December 6, 2023 -
Mazel Tov to the Fairmount Temple Confirmation Class of 5780 who were honored during a special Zoom ceremony on Aug. 1. Below are brief statements they shared during the ceremony.
Na’aseh V’nishma means to do and then understand.
I believe it important to understand why we do things and make certain decisions. With Na’aseh V’nishma in mind, I find it equally important that those decisions are made with intention and meaning. When we look back at decisions, not all of them might be the right decision at the moment. Na’aseh V’nishma tells us to look at past choices and look at what we gained out of those choices as well as the negative outcomes. This reflection gives us perspective on future decisions and how what you’re doing right now affects life in the long run.
During Religious School it is important for me to learn about Judaism and Israel. Keeping Na’aseh V’nishma in mind and looking towards the future, I will be appreciative of what I learned in Religious School and how I connect to my religion.
So for that I want to say thank you to all the teachers and clergy here at the temple for keeping my excitement of learning about Judaism alive.
The worldwide COVID pandemic has incited much change in the usual schedules of all people. For me, it has affected much in my life. From schoolwork, to sports, to social life, to my Jewish identity, much has been broken off from the usual due to COVID-19. When looking specifically at my Jewish life, it has been an interesting shift in order to keep up my Jewish education. The first big blow was the cancellation of the New York trip. I was very excited to be able to travel the city, be with my friends and learn more about Judaism. It was quite disappointing to hear it would not occur this year. The next change was the shift from being in class on Monday nights to Zoom calls on Mondays nights. It was good to keep in contact with everyone and continue to discuss different Jewish values. I think the clergy did very well with the circumstances in order to keep teaching us while also making the classes interesting. While I obviously prefer being with the class in person, I feel that the Zoom calls were a satisfying replacement. Overall, my Jewish education this year was definitely a different experience. While the pandemic made it more difficult to convey much of the information, I think that I still gained a lot from this year and hope to continue my Jewish education in the coming years.
COVID-19 has affected my Judaism in a few ways. I didn’t get to go on the New York trip with my friends. As a class, we were looking forward to learning together and spending time with the clergy outside of temple. I also missed being in class together on Monday nights. I am looking forward to when we can be together again.
I find God in places I find nothing else. In the morning, at the breakfast table, at school, at home, and before I go to sleep, God is watching over me. It is important for me to recognize God and give my praises every time I can. God is everywhere and I believe that God keeps me and everyone I love safe. Having a good relationship with God makes me feel secure, loved, and cared for, much like an infant. God makes me feel safe. Without God, I would be missing a part of my life. I try to always be looking for God to guide and speak to me in both times of need and success.
I find God when I see animals. According to conservationist and author Lewis Regenstein, Jewish law teaches us to treat animals with kindness and respect and to protect nature and conserve its resources. Jews have a history of showing compassion and concern for animals and the environment—the first people in the world known to have adopted such teachings and laws.
I have been drawn to animals since I was young. I see them in my backyard, around Shaker Lakes and when I travel with my family; I visit zoos, aquariums and natural history museums regularly; and I even enjoy watching them in movies and on TV. I marvel at the size of humpback whales, at the color of the feathers of red-tailed hawks, at the scales of emerald tree boas, at the relationship between a doe and her fawn, at the way dolphins frolic in the ocean, at the peacefulness of koalas and at the cuteness of penguins.
I take pride in our ancient laws and traditions that, for thousands of years, have forbidden cruelty to animals and required responsible stewardship of G-d’s creations and I vow to uphold them.
COVID-19 has affected my Judaism in many ways. First, it limited my ability to connect with the BBYO community. BBYO is one of the main ways I connect with Judaism in my day-to-day life. It has introduced me to so many people that I would’ve loved to spend time with, however the virus has made it so I can only talk to them virtually, instead of making those meaningful in person bonds. Second, my Confirmation trip was cancelled. I lost the opportunity to spend times with kids my age in my Jewish community and make stronger connections because of the virus. I hope that we can have another opportunity to create those bonds. Lastly, my trip to Israel with Camp Wise was cancelled. This has heavily affected my day-to-day Judaism because I’ve been looking forward to this trip for years. I’ve never been to Israel and I was so excited to get to go there and connect with the land where my religion originated. However, I’ve overcome these obstacles by keeping in contact through things like zoom meetings, facetime, and much more. I’m very disappointed about how COVID has affected my Judaism this summer, but I’ve found ways to stay connected to it.
