Humans of Beth Am Blog

Judy Alban: The Bat/Bar Mitzvah Experience is also Transformative for the Parents

Everyone should have a "Life Theme," something that ties you together with your values and your actions and helps to give your life meaning. I was a Bat Mitzvah many years ago. In those days, not all girls were Bat Mitzvah'd but my family belonged to a very progressive congregation and girls pretty much did what the boys did. I got candlesticks but we did not wear Tallit. I took the entire process and event very seriously and found I really loved learning Torah and studying my religion and it gave me a deep connection to my own personal family history and connections to my Jewish background. It brought me closer to my grandmother and gave me a huge sense of tradition and continuity as a 13 year old student. The experience helped to contribute to the path I later took in my life.

I continued my studies by attending Hebrew High School, Summer Camps and I was a Religious Studies major in college. My Grandmother took me on my first trip to Israel when I was 14 yrs. old. Eventually, I received a graduate degree from Hebrew Union College. I now realize that a Bar/Bat Mitzvah should be seen as just the beginning of a life-long appreciation and desire for Jewish knowledge. It set the path for my future learning and many choices I later made later as a parent.

I have two daughters and it was important to impart that love of Judaism to both of them but in a very organic way that teaches the beauty and joy of Judaism. I never really understood how much the Bar/Bat Mitzvah impacts the parents until I was the parent of one Bat Mitzvah child myself. It really is an opportunity to grow as a family and as a parent you truly feel the impact of history and responsibility. At my eldest daughters Bat Mitzvah I had her present me with my own Tallit. I saw that as representative of a new milestone in my own Jewish life. As I said the Shehechiayanu to both my girls, I did see the Bat Mitzvah experience as a milestone in their lives, as well as my own.

For my daughters, I see a whole new world of participation in Jewish life open to them. My husband and I have made Israel a central part of my kids growing-up experience. We took our first family trip there, when both were still young, and they have spent much time there in subsequent years. They have participated on many levels in study, travel and ulpan learning. One of my kids spent a year in an internship program at Women of the Wall, which made me so proud. Both my girls have embraced their Judaism on their own terms. While the youngest is still an undergraduate, she is active on her campus and has been a Koret Fellow and also a Morningstar Fellow this upcoming year and she teaches at the local synagogue. And then there is my eldest, whois a 3rd year Rabbinic student at Hebrew Union College.

I love my job as B'nei Mitzvah Coordinator at TBA. A big part of the job is to be here as support to the families and I also enjoy personalizing the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience for them. I love learning each family's story, and being a support to them during this memorable but also, stressful time. I truly see the importance of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah in upholding an important tradition in Judaism that has a profound impact on Jewish life. We are an assimilated people in this country and this act of affirming your place amongst your Jewish community has a humbling and profound affect for both the student and family. It has had that impact on my life and I am so happy that I can facilitate this experience for others.I know I am contributing to Jewish life in the future, by what I do at Beth Am today. I am just a small cog in the congregation wheel, but I see my piece as central and important to Jewish continuity. And in this way, I believe I am perpetuating Judaism which has always been a major part of my "Life Theme," and helps to give my life a richer meaning.