This past Saturday was Maddy Simpson's Bat Mitzvah. It was a really warm, heartfelt event. Judging by the people who spoke to me, I would say many of us in the sanctuary felt it. Part of the feeling came from the pure joy of the event--there was no stress (this was helped in no small part by the fact that Maddy is the youngest of three sisters :). Part of the feeling came from the fact that the Simpson's are a family that is involved in the synagogue, which heightens the sense of community. But there was one particular aspect that really touched me---something that was traditional yet new---something that epitomizes why I am able to look to my Judaism as my spiritual center---something that really spoke to my involvement with the practice.
More and more these days, the B'nai Mitzvah families have family members read Torah. It's a wonderful way to honor the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. At Maddy's Bat Mitzvah, her mother, two sisters, and a close friend of one of her sisters each read Torah. And, I should say, they all read beautifully. Although women reading is certainly the norm for Beth Sholom, this Shabbat brought home to me the changes in Judaism since I was a girl.
At my Bat Mitzvah, held on a Friday night, I read the Haftarah, the selection from the Prophets that all B'nai Mitzvah read. That was all I was allowed to do. Now, at the time--1967--that was still somewhat bold for the Conservative movement. There were no women rabbis, women could not get an aliyah (something I always wanted), and women didn't count in the 10 needed for certain prayers to be said in synagogue. I wish I could say this has now all changed. I wish I could say the synagogue I grew up in continued to open all aspects of Jewish practice to women. Unfortunately, they are still holding Bat Mitvahs on Friday night, women do not get aliyot, and it's a good guess that women do not count in minyan.
At Beth Sholom, there is no gender disparity in ritual. It is one of the reasons I can be there, embracing the practice and the community with a full heart. It's the reason I am filled with joy when I think of the Bat Mitzvah Shabbats of the young girls I see in shul. They are as much a part of Judaism as the boys, and there is no reason for them to think otherwise.
So mazel tov to Maddy and her family. And thanks to them for exemplifying the living soul of Judaism, a soul that will continue to live and grow l'dor v'dor, from generation to generation, truly encompassing all.