Stories from the Archive

Delve into diverse stories of bat mitzvah and its meaning and impact, past, present, and future.

Episode 71: Bat Mitzvah at 100

On March 18, 1922, Judith Kaplan made history when she stood in front of her Manhattan congregation and had America's first bat mitzvah ceremony. Judith's bat mitzvah was groundbreaking at the time, but it didn't look like most bat mitzvahs today. In this episode of Can We Talk?, producer Jen Richler talks with Professor Carole Balin about how the bat mitzvah has evolved over the past century, and how girls and their parents have pushed for that evolution.

Episode 28: The Torah at Her Fingertips

Batya Sperling Milner’s recent bat mitzvah was groundbreaking; it was the first held in an Orthodox synagogue in which the Torah portion was chanted from braille. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Batya talks about the highlights of her bat mitzvah and her mother, Aliza Sperling, discusses her groundbreaking scholarship on blind people reading Torah within the bounds of Jewish law. We talk about the first ever braille trope system—one created especially for Batya. Batya describes her love of Torah, her commitment to Jewish law, and her desire to be recognized for who she is, rather than defined by a disability.

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Maya Jodidio at her Bat Mitzvah

Secular Bat Mitzvahs? Yes, they do exist!

Maya Jodidio

When I was in 7th grade, all of my Jewish friends complained about having to memorize Torah portions and prayers for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I had a Bat Mitzvah too, but mine was secular and didn't include these traditional elements. My secular ceremony was different than any other Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and that is what made it so special to me. 

Roslyn Lieberman Horwich's bat mitzvah speech, 1940–41 (page 1)

A Reform Synagogue's First Bat Mitzvah

Rabbi Daniel Kirzane

Temple B’nai Abraham Zion's Associate Rabbi discusses the congregations first bat mitzvah, Roslyn Lieberman Horwich.

Rebecca Lubetkin Celebrating her 60th Bat Mitzvah Anniversary

Rebecca Lubetkin's 60th Bat Mitz-versary

Deborah Fineblum Raub

“It’s funny how practices that seem way out in one generation become so commonplace in another that people wonder what took so long.

Collage of Torah, Jade Chai Necklace, and Image of Amanda Xinhui Malnik

My Necklace is a Symbol of My Jewish-Chinese Feminist Identity

Amanda Xinhui Malnik

My jade chai necklace has become my most prized possession as a Jewish-Chinese feminist.

Tallit, Advah Designs

My Grandmother, My Mother and I: Finding Our First Tallitot

Hannah Elbaum

My grandmother, my mother, and I walked into a store. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? Actually, the three of us were on a mission to find a tallit for me. My bat mitzvah was approaching, and, since neither my mom nor my grandmother had a tallit of her own, they both wanted to accompany me.

Topics: Ritual
Illustration of Silhouetted Face Over Butterfly Background

My Jewish Feminist Metamorphosis

Lily Pazner

On the day of my bat mitzvah, I started to confront my internalized antisemitism and sexism.

Lily Drazin at her Bat Mitzvah

Orthodoxy, Feminism, and Me

Lily Drazin

My family, being more progressive than most in our community, are strong believers in women reading from the Torah. My older sister, Jennie, read Torah at Robinson’s Arch, the egalitarian section of the Western Wall, for her Bat Mitzvah, so it was a given that I would do the same.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Stories from the Archive." (Viewed on February 24, 2024) <http://jwa.org/batmitzvah100/stories-from-the-archive>.