Confirmation studies span the tenth grade year, and post confirmation includes grades eleven and twelve.
The tenth grade curriculum includes twenty-five (25) ninety minute sessions as well as four hours of elective adult education course. In addition, each student is required to attend L’taken, a four day conference in Washington, D. C., hosted by the Religious Action Center. The class joins with approximately 300 Reform Jewish high school students from throughout the country to study with some of the nation’s top lobbyists and experts on contemporary political issues. Students study issues related to capital punishment, homelessness, health care, gay rights and a woman’s right to choose, to name a few. They learn the art of lobbying and prepare presentations. On Monday morning the class heads to Capital Hill where each participant makes a lobby presentation to his/her Senators’ and Representatives’ legislative staffs.
Post Confirmation class meets monthly for ninety (90) minute sessions and requires an additional eight (8) hours of adult education elective course study. The focus of this class is to continue exploring topics covered during Confirmation as well as to prepare students for life on a college campus. At present, a four day seminar is being planned for the 2009-10 academic year.
The course of study for Confirmation and Post Confirmation addresses contemporary issues relevant to high school students and demonstrates that Jewish ethics and values may help them see situations and choices through a different lens. For example, when we confront the social situation of a party where teens are drinking alcohol and then prepare to drive, the rabbi asks how many of their parents told them that they should just call home and someone would pick them up from the party without consequence. The rabbi then states that this is an important component, but it is the selfish part of the lesson: “What about those at risk because of a drunk driver on the roads?” We brainstorm possible courses of action that not only keep one’s self safe, but also focuses on concern for others who may be at risk.
The majority of the course confronts issues of personal health. We explore alcohol abuse, drug addiction and recovery in depth (ie. it is a field of some expertise for the rabbi). We discuss date rape by using the narrative about the rape of Dina in the Book of Genesis. We talk about premarital sex and issues related to a maturing teenager using Responsa texts. We spend weeks talking about Sex in the Bible, using Samson and Delilah as a set induction to discuss dysfunctional relationships and Judah and Tamar to discuss the problems that arise when sex is used as a weapon to advance a personal agenda. Students are asked to wrestle with the difficult issue of abortion, confronting nuanced facts and situations rather than an all-or-nothing debate. Lust and choice are confronted by use of text from the Talmud. Students are encouraged to confront their own sense of morality and to make informed decisions.
A section on Jewish Medical Ethics empowers the students to engage a range of contemporary legal and moral questions. We talk about the Quinlan and Cruzan cases and the end of life issues that arise. We explore the difference between using ‘heroic’ medical intervention and providing intravenous food and water as students decide for themselves whether there is a moral difference. Specific information related to a DNR and health care proxy are taught. Euthanasia also is discussed at great length.
There is a section of the course dedicated to faith and finding God. Rather than advancing a ‘correct faith,’ theological models such as those advanced by Philo, Maimonides, Martin Buber and Mordechai Kaplan are presented and discussed. Students are encouraged to engage each model to determine what resonates with their own thinking and faith. The instructor repeatedly ties faith to the choices we make in life as a way of reminding the students that personal health, safety and the like must reflect one’s own values if we are to remain proud of how we act.
Additional topics covered during continuing Confirmation and Post Confirmation studies include, but are not limited to:
- Jewish View of the Afterlife
- Capital punishment
- What Jews Think About the New Testament: Comparative Religion
- Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism: What are the Differences?
The curriculum remains somewhat flexible to allow for timely issues to be explored.
Confirmation and Post-Confirmation students come away from their course of study both with information and an ability to confront personal choices in a more thoughtful way. Special emphasis is placed on how to use information and practice one’s values.