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Why don't synagogues of movements other than Reform conduct a Confirmation ritual during the Holiday of Shavuot? Although it is an innovation, it doesn't per se seem so halakhically problematic, especially because it is about confirming one's belief in the Jewish faith. Sounds like a bit like Kabbalat ha-Torah, if you ask me...


(This section was written by Monica Cellio.)

Description of Reform Confirmation (can't speak for Conservative): While there is some variation, the confirmation ceremony typically includes the following elements (based on personal observation and discussions on Reform mailing lists):

  • Confirmation is in a group, not individual like bar mitzvah. The confirmands are usually finishing 10th grade, though a minority hold by high-school graduation instead. So roughly age 16. Confirmands are required to have continued their religious education after bar/bat mitzvah.

  • Confirmation is usually done as part of an evening service, either erev Shavuot or the erev Shabbat preceeding.

  • Confirmands usually lead part (sometimes all) of the service.

  • The rabbi or other community leader usually addresses the confirmands as a group. There may or may not be brief individual blessings/misheberachs.

  • If confirmands speak, it is about their Jewish values and aspirations.

Confirmation does not involve or acknowledge a status change. It is more about public declaration of one's continuing commitment to Judaism (not specifically Reform Judaism, though obviously they're Reform Jews).


Wikipedia article on Confirmation: (mainly discusses the Christian Confirmation, yet there is still some substance related to the Jewish Confirmation)


Below, I have posted a series of essays disputing this contentious issue that has been facing those of us who are part of the Reform community:

Historically, the Reform Movement has viewed Confirmation as a significant educational milestone on the path of lifelong Jewish learning. In some communities, B'nei Mitzvah has taken on a greater role in the life cycle of a Reform Jew, superceding Confirmation. Should Confirmation continue as the vital rite of passage that it has historically held or should Confirmation be discarded as a relic in favor of B'nei Mitzvah?

  1. http://urj.org/learning/torah/ten/eilu/archives/v4w1/
  2. http://urj.org/learning/torah/ten/eilu/archives/v4w2/
  3. http://urj.org/learning/torah/ten/eilu/archives/v4w3/
  4. http://urj.org/learning/torah/ten/eilu/archives/v4w4/
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Your question would be much more valuable if you'd include a motivation: why should synagogues conduct this ritual? Also if you'd include an explanation (or at least a link to an explanation) of what the ritual is. –  msh210 Jun 13 '12 at 22:26
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I mean, I've taught in two Conservative synagogues' Hebrew schools. My wife has taught in a third. Do you need textual evidence that it's officially part of the USCJ's program? Or are you satisfied to know that it is done? –  Seth J Jun 13 '12 at 22:42
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I'm not sure why a question asking for a reason why Orthodoxy doesn't do something ritualistically that other streams do (kinda the reverse of Orthodoxy's pet peeve with other streams) has been downvoted so many times. If you all think it's off topic or not a real question, close it. I see no votes to close. Just downvotes and sarcastic comments. Not what I expect here. –  Seth J Jun 14 '12 at 1:42
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@SethJ, One could consider a question to be of low value without considering it close-worthy. That's why the downvote and the vote to close exist as two separate mechanisms. –  Isaac Moses Jun 14 '12 at 2:54
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@Shemmy, "Vram" is the previous name of the poster with the weird characters that are hard to type. To complicate things, there is a newer user named "vram". Many of us wish "Vram" would switch back to some name we can reasonably type; in the meantime this is a way to address comments. –  Monica Cellio Jun 18 '12 at 12:46
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3 Answers

A large percentage of the families who are affiliated with groups with liberal Judaic practices, such as the Conservative and Reform movement, tends to become less affiliated after their children become bar/bat mitzva age. From my understanding, confirmation, although not a Jewish concept per se, seemed to be a great way of keeping the children and families affiliated for a few more years.

The vast majority of orthodox families send their children to Jewish academies through high school and retain lifelong affiliations with synagouges. An educational "gimmick" of confirmation would be unnecessary.

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If it helps keeps Jews involved with Yahadut, then there is probably something Jewish about it. –  Adam Mosheh Jun 14 '12 at 5:04
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<Deleted lots of comments that are irrelevant to the answer at hand.> –  Isaac Moses Jun 18 '12 at 6:18
    
@AdamMosheh OK, then scratch extraneous and call it unnecessary. –  YDK Jun 18 '12 at 23:16
    
What's the difference? –  Adam Mosheh Jun 19 '12 at 2:26
    
I thought that you were bothered by the word extraneous which denotes something external. –  YDK Jun 19 '12 at 15:32
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As the reform movement "loosely" based this ceremony on the practice of another religion, it would in fact be explicitly prohibited as chukos hagoyim to engage in it.

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My understanding (I wasn't there :-) ) is that the original idea was to model on what that other religion does. However, "model on" is not the same as "replicate"; so far as I know nobody ever asserted that (Reform) confirmation was anything but re-affirming commitment, while in the church it's a lifecycle event. Their confirmation is like our bar mitzvah -- confirmation of adult status and responsibilities. Today's Reform confirmation doesn't look much like today's church confirmation. –  Monica Cellio Jun 14 '12 at 14:13
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@yoel, I wasn't suggesting that preaching and kiddush came via Reform; I'm just saying that these are innovations that we haven't rejected. I don't know how much the early Reform movement actually copied anything from church confirmation other than the name, but I'm not assuming it was at all deep. –  Monica Cellio Jun 14 '12 at 15:16
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@AdamMosheh Are you denying that anything can be Chukot Akum? –  Double AA Jun 18 '12 at 6:26
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@AdamMosheh, the question is why this practice hasn't been adopted, not how we judge people who have adopted it. To that end, judging others favorably is irrelevant, and the technical definition of chukot akum is relevant. –  Isaac Moses Jun 18 '12 at 22:08
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@AdamMosheh Moreover, denying 1 of the 613 Commandments' existence is probably the simplest way of defining a kofer. –  Double AA Jun 18 '12 at 22:52
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Without knowing what this ceremony is I would say that orthodox Judaism is averse to instituting any type of ceremony unless there is a valid, orthodox source that can be seen as a precedent (usually the older the better). If for no other reason than to adopt one ceremony would open the floodgates and dilute any meaning (this is a pet peeve I have with brachos parties).

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but wouldn't such a ceremony increase meaning? It sounds like a pretty meaningful ceremony to me! –  Baal Shemot Tovot Jun 14 '12 at 0:55
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since i still have no sense of what this ceremony entails, i can't be sure, but couldn't it be said that simple observance of the mitzvot, going to shul, being part of a kahal are all consistent and constant confirmations of belief, so no separate ceremony to commemorate what should be the baseline of existence is necessary. –  Danno Jun 14 '12 at 1:04
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@AdamMosheh There is a world of a difference between something non-obligatory and something that isn't a thing. –  Double AA Jun 14 '12 at 3:20
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If the sole issue is innovation, there are many minhagim that we practice that were "innovated" because they were good ideas, though there is no precedent for them. –  YDK Jun 14 '12 at 3:54
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<deleted a bunch of off-topic comments> –  Isaac Moses Jun 18 '12 at 6:22
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