Sarah's Confirmation Speech
I think I speak on behalf of the ENTIRE confirmation class when I say that this religious school has definitely had an impact on how I live my life. From learning about the Hebrew life cycle to painting ceramic menorahs, this place has helped me see the world in a better light. I’ve been coming to this religious school since I was only a toddler. I’ve seen it change Rabbis, survive tornadoes, host wild bar and bat mitzvahs, and put on some Broadway quality Purim skits. Now I’m finally here, at my confirmation.
This confirmation was conveniently scheduled right around Shavuot, which is when we celebrate God giving us the Torah and acknowledge the covenant we made with him as a people. On Shavuot, it is customary to stay up all night and study the Torah. I thought to myself, “This sounds like the PERFECT way to spend my first nights of summer!” I just finished my last exams this morning. On another note, it is also customary to eat dairy and, I’m sorry, I don’t think there’s any ice cream back there in the oneg but there’ll be something with dairy, I’m pretty sure. This confirmation, I think, is in a way symbolic to Shavuot, being about receiving the Ten Commandments and acknowledging our Covenant. I have passed through the stages of religious education and now receive my ticket to a higher understanding of Judaism, just as the Israelites made it through hardships of slavery before receiving their ticket to a higher understanding of Judaism, or the Torah. I celebrate that our Covenant with God has protected me every day. It has kept me safe from the beginning until now, through final exams and all.
These past years have taught me to embrace my Jewish title. Several people have asked over the years what it’s like to be a Jew living in the Bible Belt. To be honest, my friends not only embrace it, but it’s one of the things they love about me. During our school’s production of Beauty and the Beast, my friend and I were among a group of people dressed as villagers for most of the play. She had a scarf on her head and was looking pretty Orthodox at this point. She walked over to me and said, “Sarah, I’m converting to Judaism to get into character. You need to tell me about every holiday, every custom, and how many nights of Hanukkah there are.” We talked for about half an hour and I summarized everything she needed to know before going out on stage. This ended with her saying, “You guys have so much fun. Y’all are awesome!” We even banded together with our friend Elliot Cherniak who carried a menorah onstage to appear as a candle seller. This was not the first time my friends were interested in Judaism. Years ago my best friend came over to spend the night. This was also the night my entire dad’s side of the family decided to celebrate Hanukkah together at our house. After meeting my whole family, learning to cook latkes, lighting one of the candles, and singing along to the version of Rock of Ages not sung by Def Leppard, she said to me, “I love Hanukkah, I love latkes, and I love Judaism. I’m converting.”
This has happened many times over the years. When another friend came with me to a Purim service, when my mom was asked to bring in dreidles and gelt to teach the lower school what Judaism was all about, or even bragging about not having to give up anything for Lent. Being Jewish is something people love me for. It allows me to view my society in a different way. It has the unique quality of encouraging the questioning of customs, Torah stories, and even God. This is a quality not seen in most if not any other religion in the world. Some people follow their religion blindly because it is all they have been taught. I can worship Judaism knowing that I have grown up learning different religions and I am a Jew because it is what makes the most sense to me. It is this level of understanding that brings me to celebrate my confirmation tonight. I am a Jew by choice and am proud to say so.