In stories

By Eric Klein and Gillian Helfield.

This past May, our daughter Adrienne became a Bat Mitzvah at Holy Blossom Temple. As a Temple ‘regular’ since birth, and a Leo Baeck student, Adrienne already had a strong connection to her Jewish identity and community. But it was our fervent hope that in becoming a Bat Mitzvah, she would discover something even more meaningful and unique about that connection to start her on her path to Jewish adulthood. While she attended and enjoyed Senior School and the B’Nei Mitzvah program, and took her Torah studies seriously, the ‘Aha’ moment truly came when we asked her if she would like to read Torah and have an Aliyah in the Shachrit service on Thursday morning before her Bat Mitzvah – as her brother William had done two years earlier (and Eric had done with his own father many years before).

Adrienne’s response was both touching and unexpected: She said “Sure. But can I put on Tefillin “? It never occurred to us that she would, and honestly didn’t know if she could. We asked Rabbi Splansky, whose answer was unequivocally ‘yes!”. To our great delight, both the Rabbi and Cantor Maissner offered their unqualified encouragement and support for this endeavour. Though we e had assumed, mistakenly, that Jewish women were forbidden to perform this obligation, we were told that Rashi, the great 12th Century Rabbi and Torah commentator, had put on Tefillin with his own two daughters!

And so on May 22nd Adrienne, became the first Bat Mitzvah child to put on Tefillin at Holy Blossom. Rabbi Splansky has always emphasized the importance of finding Jewish rituals that “fit” and ‘feel right’, and, when Adrienne stepped up to the Bimah in the Sanctuary on Shabbat to sing her parsha   two days later, she possessed a confidence that came in part from her ability to accomplish just this – to find for her what fit and felt right, blending tradition with what was for her personally, something ‘new’. Adrienne referred to herself proudly as a ‘Woman of the Wall’ , thus reaffirming not only her connection to her Jewish identity and community but also her allegiance with Jewish women at the Kotel and all over the world, striving to publically practice their faith alongside men.

In the end we came away with feelings of tremendous pride and gratitude – pride in our daughter, and gratitude for a Temple congregation and leadership that could further reinforce Adrienne’s sense of Jewish community and ritual, while also fostering her unique identity as a B’nei Mitzvah.

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