Building a batmitzvah
Make the most of your daughter’s religious milestone, says Louisa Shulman
THE BATMITZVAH dates back 2,300 years to the early to Roman Jewish community. Slightly later, there are documents that record batmitzvahs in Italy and Iraq in the mid-19th century. The first public celebration of a batmitzvah in America was in 1922, when Judith Kaplan, daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, read a portion of the Torah in Hebrew and English at her father’s synagogue in New York. Today the batmitzvah is widely celebrated, although many still deem it to be of less significance than a barmitzvah. Whatever your view, if you’re going to celebrate your daughter’s progression into womanhood, you will want to make it special.
If you belong to an Orthodox synagogue, your daughter will not be invited to read from the Torah on Shabbat morning; you will usually be offered a service that takes place either after the main Shabbat service or on a Sunday afternoon. An alternative, though, is to incorporate the batmitzvah with the Havdalah service at the end of Shabbat. This lends it a special gravitas — and everyone likes a candle-lighting ceremony.
Fathers usually play a major role at a barmitzvah, but at a batmitzvah it is the mother’s chance to shine. The mother/daughter relationship is extremely significant as a girl comes of age and a special way to highlight this is for the mother to deliver a blessing or prayer to her daughter. A quick web search of “Jewish mother’s blessing to daughter” will bring up a host of readings and poems that you can adapt, or Joseph’s Bookstore in Temple Fortune is among those with suitable books.
Being the centre of attention can be daunting for a young girl. Lots of practice will help — and a run-through in the synagogue, if you can. Most young girls have sweet little voices and are not used to projecting them (other than when they’re yelling at their parents/brothers/sisters!) so unless the batmitzvah is in an Orthodox shul on Shabbat, arrange for a microphone. The same applies for the speeches at the party. The trend today is for groups of friends to give a speech — it simply doesn’t work if they’re all crowding around one microphone. If your daughter is nervous about giving a speech at the party, let her give it at the beginning of the evening, so that she can relax and enjoy herself –—after all, that’s the whole idea!
When it comes to partywear, things usually go pretty smoothly until it comes to the shoes. You’ll want her in pumps; she’ll want Converse. Tell her you’ll agree to Converse for the party if she’ll agree to pumps for the service and the photos. What you’ll save in arguments more than outweighs the cost.of buying two pairs of shoes.
Candle-lit ritual or Converse-clad party? Both!