Today is the 30th anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah. There was a luncheon and a dance party and so many guests. The whole thing was draped in purple and teal. I memorized my portion on a yellow Sony walkman and was terrified about reciting it (AND giving a speech) in front of my family, my parents friends and my grade seven classmates. I remember loving my white chocolate cake, and sharing the moment with my grandparents from South Africa, but mostly I remember feeling stressed.
When I was photographing this Bat Mitzvah in Toronto I kept reflecting back to April 27th 1991, and how much tween Janis would have loved such a small and intimate event. Yes, I would have missed my out-of-town family desperately, and to be completely honest, all the presents were pretty incredible, but overall I think a teeny-tiny ceremony would have been such a better fit for me then .. and probably now too.
This Bat Mitzvah, while micro in terms of guest count (only 10 people including the Rabbi, bat mitzvah instructor and tech responsible for broadcasting the ceremony around the world), was packed full of meaning. Her tallis – or prayer shawl – was chosen for this day on a pre-pandemic family trip to Israel. Her yad – or torah pointer – was won as a prize at summer camp. It all felt beautiful, intimate and very very memorable.
I should also mention I found the day extra meaningful, because I grew up with her mom in Saskatoon.
So here’s my hope for my kids when it’s their turn in 2, 4 and 6 years: they can choose to have a big event (ok, not that big, I’m still their mom and have to host it) or they can choose to have a micro-mitzah, or somewhere in between. But whatever we decide, it’s a ceremony and celebration that’s the right fit for who they are as thirteen year old people.