After a year of studying and wrestling with and exploring what it means to be a Jewish teen and part of a Jewish community, this year’s confirmation class created and led a Shavuot service that honored and celebrated their Jewish journey and the collective Jewish people’s journey to Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. The twenty-four members of Confirmation 5777 shared their experiences, taught us about confirmation, Shavuot, and the very prayers they then led us through, guided not by any of us professionals, but by each other. We wish all of our confirmands a gigantic mazel tov. Yael Asofsky, Hannah Bandel, Natalie Benson, Jenna Dalli, Josh Diamond, Hannah Eccleston, Joshua Feldman, Ellen Garfinkle, Llanina Gomez-Goldberg, Jacob Gose, Sophia Hansen, Sierra Kanofsky, Violet Clare Kelly, Shana Lamparello, Sophie Levy, Max Lewin, Sydney Morgan, Chad Purcell, Shelley Saffan, Austin Seidler, Hallie Sly, Jacob Stein, Hannah Nova Tighe, and Eliza Weidner, we cannot wait to see what you do next!
Michelle Miller (1985-2002) was a member of the Temple Beth El Confirmation class of 2002 who deeply embraced Judaism, was dedicated to learning about her Jewish faith and excelled in teaching others about Judaism. Michelle’s life was devoted to furthering the values of Judaism in herself and others. In her memory, her parents, Fred and Joy Miller, and her sister, Rose Planer, have established the Michelle Miller Award for Jewish Commitment which includes a scholarship that goes to the student(s) who stand out among his or her classmates as one who embodies these same values surrounding the teaching and living of Judaism that Michelle embraced.
Max Lewin: It is easy to pick Max Lewin out of a crowd; he wears his passion for Judaism on his sleeve. He serves both our religious school and b’nei mitzvah program as a madrich, tutoring our twelve-year-old b’nei mitzvah students with compassion and an unprecedented level of patience. He represented our community at this year’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, speaking about the ways in which he lives out his Judaism in the larger community, starting a Gay Student Alliance at his school and helping found a food waste recovery program that has earned him county-wide recognition. He is earnest and kind, and engages everyone he meets with a great big smile on his face. He was recently elected as the 2017-2018 Social Action Vice President of Temple Beth El’s youth group LIBERTY, and inspires everyone to engage with our world through the lens of Jewish values.
Ellen Garfinkle: Ellen Garfinkle is universally beloved by everyone she engages with on Shalom Park – and that includes almost everyone on campus! Ellen is part of both Temple Beth El’s Teen Band and Teen Vocal Ensemble, often moving back and forth during the same service – playing bass as part of one musical composition and then moving to the mic to contribute to a vocal piece. She serves as a music madricha at religious school and is a great role model to all of her students. Ellen traveled to Israel last summer as part of the Federation’s P2G contingent, and hosted her Israeli counterpart this year. She and her family spend much of their time volunteering in the community, and are particularly involved with Freedom School. Ellen is mature, responsible, considerate, and accepting, and we are proud to have her as a member of our community.
We are confident that students like Ellen and Max carry the hope we hold for the future of the Jewish people and will do great things. A special thank you to Fred and Joy Miller and Jonathan and Rose Planer for sharing Michelle’s story with all of us, and for supporting this program and inspiring and celebrating our stellar youth. What a beautiful and meaningful way to honor Michelle’s memory!