OUR “B’NOT MITZVAH” CEREMONY: AN EXTRAORDINARY EVENT
When a Jewish boy reaches the age of 13, that boy automatically becomes a bar-mitzvah — a “son of the commandments,” becoming responsible for Jewish life. In egalitarian Jewish movements, girls, too, become responsible for Jewish life at 13 and become bat-mitzvah. However, when many of the women in our Chavurah became 13, there were few congregations celebrating this event as boys did. And therefore, although all the women in the Chavurah are, indeed, “bat-mitzvah,” the women who will stand at the Torah tonight never had the chance to publicly become part of the Jewish community or to experience the power of reading from the Torah.
Tonight, for 32 of our women, this all changes – as each will receive an aliyah and read from the Torah as a formal declaration of their being bat-mitzvah.
What we will witness tonight is an incredible accomplishment by each woman. While some women in our Chavurah are able to read Hebrew, many were not and learned Hebrew for this celebration. Virtually none of the women had ever read a Hebrew text without “vowels” (as the Torah is written) or had ever attempted the Torah chant. But tonight, each will read from the Torah!
More important, each woman called to the Torah tonight is making an extraordinary statement about their sense of Jewish identity and their personal commitment to their Jewish Tradition. Each woman has her own reasons for reading from the Torah tonight. Each will read or chant Torah in her own way, at her own level of Hebrew ability. But all share a common goal: to make the Torah their own in a manner one can only experience by reading it oneself!
I have been deeply moved to be in the presence of this wondrous group – to see the transformation that has taken place for each and every one of them – the way in which they have grown comfortable with what is a most formidable task – reading from the Torah – which most Jews never do in their entire lifetime. I have been touched by the poignancy, insight and personal revelations each has expressed in their d’rash printed in this book. And I have been equally moved by the love and respect each woman has had for the others in the group, offering loving support and encouragement every step of the way. I believe a very beautiful bond has developed among the participants in this group which will be an enduring legacy of this transcendent night.
For our entire Chavurah this is a night of profound significance and import. While each woman has a right to be so proud of their accomplishment, we have a right to be proud of them all as well. These are our women – our wives, our mothers, our grandmothers, our dear friends; and for some in the room, their own children who, now as adults, are fulfilling a right of passage that has been their inheritance.
And I wish to tell every woman called to the Torah tonight — as your rabbi, and as your friend ~ I could not be more proud of you – and happy for you; and grateful for the gift you have given me through our study together. Your commitment to Torah, to Jewishness and to each other has touched my heart and soul in the sweetest and most wonderful of ways. I applaud you all; and I love you all.
I wish to thank a number of people who helped make this “event” possible. First to Andrea Levine and Elaine Erichson, who came to me with this idea last year; what a remarkable gift you have given us all! Lisa Siebert spent hours working with me to find a place for tonight’s celebration – and worked out all the details with UConn. Marion Gans made her home available so that we could gather to study together. Ann Wess and Edith Samers were part of a committee that attended to the myriad details for tonight’s celebration; and Bernie Weiss did his usual outstanding job of capturing it all on film. Thanks to Marty Levine and Ed Schechter for assisting in the service. Rich Levit – thank you for taping this evening so that we will have video memories forever. I thank Shlomo Shai for bringing music and joy to yet another Chavurah celebration! Thanks to all those who helped me collate! And I cannot tell you how much help Arline Melzer was in the creation of the B’not Mitzvah Book- she deserves special thanks from all. And as always, Ruth was a constant source of encouragement, advice and caring of me as I worked at putting this evening together. This was truly a group effort of Chavurat Aytz Chayim – and I am honored and privileged to be your rabbi and, with Ruth and our children, to be part of this remarkably lovely group of families – all of whom I love very much. Mitzuyan, Mitzuyan, Mitzuyan! – Rabbi Mark S. Golub (May 15, 2009)