Why is this class of confirmands different from all other classes?
Because unlike the usual high school sophomores teaming with the adrenaline of the teen years, the nine residents of the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life celebrating this rite of passage span the age range of 68 to 97: Ann Pomerantz, Dr. David and Janet Gerstman, Eileen Cohen, Elaine Polokoff, Flora Rockovitz, Loretta Goldstein, Mae Mankin and Stanley Poplow.
But it is the Rock of Ages, not rocking chairs, that supported their vision to be confirmed.
Some history from Andrea Adelman, Abramson's vice president of development: "Two years ago, a group of residents approached Rabbi Josh Zlochower," the North Wales facility's director of chaplaincy services, "about studying and participating in a confirmation program."
Zlochower teamed with Rabbi Ericas Steelman, staff chaplain, as well as Lem Tarshis, a volunteer, to get the program rolling, Adelman continued. They held study sessions every two weeks for the 10 students (one, Fred Cove, passed away during the interim). A number of area teachers and rabbis were even brought in to offer their perspectives on such topics as the Holocaust and the importance of tikkun olam.
There was even, says Adelman, a Chanukah gathering featuring an interactive, intergenerational celebration with members of JteenPhilly (a branch of jkidphilly) spinning dreidels and munching on latkes with the confirmands-to-be.
During the educational sessions, "participants conducted services, were called to the Torah and affirmed their commitment to Jewish learning and leadership," says Adelman. "At a time in their lives when they could focus on what is wrong with their health and minds, they are moving forward to maximize their assets and lead full Jewish lives."
Notes Rabbi Zlochower: “People can lead meaningful lives no matter their age or health issues. The Jewish community can benefit from the wisdom and leadership of our elders.”
Indeed, when it comes to wisdom, who can dispute these pearls per recent confirmand Dr. David Gerstman, 79, a resident in Abramson's personal care apartments, whose wife, Janet, lives in Abramson's skilled nursing department.
As quoted by Adelman, Gerstman said, "There is so much yet to learn and so little time," but he is finding the time to "dedicate myself to prayer, study and good works."
Good news for Abramson residents who may have missed out on registration for the 2014 Confirmation class: A new session — which takes two years to complete — is being set up for the fall.