The Meshkovs first met at confirmation class 50 years ago, marrying four years later.
When Dr. Arnold and Norma Meshkov met in Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel’s confirmation class 50 years ago, it was love at first sight.
Well, not exactly.
“I really liked her a lot, but unfortunately for me at that time, she had a couple of other boyfriends,” said Arnold.
Norma delicately shared that Arnold was a “late bloomer” and that she didn’t really notice him at the time. But his interest persisted beyond that confirmation class at the Elkins Park synagogue through three years at Cheltenham High School, during which they sat next to each other in homeroom because her last name, Messinger, followed his.
“By the time we were seniors in high school, we were pretty much together,” Arnold said. The two married four years later, as college seniors, and now have two children and three grandchildren.
The Meshkovs will take a stroll down memory lane on the evening of May 23, when the 160th confirmation class of their lifelong synagogue is celebrated in conjunction with the Shavuot holiday. Their class’ 50th anniversary will also be recognized.
The combination of confirmation and Shavuot has become a common practice in non-Orthodox congregations. But like many synagogues, the number of confirmands is significantly lower than it was decades ago. This year’s KI class has 28 participants, down from the roughly 140 that graduated with the Meshkovs in 1965.
Arnold Meshkov, who is currently moving into his third year as synagogue president, says that although the number of participants has dipped from 50 years ago, the size of the confirmation class has stayed fairly steady over the last several years.
In his opinion, “the kids get a lot out of it, ” he said. “The topics that are covered at the confirmation academy are much more eclectic,” with art, literature, ethics and politics. “Ours wasn’t bad, but it’s more broad now.”
At this year’s confirmation ceremony, the current class will receive a Torah from the class that preceded them. The Torah has special significance as it was sponsored by the confirmation class of 2007 and all of the synagogue’s members had a chance to write one of the letters while it was being written. Since its introduction to the community, the Torah has been handed down ceremonially from one class to another.
“We always recognized why confirmation occurred” during Shavuot, said Meshkov, a cardiologist by trade, referring to the symbolic correlation of the confirmands connection to the community at the same time the Jewish people celebrate receiving the Torah.
As Reform Jews, he said, the synagogue’s congregants may not be “as ritualistic as some of the other denominations, but we know about the counting of the Omer, the delivery of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the wandering in the desert — we appreciate the time of the year.”
Both Meshkovs said they are looking forward to seeing many old friends return to the community around which they have built their lives. “The anniversary of our confirmation is important to us because obviously we’re still very connected and very involved in Keneseth Israel, and have been for most of our lives,” said Norma Meshkov, who owns an eyeglass store in Center City.
Although many things have changed in their personal lives over the years, she added, “the one constant, other than each other, has been our synagogue.”