The place where I find God is within the Jewish communities in which I am involved. As Rabbi Caruso said in our meeting together, I didn’t really have a choice whether or not to be involved in the Jewish community, in a good way. A big part of this is that I am so lucky to have many Rabbis and Jewish educators in my life as family and friends. As you can see, I am very involved here in the Fairmount Temple community. When I was little, I came here for preschool, and then came on Sunday mornings, and eventually Monday nights for religious school, whether I liked it or not. In addition, I have a family connection to temple, as I first knew Rabbi Caruso, as Uncle Josh. I have been attending Camp Wise, or more accurately, the Home of Happiness, since the summer of 2013 when I was just 9. I haven’t stopped going since, even spending seven weeks there in 2018 and 2019. I now also have a family connection to Camp Wise, thanks to my mom’s new job. This summer, I was looking forward to spending a month in Israel with camp. For obvious reasons, that couldn’t happen. Nevertheless, I am ecstatic to return in summer 2021, because I never feel closer to God than when I am present in the moment, on a Shabbat evening in the Camp Wise chapel. Another community I am very involved in is BBYO. I have been a member since the 8th grade and taken many leadership positions within my chapter of Samson AZA and the Ohio Northern Region. BBYO is a safe and fun space for me. It’s guaranteed that I can always be myself and have fun doing it. In BBYO, I find God in the community and the friends I have made from it. To sum it all up, I find God in my own unique, special, and amazing Jewish community.
How has this year during COVID-19 affected your Judaism? This year, it has felt very hard to connect with God. In a sense, COVID and the Quarantine have made it as if Judaism didn’t seem as important as it used to be to me. Through everything though, being Jewish is one of the only things in my life I can rely on, and truly one of the defining factors of who I am. For me, it is very hard to pray and speak with God in my house, which does not feel as holy as Fairmount Temple always feels to me. I feel separated from the people I see there every week, and it tears me apart. This pandemic has given me the motivation to make sure my Judaism stays a priority to me, even though sometimes it may feel as if it’s not.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on my life, especially on my Judaism. In many ways, COVID-19 has made it harder for me to stay connected to Judaism. For example, normally I spend my summer at a Jewish day camp. I’ve been going to this camp since I was in elementary school, and I look forward to it every year. Last summer, I worked there as a counselor for the first time. As both a counselor and a camper, being at camp was an important part of my Jewish identity. From singing Modeh Ani together at the start of each day, to getting to know the counselors from Israel, to celebrating Shabbat with my friends at the end of the week, camp made me feel more connected to Judaism. However, our camp was unable to open this year due to safety concerns with COVID-19. Though I understand why this difficult decision had to be made, not being able to be at camp this summer has made it harder to feel as connected to Judaism. Additionally, COVID-19 has made it more difficult to celebrate Jewish holidays. For example, I normally look forward to Passover because I get to spend time with my extended family at our Seders. However, this year, we had to have a shorter Seder on Zoom due to COVID-19. Because we couldn’t all be together to observe the holiday fully, it was more difficult to maintain my connection with Judaism. Furthermore, because of COVID-19, I could not attend my weekly religious school classes like normal. While we still made the best of the situation by having classes on Zoom, not being able to be with other Jewish kids/teens in person made staying connected to Judaism more challenging.
On the other hand, being forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19 has somewhat strengthened my connection to Judaism. For instance, self-isolation has caused me to place more focus on Judaism because, when all of my other extracurriculars/other activities were cancelled, I could still do Zoom calls for religious school, camp, and other Jewish events (such as BBYO programs). While Zoom calls could not compare to actually being together, in the absence of other activities to focus my attention on, I ended up focusing more on Judaism and Jewish activities. Additionally, self-isolation made my connection to Judaism more personal. For example, my grandmother usually makes most of the food for our Passover Seder. However, because we could not be together for our Seder this year, my family and I made most of the food for the Seder ourselves. As I learned to make the traditional recipes myself, my connection to Judaism grew stronger. Overall, my relationship with Judaism has been affected in a variety of ways by COVID-19, and it has been somewhat difficult to stay connected to my Jewish identity. Still, I am confident that, when this pandemic is over, we will be stronger than we were before it started.
