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As Adults, Sharing A Religious Journey

Carol Green teaches the beginning Hebrew studentsHannah Rubenstein Carol Green, a religious instructor at the Town and Village Synagogue, teaches Hebrew to a group of adult bat mitzvah students. Although becoming a bar or bat mitzvah as an adult is hardly novel, the synagogue’s program is distinct because its participants undergo the ceremony as a group rather than independently.

In the basement of the synagogue on a windy Monday evening, a group of students hunch over prayer books, tracing ancient words from right to left with the tips of their fingers. At the end of the table, a woman stands at a whiteboard, writing large letters in careful, deliberate strokes. Because this is a beginning Hebrew class, the progress is halting. But the students are focused. No one glances around the room or shifts in her seat. Together, slowly, their voices chant:

“Baruch atah Adonai… elohaynu melech ha’olam… asher kidshanu… bemitzvotav vetzivanu… l’hadlik ner… shel Shabbat.”

After the last syllable fades away, the teacher breaks into a wide smile. At this rate, the students will surely be ready when the time comes to stand at the bimah and read the Torah in front of the whole congregation. Years of study have prepared them to become bat mitzvahs, to be recognized and welcomed into the Jewish faith as independent adults.

There is only one difference between these students and others around the world studying to become bar and bat mitzvahs — these are not boys and girls, nervously approaching their 13th and 12th birthdays, respectively. These are women between the ages of 20 and 80. This bat mitzvah class is for adults only.
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