June 18, 2014

This Should Be a Word: “Congfirmation”

by Miriam Chilton

Every week I look for the “That Should Be a Word” column in The One-Page Magazine in the Sunday New York Times. The column, if you can call it that, has an amazing knack for coining a good neologism – a new word or phrase. The humor, smarts, and creativity of the words inspired me to create my own neologism – “congfirmation” (pronounced cong-fir-may-shun).

Let me explain.

I recently had the honor and pleasure to witness my youngest child affirm his faith as part of the confirmation process at our synagogue, Temple Ner Tamid of Bloomfield, N.J. After a year of study with our rabbi, each of the 14 students shared why Judaism was important to them and then publicly affirmed their faith in front of the entire congregation. I started to wonder: “Why, if they are affirming their faith, do we not call the process ‘affirmation’ instead of ‘confirmation’?” Then I asked myself the differences between the two.

According to Merriam Webster, “affirm” means “to validate or state positively, to assert as valid and to express someone’s dedication,” whereas “confirm” means “to ratify, to strengthen, and to give assurance.” Once I had the definitions, I felt less sure which of the two words best described my son’s journey. I was also not fully convinced either fully captured the importance of the process.

The students have begun to understand and recognize that Judaism, at its core and embodied in its customs and rituals, is a communal religion. Many of the confirmands, who are 15 or 16 years old, spoke about the communal nature of Judaism as a vital part of why they value being Jewish. My son noted how, working together, we can truly make a meaningful difference in the world. Some spoke of being connected and supported by community, while others spoke about honoring the past as they looked to the future. My son and his classmates aspire to change the world for the better and are embracing their quest to find meaning and purpose.

What was so powerful about the confirmation experience is that they recognized the value our sacred communities play as social, intellectual, and spiritual centers. I’m confident that even if we do not see them often at Shabbat services, they now understand, on some fundamental level, that to achieve their purpose, they will seek the communal nature that is linked to the understanding of themselves as the people bound by the Covenant.

“Congfirmation,” then, the act of affirming and confirming one’s Jewish faith amongst a congregation that nurtures and supports them, could be a more accurate and comprehensive word. It’s a word that not only defines what happens but also celebrates that which is unique and so powerful about our religion. Although this was my youngest son’s confirmation, I know that in the years to come, I will be there for others in our community who will be confirmed. I’m confident and optimistic that by the very nature of Judaism, our sacred communities will always be there to sustain our children.

I have the privilege of working for the Union for Reform Judaism, where I help lead youth engagement. After my son’s confirmation weekend, my commitment to our Campaign for Youth Engagement (CYE) is both confirmed and affirmed because of the 14 young women and men who articulated how important Judaism is to their own lives and where the cycle of giving and learning renewed and enriched all who witnessed and participated.

So when you next see “congfirmation” in the New York Times Magazine, remember: You read it here first!


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April 27, 2014

New Dues Model – An Intro

A Jewish proverb states, “Three things are certain in life: birth, death and membership dues.” No, we can’t get away from them, but we can rethink them. And we are. The Temple leadership is rethinking how to restructure dues. But this isn’t a conversation for only the Temple leadership to engage in.

We need your voice and participation in this dues and membership conversation.

Over the years, and more recently in the strategic planning campaign, TNT 2020, dues have been a recurring concern. Most unsettling are comments that dues can create a barrier to membership and even a reason to leave Ner Tamid. This is not what we are about. Dues are necessary, but should not limit anyone’s membership. Give what you can, do what you are able.

Our main desire, our congregational mission, in fact, is to establish a community where each member is valued and you feel you can contribute to the community’s social, spiritual, and cultural well-being. This is our community: where all together, we create our Jewish present and future.  Each of us invests part of our lives at TNT: From Shabbat, Religious School, Bar/Bat Mitzvah and chanting circle to Havdallah Cafes, Purimspiels and Purim carnivals, softball team and senior’s group.

TNT’s business is about Jewish lives. Since we are all part of TNT, it’s also our business. We find our dividends in life-long memories and lasting friendships; and discover them at life events and at the most unsuspecting moments. Dues may keep the lights on; your participation keeps this community vibrant.

Earlier, we mentioned dues restructuring. The board has found a ‘Free Will’ dues model which might work well for us. Here is a simple description of this model: The synagogue provides a transparent view of financial costs at a per-member basis. Members, in turn, give honest consideration to what they can commit to the temple. No financial reviews.

Dues, finances, and membership are complicated topics and we’ve only skimmed the surface. What next?

Learn:
Our congregation is not alone in this struggle. Many synagogues across the country are also exploring alternate dues models, including Free Will. Coincidentally, the Spring 2014 edition of Reform Judaism, (you may have received it in the mail recently), features an article about ‘Free Will’ membership. Here is a link to that article for you to read: Reform Judaism Free Will Article

Discuss:
This will be a topic at our congregational meeting on May 21st. We will also host focused town hall meetings over the next several months for you to come and discuss this in person. Ask questions, listen and engage with other community members on this important topic.

Please understand that nothing has been decided. This is an important, community-wide conversation impacting all of us. As we continue our explorations, we may make a change, or decide to make none.

However we proceed, we hope we can forge new relationships, stronger bonds and an even more robust community.

Please feel free to contact us at Joel.Dorow@verizon.net or Jodi.Nussbaum@hotmail.com.

We look forward to you joining us in the conversation.

Joel Dorow
Jodi Nussbaum

 


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