I had the pleasure of photographing Sarah’s Bat Mitzvah today. The Bat Mitzvah is quite unlike any “coming of age” ceremony in Christianity. In Catholicism, the earliest is the “First Communion,” which is rather uneventful other than you get to wear a cute suit or cute dress, depending on gender. For “Catechism,” you attend several classes and learn more about theology and practice, but really all it does is make you eligible to become an altar boy or other things up the chain of command. You are considered an adult in the eyes of the Church, but the rest is up to you. And you typically share your “coming of age” with everyone else in your class.
With the Bat Mitzvah, there is only one person who is the focus of the ceremony. The young woman who is coming of age must spend hours learning to read the Torah so when all eyes in the synagogue are looking at her, with the Rabbi standing close by to make sure she is reading correctly, she can read her selected passage – in Hebrew – before her community. She reflects, in her own words, on how that passage is relevant to her own life. The entire Synagogue then shares and celebrates with her. It is truly an inspiration of reflection on theology and its application to modern life.
The solemn and enlightening ceremony is followed later in the evening by a wild frenzy of teens and preteens running about with the parents standing or sitting on the sidelines. The Bat Mitzvah party typically rivals even the liveliest wedding receptions. For Sarah’s, we had several visits from hotel security.