Having a Bat Mitzvah In Their 90s Because It’s a Hoot

March 21, 2009

Author: Christopher Maag

Source: The New York Times


Ann Simon is worried she might forget all the Hebrew words she has memorized to become a bat mitzvah, a Jewish girl marking the transition into religious adulthood.

Ms. Simon is no 12-year-old, though. At 94 she can be forgiven her fear that she might be seized by a senior moment or two as she stands on the bimah on Sunday to recite the section of the Torah that was read in synagogue on the Saturday closest to her 12th birthday. So can the other nine women who will take part in the bat mitzvah ceremony at the service in the synagogue of the Menorah Park senior residence in this Cleveland suburb.

The youngest, Mintsy Agin, will turn 90 in July. The oldest, Molly Kravitz, will celebrate her 97th birthday in August.

The women grew up in the shadow of the Great Depression, when bar mitzvah ceremonies for boys were weekly affairs but Jewish girls came of age without notice or fanfare.

A bat mitzvah was rare in the United States until the 1950s and ’60s, said an associate rabbi at Menorah Park, Howard Kutner. Since then, many adult women have decided to make up for what they were denied as children, but most who do so are in their 50s and 60s, Rabbi Kutner said. A septuagenarian is rare and a nonagenarian nearly unheard of, he said, but only those in or near their 90s showed up when he offered bat mitzvah instruction to Menorah Park women of any age.