Unique gifts are my specialty, and so when I heard about the special gift my friend Esther was giving herself for a milestone birthday, I knew she was on to something. You see, Esther marked her fortieth with a truly meaningful gift: bat mitzvah.
She grew up a Sephardic Jew and went to an Orthodox temple. At the time, the practice of 12-year-old girls marking their passage into adult Jewish life wasn’t unusual, but neither was it commonplace. The bat mitzvah ceremony only came into practice in the early 20th century, breaking with Jewish tradition that prohibited women from participating in religious services. It wasn’t uniformly embraced in all Jewish communities.
Esther says her parents offered her the opportunity for bat mitzvah, but she resisted because she “wasn’t interested in reading in Hebrew in front of Mom and Dad’s friends.”
It wasn’t until years later, when her own children began Hebrew studies (sometimes unenthusiastically) that Esther decided to set the example. She gave herself a year to prepare. In weekly sessions with her cantor, she learned to read Hebrew – no small accomplishment for a busy, working mom. She also learned to chant the weekly Haftarah (Jewish prophetic books) portion for the day of her ceremony.
When her big day came, Esther performed flawlessly, and there were plenty of congratulations to go around. Her family was overjoyed. In
fact, her five-year-old daughter was so happy she came on the bimah with her mom and turned a cartwheel.
It’s been four years since Esther’s bat mitzvah, and she’s still thrilled about it. She recently told me, “I know I did something worthwhile that shows my commitment to Jewish life. It’s a fantastic feeling – something every (Jewish) man and woman should do.”
If you know an adult bat mitzvah, you might be looking for a meaningful gift to help her commemorate her special day. The items you would give a younger bat mitzvah – a tzedakah box, yad, Kiddush cup or personalized photo frame – are always appropriate. But I’ve found that mature women are especially touched when they receive a woman of valor memento from one of our outstanding artists’ collections. To find just the right one, browse our online catalog and choose from many we have to offer.