Confirmation is a Reform-originated ceremony for teens that is tied to the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. It constitutes an individual and group affirmation of commitment to the Jewish people. Confirmation, one of the “youngest” Jewish lifecycle ceremonies, began less than 200 years ago.
Most scholars attribute the creation of confirmation to Israel Jacobson, a wealthy German businessman and a nominal “founder” of Reform Judaism. In 1810, expending more than $100,000 of his own money, Jacobson built a new synagogue in Seesen, Germany. He introduced a number of then radical reforms, including the use of an organ and mixed gender seating. Jacobson felt that bar mitzvah was an outmoded ceremony. Accordingly, when five 13-year-old boys were about to graduate from the school he maintained, Jacobson designed a new graduation ceremony, held in the school rather than the synagogue. In this manner, confirmation came into being.
At first only boys were confirmed, usually on the Shabbat of their bar mitzvah. Because of the controversial nature of the confirmation ceremony, the earliest rituals were held exclusively in homes or in schools. In 1817, the synagogue in Berlin introduced a separate confirmation program for girls. In 1822, the first class of boys and girls was confirmed, a practice that became almost universal in a relatively brief period of time. In 1831, Rabbi Samuel Egers of Brunswick, Germany, determined to hold confirmation on Shavuot, the festival of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which is the widely accepted practice today for young people of all genders. Learn more about confirmation.