Traditionally, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a Jewish coming-of-age ritual for boys at age 13 and girls age 12. It signifies becoming a full-fledged member of the Jewish community with the responsibilities that come with it. A B’nai Mitzvah is simply when more than one bar or bat mitzvah occurs collectively.
The B’nai Mitzvah at Judson Park culminates a year of study led by longtime Judson volunteer Eileen Kollins. “I had been doing a monthly Shabbat service and conducting High Holiday services among other things at Judson, when I realized that several participants were showing their Hebrew proficiency and had begun asking some serious questions about Judaism and Jewish practice,” says Eileen. She asked if anyone had an interest in studying for their adult Bar or Bat Mitzvah and suddenly had an enthusiastic class of five.
For nearly a year, the group met weekly with Eileen. Knowing that she needed help working with the students one-on-one, she asked friend Carol Ross if her daughters, Hannah and Cecelia would be interested in tutoring the residents in Hebrew. Shortly after the girls started, Carol, who drove the girls from Strongsville each week, became a third tutor!
“Everyone formed a very special bond,” says Eileen. “It’s been a wonderful life-changing experience for all.”
Carol Ross agrees. “We all developed such a special sense of community and friendship,” she says. “It was amazing to see the younger generation teaching the older generation—everything coming full circle. We will miss our Tuesdays together!”
Eileen made arrangements with Temple-Tifereth Israel to borrow their Torah for the ceremony at Judson. The residents also purchased a yad (a Torah pointer) and will give it to Cecelia as a gift when she celebrates her Bat Mitzvah in October. All of the residents plan to attend Cecelia’s celebration.
Quite a few family members came in from out of town for the special occasion.
“My sister came in from Michigan,” says Eileen Sabo, daughter of resident Rose Rubin. “It’s a special moment for our mother. She wanted all of us here. I know she was worried about getting up on the pulpit, but she did a great job.”
Resident Paula Ockner appreciates that Judson’s inclusive atmosphere enables an event like this to happen.
“It’s very welcoming here,” says Paula. “I consider myself very lucky.”