On Becoming B’nai Mitzvot
“Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah”—that isn’t what I remember experiencing as a 13 year old girl. I “had” a Bat Mitzvah—actually it was a B’nai Mitzvah as I shared it with my sister, Evie. I remember carpooling with boys who teased us unmercifully 3 times a week so that we could go to shul in the evenings and try to memorize a lot of stuff we didn’t understand. I remember being required, in my speech, to promise to continue my religious education even though I had absolutely no intention of attending another class as soon as the party was over.
My shul was not a place I felt welcomed to, comfortable at or where I was valued as an “adult member”. Still, I managed to forge a sense of personal belonging by helping to make a minyon whenever they needed me for Kaddish and I sang in the choir for 12 years; but I certainly didn’t feel like a true member of my community.
Here in Central Oregon, my children became B’nai Mitzvot. They were excited for their opportunity to read from Torah, lead the prayers and become, in the eyes of this community, a son and daughter of the commandments. They have the amazing gift of knowing who they are, what being Jewish is about and that doing mitzvot rocks! For my children, and most of the children I have mentored, Shalom Bayit is their “home”. Becoming B’nai Mitzvot is not just learning some stuff in a language they don’t speak and having a party afterward. Here, our children are loved, respected and valued as members of our community.
For the past 16 years I have had the honor and privilege of helping our young people become bar/bat mitzvah. It has been such a joyous and meaningful process for me and hopefully not an arduous and meaningless task for our students. I know from my own experience that many of our young adults do continue to be invested in our community long after their “party” is over. They come back year after year to read from torah, lead prayers, visit friends and are welcomed as valued members of our community. Thank you, past and present members of the JCCO Community, for providing a place for me and our children to truly “Become” Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
~ Alice Shapiro Huskey, JCCO Board of Directors Member and B’nai Mitzvot Mentor