On Mon­day, Shu­lamit Rein­harz and Bar­bara Vinick wrote about the his­to­ry of the bat mitz­vah for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing. Today, Bar­bara Vinick writes about her own experiences. 

I didn’t have a bat mitz­vah, the cer­e­mo­ny that marks the com­ing of age of Jew­ish girls. When I reached 13 in the 1950s, girls who attend­ed three-day-a-week Hebrew School at our sub­ur­ban Con­ser­v­a­tive syn­a­gogue north of Boston did not have that option. In those post-World War II years before the sec­ond wave of fem­i­nism, a pub­lic com­ing of age cer­e­mo­ny at Tem­ple Beth El was strict­ly the realm of the boys. I didn’t real­ly mind being exclud­ed. After all, who want­ed to go to spe­cial prac­tice ses­sions with the can­tor all year?

Not me. And the thought of chant­i­ng Hebrew and giv­ing a speech in front of an audi­ence of my par­ents’ friends gave me chills. Dit­to for a par­ty with boys; I’d rather read a book. So I was relieved, even if I had to for­go the presents.

Fast for­ward about 50 years. Bat mitz­vah has tak­en hold as a stan­dard life cycle event for Jew­ish girls not only in the Unit­ed States, but in every branch of Judaism all over the world. That’s what I dis­cov­ered when I took on a project to col­lect sto­ries for a book about bat mitz­vah. The major­i­ty of the women and girls who wrote the entries had found their bat mitz­vah cer­e­monies extreme­ly mean­ing­ful and mem­o­rable, rep­re­sent­ing in some com­mu­ni­ties hard-won vic­to­ries for reli­gious free­dom and egal­i­tar­i­an­ism. And some women like me had cel­e­brat­ed a bat mitz­vah after study­ing as an adult many years lat­er.

So now, after so much time has passed, I have begun to rethink my ret­i­cence. Why not now? I missed a gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ty last year when an adult bat mitz­vah class began at my syn­a­gogue. Iron­i­cal­ly, I thought I was too busy with my work for the impend­ing pub­li­ca­tion of the bat mitz­vah book. I’m still ambiva­lent. Per­form­ing in front of an audi­ence still makes me ner­vous and, at 65+, my singing voice isn’t as clear as it once was. But I’m slow­ly get­ting used to the idea. When bat mitz­vah has meant so much to women around the world, who am I to resist join­ing their sis­ter­hood? Stay tuned.

Bar­bara Vinick and Shu­lamit Rein­harz have been blog­ging here all week.