A few weeks ago, I arrived late to a Shabbat morning service, to discover a full house. I knew there wasn’t a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, so I was a bit surprised.
I soon realized that the crowd included the Aleph class who were there for their “Consecration” ceremony, as well as the Gimel class, who were receiving their first Siddurim. Parents and other relatives filled the pews, along with other members of the congregation.
I love the Aleph class consecration ceremony. For those who have not attended, let me briefly describe what happens. At a certain point in the service, the class’s wonderful morah, Jeri Salomon, approaches the Bimah and calls up each child. The children stand at the lectern, and in loud, clear voices – some louder and clearer than others – introduce themselves, in Hebrew, by stating their Hebrew and English names. Each then goes on to explain why their parents gave them their Hebrew names, who they are named for, what they hope to learn in Hebrew School, their favorite Jewish holiday and their favorite Jewish food.
The pride on each child’s face is priceless. Their answers to these questions are always thoughtful, and frequently evoke smiles and polite laughter from the congregation. For most of the children, this likely is their first time on the Bimah and almost certainly, their first time stepping up to the microphone alone at Temple Beth Sholom. But none of them is alone. Each child on that day is part of a small, tightly knit class. Each is a member of a loving, caring, kvelling family. And each is a member of our congregation, proudly proclaiming who they are and why they are there. It is truly a time when these students – probably for the first time – literally stand up and proclaim their Jewishness and announce their presence in the Jewish community.
After the children speak, Gail Raucher and Jeri Salomon present each student with a gift, a certificate of Consecration and a stick of honey, the latter representing the sweetness of the moment and of the beginning of their path of Jewish learning While the children enjoy their honey treats, their relatives join together in reciting Shehechiyanu.
In only a few minutes, these little kids have morphed from anonymous children to proud members of our congregation. They have told us who they are and we should remember their names, because they each represent the promise of our future.
Happy and healthy New Year to all.