My friend Betty had her Bat Mitzvah yesterday. Usually this takes place around one's 13th birthday, but like me, Betty didn't get to have a Bat Mitzvah when she was young. So Betty timed her Bat Mitzvah with her 50th birthday. It seems like such a good idea that I'm probably going to wait another decade before I do mine.
Betty's Bat Mitzvah was especially moving for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Betty herself is not a person who has been comfortable taking centre stage. Yesterday she was described as the archetypal unsung hero of our congregation. For all the years I've been attending shul Betty has been the chief shamash, making sure that the chairs are arranged right, the siddur or prayer books are out, the wine is poured and the challah is warm. But beyond the housekeeping, Betty has also been a assiduous student of Talmud and Torah. We started learning Hebrew at about the same time but while I dropped out within a year (such a short attention span!) Betty kept plugging away. I witnessed the outcome of all her study yesterday as she helped to lead the service, read from the Torah scroll in excellent Hebrew and gave a thoughtful drash.
Another reason why I found her Bat Mitzvah particularly moving was because of the many friends and family to came along to suppport her. Many people came from 'Webb Street' (the Orthodox synagogue) to honour Betty with their first visit to us as 'Ghuznee Street' (the Progressive synagogue). This scale of interdenominational visiting is very rare, and very special. Betty's warm hearted nature, committed study, courage take her life in new directions and wonderful sense of humour brings people together. Betty, you are a true mensch!