In a twist on the traditional pre-bat mitzvah volunteer project, several dozen mothers and daughters will gather Sunday morning to do a chesed project in honor of a girl who will not be able to attend, or take part in, her own bat mitzvah ceremony.
Now, with just a bit less tumult (one hopes) comes B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, a Reform Movement pilot initiative to “radically rethink” the Jewish rite of passage and its place in synagogue life and education.
At my daughter’s bat mitzvah celebration on Oct. 31, 1981, I was nervous, excited, joyful and awed at the sight of a 12-year old girl standing on the bima of our Conservative synagogue, reading a large section of the Torah portion from its scroll, then chanting her haftarah.
The first time I heard about a "virtual simcha" was in the late 1990s. Detroit was hit with a massive snowstorm and the 8-day old baby boy's aunt who was to play the role of rabbi was stuck at the airport in New York. The rabbi improvised and she officiated at her nephew's bris via speaker phone.
Of course, if this happened in 2010 and not in the late 1990s the bris would have been officiated by the rabbi through Skype, and she would have seen the simcha and been seen by the attendees.
Using technology to add people to a simcha is becoming more common. An increasing number of grandparents and great-grandparents are attending their grandchildren's wedding in the virtual world.
Just last month I officiated at a wedding that was being streamed live to Israel so that the bride's elderly grandparents could "be there." Through Ustream.tv, the grandparents felt like they were at the wedding even if it meant staying up late into the night in Israel.
Two bat mitzvah projects hit close to home for a couple of local teens, and help kids here and in Israel.
He was a distant cousin — literally; he 6,000 miles away in Israel, she on the Upper East Side.
But Katy Mayerson, 13, had grown close to Noam Mayerson over her many trips to Israel to see family.
“I really, really liked him and everybody liked him,” Katy said of her cousin. “I don’t know one person who didn’t — he was really smart and nice and loving, and there wasn’t really any bad aspect about him.”
In a group ceremony, women enjoy a belated, but gratifying, rite of passage.
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Bonnie Panzok is just trying to catch up with her children.
When Panzok sent her kids to Jewish day school to get the education she never got, she watched as their knowledge grew exponentially and surpassed her own. But now, Panzok, after a crash course in Jewish history and rituals, has soared ahead, filling in the gaps in her own Jewish learning.