One of the Orthodox community’s leading female voices has urged families to “re-imagine” their daughters’ batmitzvahs, adopting the kind of family rituals and traditions so closely associated with boys’ barmitzvahs.
Dina Brawer, the UK ambassador of U.S-based Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), urged parents to look again at girls’ “open-ended” celebrations which could suffer from “a lack of definition”.
It comes ahead of a sell-out JOFA event in NW3 on Saturday 23 January, where parents will be told that “ritual is key to anchoring the ceremony,” and encourage to use family heirlooms, such as a grandparent’s kiddush cup, machzor (prayer book) or recipes.
Brawer said: “Unlike the barmitzvah, which has its established framework and rituals, the celebration of a batmitzvah is rather open-ended. This lack of definition allows for creativity but also means that is not always easy for parents and their daughters to navigate between what is, and is not, within the bounds of halacha.”
She added: “The focus can be on mitzvah, in which the girl now becomes obligated, exploring the Torah’s perspective on a topic, or an element of prayer.”
Examples of mitzvahs could be reciting Kiddush on Friday night, Havdalah, or lighting Shabbat candles, she said, while Torah learning opportunities could involve a Siyum (concluding celebration) by “reciting a beautiful Aramaic declaration”.
Brawer suggested examples such as celebrating on a girl’s Hebrew birthday, or festivals, saying: “Women’s Megillah readings on Purim have boomed in recent years and several girls have learned on Purim to mark their batmitzvah.”
She added: “Our aim is for our girls to have modern-day halachic batmitzvahs that are educationally valuable, spiritually meaningful and deeply relevant to contemporary girls on the cusp of womanhood.”
However, Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said that in the Movement for Reform Judaism, both batmitzvahs and bar mitzvahs were “exactly the same”.