Certain dates bring back specific memories. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Tragedies. Special Occasions.
On January 6, 1978, 38 years ago today, I became a Bat Mitzvah.
When you are Jewish, and grow up in a Jewish community, like I did, that experience isn’t unique. Nobody says, “Wow, you did that?”
I remember when my non-Jewish boyfriend (who is now my husband) was rummaging around my childhood bedroom and found a cassette tape labelled January 6, 1978/Sara’s Bat Mitzvah. He put it in my cassette player and pressed play.
It was a tape of me singing my Torah portion, in Hebrew.
He was amazed. He’d only attended one Bar Mitzvah when he was a kid and at age 13, few kids appreciate the work that goes into preparing for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. The only thing he remembers from that Bar Mitzvah is somebody making fun of him because he was wearing sneakers while all the other young boys wore shiny leather dress shoes.
He couldn’t believe I knew all that Hebrew. He couldn’t believe I could sing well. He couldn’t believe I went up in front of my family and friends at age 13 and read from the holy scrolls.
When my kids had their Bat Mitzvahs, we invited as many non-Jews as Jews. Some of the non-Jews were reticent. They didn’t know what to expect and I think felt like it was some sort of cult-like ceremony they were going to be witness to. Several people, afterward, came up to tell me that they had no idea how significant and meaningful the ceremony would be. Many of them thought it would be like a confirmation, which it is not.
I have a lot of issues with religion. I’m not sure I believe in the power of it to heal. I don’t feel right about proselytizing or anybody who believes their way is the right way and those who don’t believe what they believe will suffer for it in the long run.
But, I do believe in the ceremony of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah. It puts a child in touch with where they come from. It forces them to spend time understanding aspects of their ancestry that they may never explore again. It teaches them something about their own potential.
So I honor today. It is a day that I worked hard to reach. It is a day that makes me proud.
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