A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is the Jewish celebration of coming of age. In a traditional Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the student prepares for months to learn their reading from the Torah. The Torah is a set of scrolls that are handwritten in Hebrew, and contains the first five books of the Old Testament. When the time comes for the actual ceremony, the pupil will stand in front of the congregation, and read their Torah portion. In some places, they may also lead part of the Shabbat services.
At the moment, you might be wondering why I keep saying Bar or Bat Mitzvah. This is because a Bar Mitzvah would be for a boy, and a Bat Mitzvah would be for a girl. Another slight variation between the two, is that girls traditionally have their Bat Mitzvah at the age of twelve. Boys have their Bar Mitzvah at thirteen.
For my Bat Mitzvah, I am studying my family history, which is a non-traditional ceremony and learning about my ancestors who came from Russia and Poland. So far, I have learned almost everything my parents and alive relatives can tell me about our family. Soon, I will have a ceremony of my own and during it, I will be sharing what I’ve learned about my family, and my favorite parts of the journey.
I’ve been to many places in the U.S. and have been able to interview relatives about what they know. I have also gone to Germany, where we visited Dachau, one of the Nazi’s concentration camps. We flew to New York where I met my great-great aunt, and asked her what she remembered about our family. My mom and nana took me to see the house they lived in. I’ve seen my dad’s grandma’s house, therefore my great-grandma. My cousins took me to see where my five times great grandparents are buried. I could see four generations of my ancestors. I am so fortunate to have photographs of these people, so it is almost like seeing them in person. While in New York, we also visited my great uncle and aunt. I have family in Florida too, so a short while after New York, we traveled to Florida, where I interviewed two more of my great aunts. My aunts told me so much information about my dad’s side of the family, my head almost exploded. One thing they said was that one of my double great grandfathers was the youngest of eleven siblings. Everyone was so knowledgeable about our ancestry, and it really enhanced my travels.
I have learned so much and I know that I will remember all of this history, and how much it means to me. It makes me happy to think of all of the memories that have been dusted off and shared, as well as still remembered. I’m grateful to my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great- aunts and uncles, and everyone who contributed to this whole voyage of crazy stories and our mind-blowing past.