The Star Democrat – Temple B’Nai Israel celebrates first confirmation class


May 21, 2018

PHOTO BY Brenda Fisher

EASTON — The sounds of joy and praise rang out from the Temple B’Nai Israel on May 18 during the first confirmation class in the synagogue’s 65-year history. Corresponding with the celebration of Shavuot, five youth from the congregation completed the two-year confirmation class program and were honored.

Colby Florkewicz, Seth Feldman, Michael Gervis, Sallie Miller, and Michael Mullaney were part of the first ever class of confirmands to complete the two-year program. The students met with Rabbi Peter E. Hyman each Tuesday night to talk about different subjects and issues related to their Jewish faith.

I didn’t really expect to get that much out of confirmation class,” Colby said. “I went because it was important to my mom and it was important to the rabbi. But I didn’t think I would learn a lot from it. I was completely wrong about that. Confirmation class taught me so much about what it really means to be Jewish.”

The ceremony was filled with spoken words, music and singing. The congregation was asked to stand during parts of it to participate as well.

Over the last two years, the students met with Hyman and other teachers from the synagogue to discuss not only ancient teachings but also about issues regarding their faith today and how that affects them. Sallie Miller shared a story about an anti-Semitic experience she had shortly after moving to the Eastern Shore

When I went to school, I was exposed to anti-Semitism. People making Jew jokes, saying my religion didn’t matter or coming to class with swastikas on text books. I didn’t feel safe,” she said. “This temple and this confirmation class was my safe haven. It was the only place I felt safe from everyone. I should have stood up to those people, looking back in 20/20 hindsight, but I didn’t. It made me seem like I should be ashamed to be Jewish. Eventually, as the classes went on and I started learning about what happens in the world and all my confirmands sharing their stories of anti-Semitism, I started to not feel ashamed. Eventually, that shamefulness turned into pride about being Jewish.”

As part of the service, each of the confirmands were asked to write an essay addressing why they decided to be a part of the confirmation class.

Not only did it (confirmation class) give me something to do, but it’s something I enjoyed. I was glad to be a part of it. It helped me feel more connected to the congregation, my classmates and the rabbi,” Michael Gervis said.

Hyman said this confirmation class was a milestone for the congregation and a pushpin moment for the rabbi, congregation and the confirmands.

It was about my responsibility as a rabbi to look at the next generation and recognize how smart each of these young people are,” Hyman said. “How smart and how strong and how important they are. To help in creating within them, as part of their identify, a sense of their Jewishness. They come from good homes, homes that allow them a good foundation.”