During my Confirmation year I have been challenged to think about what it means to be Jewish. The Hebrew phrase, Na’aseh V’nishmah means we will do and we will listen. It tells us we must listen to what’s going on in the world and then act on it. So far, 2020 has been a hard year for everyone. The Australian wildfires, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the uprising against police brutality has all had an overwhelming impact on our world. The phrase above urges us to educate ourselves about what’s really happening in our society. From that we can make a change and speak out about what’s right and hopefully make a difference. As a Jewish person today, I feel a sense of obligation to speak out about injustices in our system because I can relate to being part of a community that has been historically oppressed for centuries. There have been times where anti-Semitic comment has been made around me and I’ve had to learn how to rise above it. I’ve always tried my best to be informed about what is happening in our world and form my own opinions based on what I see and hear. As I’m getting older I can now fully understand that there are so many different perspectives within a conflict. Being able to see and listen to what’s going on in the world is one thing but to recognize there is another side to every issue can help us respect each other’s opinions. I am now at the age where I am able to choose the path I want to go down in life. Although I’m not sure what that path is now, I know that I want to make an impact in my society. My Confirmation class is part of the youth in American that are going to change the future for our nation, so if we all listen openly and act fairly we can make this world an equal and safer place.
This year has really affected my Judaism by not allowing me to see my friends and some family but also interfering with my home life, school life, and religious school life. I loved going to temple Sunday mornings to help the kids in 5th and 6th grade, but also going to Monday night School and just have fun with my friends and learning more every single time about Judaism. Not being able to go to temple basically took a piece out of me because it was a part of my routine and it felt awkward not being able to go every week. Most of the people here know I like to play baseball and it’s a big part of my life. I skipped practices on Monday nights to go to temple. That tells you how welcoming everyone is here and I wouldn’t have ever second-guessed my decision.
COVID-19 affected my Judaism because I couldn’t go to temple and attend Confirmation Classes. Nor could I go on the Confirmation trip to NYC. My Confirmation ceremony was obviously delayed and I have felt more distant from the Temple but it hasn’t been awful. I do not feel any less Jewish or less observant than before. As Jews, we don’t need a physical building to pray. We can celebrate anywhere. My family would watch some of the live-stream services on Friday evenings and my mother and I occasionally made challah on Shabbat. Since everything shut down during COVID, we were home more and it was much easier to watch the services and we had more time for Shabbat dinner. I found that we could still pray and be Jewish. Still, practicing Judaism in our home is still not as good as going to Temple regularly. I am looking forward to the time where we can all celebrate together as one congregation.
The Coronavirus affected my Judaism significantly. This was a year I was so excited for, a year I have been waiting for many years. I was supposed to go to Israel this summer with Camp Wise. A whole month in Israel with so many of my friends that I adore and have grown up with. Sadly, the trip was cancelled due to COVID. I was so excited to learn more about the history of my people and the experience the “real-life” culture in person. I was going to learn about the hardship and struggles of the Jewish people and visit many historical locations. Being Jewish is a huge part of my life and not being able to experience this particular Israel trip makes me super sad. Everyone has told me how your trip to Israel is “life changing”. I truly believe that this summer would have been exactly that…..a life changing experience.
Confirmation is one of the most wonderful rites of passage in the Jewish faith and one that I looked forward to along with the big trip to New York City. Since my Consecration nearly a decade ago when I first read the Torah, to my Bar Mitzvah and all of the excitement that went with it, I have looked forward to this culminating year. The COVID-19 Pandemic stopped everything in its tracks, including that trip which affected my Judaism as it affected my ability to share the culture I love so much being with others. I was so excited for my Confirmation trip to New York City. It would have been my first trip to the “Big Apple,” and I was going to spend a full weekend with some of my closest friends from Anshe Chesed–friends that I had gone through every milestone with since my Consecration. I was also excited about seeing how the Jewish faith was celebrated in a city with the history of NYC and visiting Ellis Island, where my own great-great-grandparents arrived when they traveled to America where the “streets were paved with gold.” I believe that trip would have given me a whole new perspective on my Jewish faith and all that others had to go through to be able to celebrate their own traditions and beliefs freely. Unfortunately, COVID-19 changed all that. No trip; no chances to be together physically; missed opportunities all around. I am lucky that my family was not directly affected by the disease, but it was certainly challenging to get used to the new norm. On the positive side, I am really glad that we were still able to connect virtually, and I am grateful that I got to share my experiences with all of my classmates and friends during this unprecedented time. COVID-19 also made me appreciate the world around me more and how important it is to appreciate the truly important things in life like family and community. I am especially grateful to be able to celebrate together here today.
This year had many unexpected turns. A virus has swept over the planet and our nation is faced with racism and brutality. Na’aseh V’nishmah – we will do and we will listen – relates to my Confirmation year because the non-Black population needs to listen to Black communities’ struggles with inequality and police brutality, such as the case with George Floyd, and take action accordingly, whether that’s through protest or through contacting local government offices. Na’aseh V’nishmah relates to the pandemic this year because although quarantine is no longer legally in effect in Ohio, people still need to listen to scientists and doctors and take safe precautions.