Yesterday I wrote that I was on my way to Kingston, Ontario for a family ‘do’. It’s my cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah, which is this morning. I’ll be heading over to the synagogue, shortly. Which means I won’t be able to tell you how she did. I have no doubts that she’ll be terrific. She’s a great kid. A wonderful, loving, bright girl who works and studies hard. She’s always done well in school, and continues to. So no worries for her, for today.
While Jewish boys have to have a bar mitzvah when they turn thirteen, it’s not a ‘must for girls. Not a hard and fast rule. I never had one. They weren’t all that fashionable back then, not that I would have paid attention to that. If I’d wanted one, I would have said so. I didn’t. But it is much more common now. The other difference is, girls have their bat mitzvahs at twelve. I have no idea why.
That they have them at all is quite a break in tradition, actually. Jewish women have always been prohibited from participating directly in religious ceremonies. But I guess there must have been some militant females in the late 19th century (early feminists), because many Jewish communities began commemorating girls turning twelve, with a ceremony. A bat mitzvah.
The first in recorded history took place in the United States, in 1922, when Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan performed the ceremony for his daughter, Judith; and she was allowed to read from the Torah. And while this didn’t come close to the complexity of a bar mitzvah, it is significant none the less, because it Continue reading →