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Bat Mitzvah

My Big Fat Feminist Bat Mitzvah

The very idea that I would have to proudly chant and accept this story, this version of Judaism that so obviously conflicted with my feminist sensibility, forced me to question my Jewish identity in a very real way, and for the first time.

Leaving My Liberal Bubble

Because of my upbringing, the gender separation at my cousin Zoe’s bat mitzvah came to me as a shock. Why couldn’t I stand with my dad and all my male cousins? Why wasn’t Zoe reading Torah like all the other girls I knew did at their bat mitzvah services?

Orthodoxy, Feminism, and Me

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.

Faith and Feminism

Last year I met Rabbi Jennifer Singer, and I immediately looked up to her. She’s a strong, spiritual, and independent woman who commands the room with her lively personality. She’s an excellent rabbi, and I always leave her sermons with new ideas and ways of thinking. 

Near(ly) a Woman

Every year in the Hebrew month of Shevat, Jews around the world read Parshat Yitro, the Torah portion that contains the Ten Commandments. But the “Big Ten” are only part of this portion – Parshat Yitro also contains a visit from Moses’ father-in-law, a feast, and a set of instructions from G-d transferred with questionable integrity by Moses to the Israelites. Before becoming a Bat Mitzvah at age 12, I spent months studying this portion and its various commentaries. One line was particularly alarming to me: “Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman.”

Whose Bat Mitzvah Is It Anyway?

Becoming a bat mitzvah was the most spiritual event of my life thus far. Being surrounded by my friends, family, and community as I claimed my place as a Jewish adult was exactly as awe-inspiring and invigorating as I’d been promised it would be. The only dark spot of my day came just after services, during the celebratory brunch, when my uncle informed me that my interpretation of the Torah was wrong.

6 Bat Mitzvah Gifts to Look at Before Writing a Check

Here are six adorable Bat Mitzvah gifts to consider before just giving up and writing a check to the newly minted young adult in your life.

Saturdays with Rhoda

Almost every Saturday for the last five years, I’ve gone to visit my friend Rhoda Nissenbaum. We read together and talk, along with my mother and Rhoda’s aide, Sarah. What started as my Bat Mitzvah project has blossomed into a beautiful friendship.  Fortunately, I was able to record my recent meeting with Rhoda, and we got a chance to talk about her life, all 97 years of it! 

My (Eloquent, Intelligent, and Inspiring) Rabbi

Rabbi Emily Mathis always seems to know the right thing to say. I remember being a little girl looking up at her on the Bimah during Friday night services, and wondering how she produced such beautiful and meaningful speech. I had the opportunity to speak with her recently, and I found myself wondering how she was able to answer so many of my questions before I had even asked them. 

Niddah v. Ronkin: How I was able to Reclaim the Mikveh

It’s so disheartening to me that our religious text calls something as natural as a woman’s period, “impure.” A period is nothing to be ashamed of, and this text only adds to the stigma surrounding them. 

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Bat Mitzvah." (Viewed on December 14, 2018) <https://jwa.org/tags/bat-mitzvah>.

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