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Confirmation of Jacob H.

The following is the confirmation speech of Jacob H.:

You may know how much I love baseball. Basketball too. Even my brother and my new sister and my mother and my father. So what has my favorite sport got to do with Confirmation, with living a Jewish life? Well, in baseball, to be any good at it, to win the game, you have to be able to depend on your teammates and they have to be able to depend on you. If not, you can’t make a play and you won’t win. The team is a bunch of guys who know the game and depend on each other. They have to help each other to make plays on the field, and sometimes they have to help each other off the field. Each ball player needs, from the beginning, to have the support of parents, coaches and teammates to help him learn the game, the plays, what to do with the ball when it comes to you, to learn how the game is played, which can be lot to learn. No one can do it by himself, or just by reading a book. Every catch, every strikeout, every home run, means the player learned his skills from a community of ball players, old and new. They showed him how to play the game. Judaism is like that. It tells us about the rules and requirements, taught by wise and good people going back thousand of years, for an individual and communal life well lived, that we must help each other and make the game and ourselves and the world better, and be the kind of player and person that our Temple and our families expect us to be. My classmates and I want to be that kind of ball player and that kind of person in our lives.

Judaism has played a big part in my life up to this point and will so in the future. I have learned in Religious School about a variety of Jewish topics, such as Judaism’s historic values, about Israel, and more about the

Torah and the Tanakh. Being Jewish means being someone a little different, but in a good way. Judaism is one of the oldest religions in the world. It is the oldest monotheistic religion with a continuous presence, beginning about 3,500 years ago in the Middle East and it has been practiced and preserved throughout that time from generation to generation. This year in our class we have talked about the Great Ideas, ideas of religion, philosophy, art and other subjects, and have studied and debated whether, we as Reform Jews, agree or disagree with them. Those class discussions, lead by Rabbi Kaplan, have helped me learn about these topics and what our leaders and ourselves believe and do not believe. As you can see, this Confirmation year, and the years before, have made me more aware of the variety and richness in Judaism and Jewish life.

Maybe the most interesting topic to me that we debated in confirmation class was the significance of Jesus in a Jewish context. I know that both Jews and Christians believe that Jesus was an important historical figure, maybe the most significant historical figure the world has ever known, but I’ve also been perplexed about Jesus being God himself as Christians believe. His role in Christianity as God represented as a living person is something that is foreign to me. I realize that although Jews and Christians have different beliefs about Jesus ­ we all believe in treating others with respect, doing to others as we would have them do to ourselves and to love our neighbor as we would want to be treated.

I have enjoyed the story of the Ten Commandments, the covenant between God and the Jews. God told Moses “... if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.” I like this because it’s the story of the promise of the chosenness of the Jewish people since the dawn of our religion. This promise or covenant has been the source of confidence that Jews have felt for thousands of years during the most difficult times of our existence. And, there have been many difficult times for us Jews seemingly every few generations. When God says “I am the Lord....” and “you shall have no other gods beside me,” we are all reminded that we Jews are prohibited from worshiping any other gods besides our God.

Over the course of my formal Jewish education, I have attended with my family multiple Passover Seders at my grandparents home. We say all the prayers and eat all of the food on the Seder plate! I have to admit, I hate Gefilte fish! Also, my dad and granddad and great­granddad were presidents of the Congregation and that is pretty cool! Last year, our class went to New Orleans to visit the Temple there and learn more about our religion and to see what was the same and what was different in theirs and ours. They had a female Rabbi and they talked some of the same things we talked about plus some things that were new to us. I also was privileged to hear Dr. Amy Jill Levine speak about her ideas in comparing Judaism to other religions, all very interesting. She talked mostly about Jesus in a Jewish context, a way of looking at Christianity from other than a Christian perspective. It was really interesting hearing Dr. Levine speak at a local church and seeing the tremendous respect she was shown by members of that Christian congregation. I love Judaism and am proud of our tremendous history and my family history.

Now, as my formal Religious School education is over, I want to thank my parents, grandparents and family for their support. I remember my mother teaching Religious School when I was younger and my father serving in a leadership role and I always liked that. I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful teachers throughout the years. I also like hearing my father’s views on some of Judaism’s most interesting topics, including when he joined our class, several months ago, somewhat uninvited. I’m also looking forward to my continuous relationship with Judaism in the years to come. I want to thank our Religious School Director, Sam Small, our Rabbi, Dana Kaplan, for his encouragement and interesting classroom discussions, Leah Brown and Will Kinsella, my friends, for their help and encouragement, my family, and all of you for being here tonight to help each of us celebrate.

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