I became Bat Mitzvah on Shabbat morning, April 5, 1975, and I have always thought about that day as one of the greatest of my life. I loved the
preparation and I didn’t complain about practicing since my tutor, Uncle Ben Aronin, was such an engaging teacher. I was incredibly enthusiastic about overseeing every detail of the celebration, from the invitations to the
napkins. I remember saying, “It’s my Bat Mitzvah,” to anyone who would
listen. When the day came It was thrilling to read from the Torah and to
command the congregation’s attention. During the 1970s much was changing in the Conservative Jewish world, particularly with the women’s movement challenging assumptions about women’s roles in synagogues. As a result, I understood that while Jewish boys and men had been reading from the Torah for thousands of years, it was a now a privilege being granted to girls and women as well. So my Bat Mitzvah felt significant not just for me and my family, but for my congregation as well. I felt as though I was forging a new path.
Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz
Temple Beth El
My Bat Mitzvah took place on June 7, 1968. Robert Kennedy had been shot only a few days earlier and the nation was in shock from this assassination. And Dr. King had been assassinated only a few months before that. I remember wondering whether the world was coming to an end; America was deeply mired in Vietnam and college campuses were exploding. My rabbi thought about postponing the Bat Mitzvah but in the end, it was decided that life should go on as usual (this played out in my rabbinate many years later following 9/11 when that week’s bat mitzvah girl and I realized that her bat mitzvah was the antidote to the despair and grief in the world and that life would go on in celebration of Shabbat and Torah).
My Bat Mitzvah was held on Friday night; at that time, all b’not mitzvah took place on Friday evening while Shabbat morning was reserved for boys only. Otherwise, my Bat Mitzvah was exactly the same as the boys–reading of both Torah and Haftarah in Hebrew, leading the Torah service and giving a D’var Torah. I remember how I felt afterwards as clearly as if it had happened last week. The chaos of the world outside retreated and I felt completely present to that moment on the bema. I felt inspired, invigorated, thrilled and joyful–all at the same time. It was that night as I lay in my bed that I determined to become a rabbi. I thought it would be wonderful to spend my life reading and teaching Torah and being involved with the Jewish people. I still feel that way! And I try to bring that enthusiasm and joy to every bar or bat mitzvah student I teach.
Rabbi Deborah Zecher
Hevreh of Southern Berkshire