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Jewesses with Attitude

My Bat Mitzvah's Bat Mitzvah

Sealfons Department Store Displaying Bathing Suits, Blizzard of '96Jordan's Bat Mitzvah, January 6, 1996 Today is the 13th anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah - my Bat Mitzvah’s Bat Mitzvah. In Ridgewood, New Jersey (where I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah), it was the famous “Blizzard of ’96” which delivered two feet of snow to a town where bathing suits were prematurely displayed in the windows of Sealfons (a department store founded by Samuel I. Sealfon of Ridgewood, New Jersey.

It’s been a while since I attended a Bat Mitzvah or revisited my own, so allow me to reminisce. A few highlights:

1. The chanting of my parsha was a family project. I chanted three aliyot of Parshat Vayechi while my mother, father, aunt, and uncle chanted the others. I remember listening to recordings of aliyot numbers 1 and 2 (my mother’s and my father’s) on a cassette tape in their car. The trope-listening car ride has since become something of a tradition.

2. I opted to wear an Orthodox woman’s black hat on the bimah. Though I had no interest in wearing a kippah while chanting Torah and leading services, I was nonetheless required to cover my head. So, I took a trip with my mother to Monsey, New York to buy a velvety, wide-brimmed black hat. It was a rather baffling experience for the saleswoman to sell a hat designed for a married woman to a tiny, non-Orthodox Bat Mitzvah girl.

3. I gave my dvar Torah on sibling rivalry in Genesis.

4. I completed a service project which involved swimming with mentally and physically challenged children at the YWCA swimming pool.

5. I had a good idea for a Bat Mitzvah-themed project but, sadly, it failed. I wrote letters to representatives of Jewish communities in countries all over the world - Russia, Argentina, France, Canada, India, and more. In my letter, I explained that I was celebrating my Bat Mitzvah and wanted to learn about Jewish life in other countries so that I could share different Jewish traditions with my Bat Mitzvah guests. My plan was for each table at the reception to represent a different Jewish community. I would design posters (i.e. “Jewish Life in Calcutta”) displaying the letters I’d received along with color photographs as each table’s center piece. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t pan out. I received only one response to my letter - it was from a Jewish man in Morocco who asked me to marry him. Shockingly, I did not accept the offer. At 13, I was not yet prepared to get married (though I was clearly well-prepared to take on the responsibilities of Jewish “adulthood”).

6. After spending the evening dancing to many hours of Klezmer music, my family and I soaked our feet in the bathtub at 3am.

For many people, Bat Mitzvahs conjure up images of thumping DJs, reckless give-aways of plastic chochkes made in China, Tiffany necklaces, and teenagers playing “coke and pepsi” in their socks. I am glad these images are not the memories that dominate my Bat Mitzvah experience (though I do recall a plethora of lime and magenta-colored blow-up saxophones scattered around the dance floor). For me, becoming a Bat Mitzvah really was about living a tradition, celebrating my heritage with my family, and having a few intentional moments to feel proud.

So ... what do you remember about your Bat Mitzvah?

More on: Ritual, Bat Mitzvah

How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "My Bat Mitzvah's Bat Mitzvah." 6 January 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 21, 2017) <>.


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