I didn’t realize just how lucky I was to be able to have a Bat Mitzvah, and read from the Torah on a Saturday morning in front of the Conservative congregation in my hometown, until the Museum’s recent Coming of Age in America program, in which scholars reflected on the history of Bat Mitzvah and its meaning to women of all ages.
My mom was confirmed as a teenager, and then commemorated her Bat Mitzvah as an adult through an adult class offered by our synagogue. Her mother, my grandmother, was very active as an adult in Jewish organizations and commemorated the Bat Mitzvah she never had during a trip to Israel when she was in her sixties. My paternal grandmother did not have a Bat Mitzvah, but was confirmed at Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia. Her daughter, my aunt, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah on a Friday night because girls weren't allowed to be on the bimah on a Saturday nor read read from the Torah at all. I never thought about the fact that Bat Mitzvah simply wasn’t an opportunity widely available to women when they were young. Even more surprising was that I never thought about how meaningful it was for them to be able to participate in this significant ritual.
I realize now that following my own Bat Mitzvah, we had celebrated three generations of Bat Mitzvah in my family within a few short years. It’s strange to think that in a sense I was a Bat Mitzvah "first" in my family because I was able to stand on bimah and read from the Torah during Saturday morning services.
The Museum’s Coming of Age in America program made me step away from the details of planning a program and connect with our beautiful Museum and its content in a personally meaningful and memorable way.
-Contributed by Emily August
Public Programs Manager