. 

It is here that I find more of an association with my Jewish identity, most of all because here is where I had my Bar Mitzvah. And when I think about my Bar Mitzvah, I am reminded of how in no way could I have been prepared for that special day if it weren't for all the amazing people at Temple Sinai that got me there. Beginning with learning the Hebrew alphabet and how to read in the younger grades, and then the prayers of the service in 4th and 5th grades, and then learning how to chant in the year leading up to my B’nai Mitzvah, it really shows me how that fantastic was a culmination of everything that was given to me by this great establishment. 

And I think overall, that is what Temple Sinai means to me. To be a place of giving. Temple Sinai is more than just a place that holds the Torah, or a Sanctuary for prayer, or school for Jewish education. It is made up of a congregation, or community, that gives back to all that are a part of it in order to create a richer and more meaningful tradition that I myself have benefited from.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What is a Confirmation?

This Tuesday Three of our Chai School students will be confirmed.  We hope our Temple community comes out to show support for their continued commitment to Jewish education at Temple Sinai.

Confirmation is a Reform-originated ceremony for boys and girls that is tied to the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. It constitutes an individual and group affirmation of commitment to the Jewish people. Confirmation, one of the “youngest” Jewish life cycle ceremonies, began less than 200 years ago. Most scholars attribute the creation of confirmation to Israel Jacobson, a wealthy German businessman and a nominal “father” of Reform Judaism.  In 1810, expending more than $100,000 of his own money, Jacobson built a new synagogue in Seesen, Germany. He introduced a number of then radical reforms, including the use of an organ and mixed male-female seating. Jacobson felt that bar mitzvah was an outmoded ceremony. Accordingly, when five 13-year-old boys were about to graduate from the school he maintained, Jacobson designed a new graduation ceremony, held in the school rather than the synagogue. In this manner, confirmation came into being.

At first only boys were confirmed, usually on the Shabbat of their bar mitzvah. Because of the controversial nature of the confirmation ceremony, the earliest rituals were held exclusively in homes or in schools. In 1817, the synagogue in Berlin introduced a separate confirmation program for girls. In 1822, the first class of boys and girls was confirmed, a practice that became almost universal in a relatively brief period of time. In 1831, Rabbi Samuel Egers of Brunswick, Germany, determined to hold confirmation on Shavuot, the festival of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, also the widely accepted practice today.
At its inception, confirmation reflected a graduation motif. After a specified period of study, students were subject to a public examination. The following day, in the rabbi’s presence, students uttered personal confessions of faith. The rabbi addressed the class, recited a prayer, and then blessed them. It was a simple service with no fixed ritual. As confirmation moved into the synagogue and as its ties to Shavuot strengthened, the ceremony became more elaborate.

In the early 1900s, confirmation took on an air of great pageantry, boys and girls wearing robes, bringing flower offerings to the bimah, and participating in dramatic readings and cantatas illustrating themes of dedication and commitment to Judaism. Preparation for confirmation still included a period of study, but public tests and confessions of faith gave way to more normative exams and papers, and speeches reflecting a deeper understanding of Jewish teachings and values. Wide variations exist in congregational practice, from an elaborate synagogue service to a private individual ceremony with the rabbi. Many confirmation classes undertake social action projects as part of their year of preparation. While 10th grade confirmation remains the norm in Reform Judaism, a number of synagogues now mark the event in 9th, 11th, or even 12th grade. Since the 1970s, adult confirmation programs have existed in many Reform congregations.

The first recorded confirmation in North America was held at New York’s Anshe Chesed Congregation in 1846. Two years later, New York’s Congregation Emanu- El adopted confirmation. The ceremony grew in popularity, and in 1927, the Central Conference of American Rabbis recommended confirmation as a Movement- wide practice.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Remarks from Elon University's 2013 Spring Convocation

Elon University hosted its Spring Convocation, titled "Sacred Space: The Promise for Peace and Understanding in Our World - A Multi-Faith Conversation," in Alumni Gym on April 30, 2013. Moderator Lara Logan challenged the panelists to consider some of the roadblocks in creating interfaith dialogues. She also asked them to look at some of their own biases and what bothers them about other religious viewpoints. Here are excerpts from the panelist responses.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Yom Yerushalayim

Around 1130 C.E. Yehudah Halevi, a Jewish physician, poet and philosopher from Toledo, Spain wrote these beautiful words:

My heart is in the East*

My heart is in the East, and I am at the ends of the West;
How can I taste what I eat and how could it be pleasing to me?
How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet
Zion lies beneath the fetter of Edom, and I am in the chains of Arabia?
It would be easy for me to leave all the bounty of Spain --
As it is precious for me to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.

In 1948 Israel became a State and in 1967, Israel recaptured Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Day marks the 1967 reunification of Jerusalem and The Temple Mount under Jewish rule during the Six-Day War almost 1900 years after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

This year, on May 8th, our Jewish community joins together to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, with a great celebration of games, singing, dancing, eating, face painting, craft making and schmoozing at Oak Ledge Park (rain location: Temple Sinai) from 4:30-6:30.

I hope the entire Jewish community will come out and support this event.

*Translation provided by Zionism and Israel On the Web.