April 4, 2014
Besides the party that I’ve been counting down the days, hours, and seconds until (which is one hour, 25 minutes and 36 seconds away), what stands out the most about my Bat Mitzvah preparation was knowing I was going to be sharing this significant day with all the people I care about.
Over the past couple of years of planning for this day, Humanistic Judaism has enlightened me. I am proud to be part of the Humanistic community because it is one that is accepting and open-minded. No matter anyone’s opinion or belief about God, Humanistic Jews welcome all kinds of people. It is an interesting culture because the variety of opinions that are accepted, lead to deep and meaningful conversations. Rather than simply reading from the Torah, which is a traditional Jewish custom, and which has its advantages – like not having to write eight papers! – a Humanistic Jewish Bat Mitzvah represents a more modern take on religion. As a Humanistic Bat Mitzvah I feel that my opinions are welcomed and that I am able to express myself fully.
This Bat Mitzvah was no simple task. Being here today is in itself an accomplishment. To prepare for this day, I began interviewing my family members to learn more about where I come from and my family’s values. I made a family tree and in turn, I began to think about my own values and heroes who represent them. I worked with my Bat Mitzvah mentor, Sam Maser, and many others, and then developed my major project. My project allowed me to learn more about Jewish history, Broadway, and take a deeper look into my hobbies. Thinking back on all the work I’ve put into this day, all the time I spent preparing, the pieces came together today and I feel at ease.
Planning for this service allowed me to understand how Judaism plays a part in my life and how it will continue to in the future. As I learned more about Jewish history and culture, I better understood the sacrifices of my ancestors and how lucky I am to be here as a part of this special community. All of my future plans, like going to college and performing in musical theater, will allow me to contribute to the Jewish community and I am grateful to all those who influenced these traditions and paved the way.
Completing this Bat Mitzvah would have been nearly impossible without the help I received behind the scenes. Thank you so much to Mika, Anne, and Carly for the wonderful music and Deena Kaye for helping me to prepare and accompanying me today. Sam, and no I’m not talking about myself, you have been a great mentor to me with your amazing editing and your husband, Jack’s, expansive knowledge of musical theater. You both have been a tremendous help. Isabel Kaplan, your editing and encouragement throughout the preparation for my Bat Mitzvah has been extremely supportive. Leigh, your help with completing these papers, no matter how hard I made it for you, was always fun and enjoyable. Rabbi Peter, not many rabbis would take the time out of their important and busy schedules to make this process so personal and meaningful. Thank you for your time. And finally, Mom and Dad, although I complain that I am being nagged by you all the time, I know that you have my best interests at heart and I would never be standing here without your encouragement and love. Embarking upon this experience, and growing in the process, I have had great influences around me and I am grateful for it all.
Years ago when I just started City Congregation KidSchool, I imagined my Bat Mitzvah to be a very small party with a chocolate fountain, which I fixated on for years. Though I will still have that chocolate fountain, I realize that what truly matters is being a part of the Jewish religion in a new and more independent way. This occasion has inspired me to continue learning about Judaism and appreciating what I have learned so far. After completing this process, I am awe-struck at how much more a Bat Mitzvah is than what I originally thought; it is growing, learning, and feeling Jewish traditions come to life. I appreciate all the steps that have led me to today. Through this rewarding process I have discovered and redefined Judaism for myself. I’m still really looking forward to dipping a strawberry in that chocolate fountain in a few hours, but the chocolate fountain can wait.