To me, Hummus Where the Heart Is has become a place for personal reflection and immersion of the Jewish culture into my everyday life. And today, October 2nd, 2018 marks the 8 year anniversary of my traditional B’nai Mitzvah, a sacred occasion to take my place as an adult in the Jewish community.
As Jews, the time around your 13th birthday is the marking toward adulthood. We honor this passing in a service called Bar or Bat Mitzvah, per a male or female respectively, yet I celebrated a B’nai Mitzvah with my twin brother. This term is used to refer to a shared service between two people, usually siblings, passing through the tradition together.
Back home in Deerfield my family belonged to Kol Hadash, a humanistic congregation, where Ryan and I spent years attending Sunday School classes, community service events, and holiday services and celebrations. And in 6th grade we began weekly Hebrew School classes with our peers to prepare for our Mitzvah where we would be reading from the Torah.
The Torah, the historical scroll of Jewish laws and teachings, is split into the 5 books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It is tradition for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah to choose a portion from the Torah and ultimately focus their full ceremony on the meanings of the passage.
The piece of Hebrew that I chose to read on the stand to my family, friends and entire congregation was actually a poem [not from the torah, I’ll explain more later] that reflected on the events and aftermath of the Armenian Genocide and how the country of Israel was involved in the revolutionary conflict.
My Father’s side of the family is from Armenia, and my Mother’s side originates from Middle Eastern countries, like Israel, so I was content in my decision to define the purpose of my B’nai Mitzvah as the immersion of my family and culture.
On October 2nd, 2010 I stood on the bimah and confidently recited the Hebrew words of the poem and was proud to officially become a Jewish woman and celebrate alongside my brother and entire community,
Now on October 2nd, 2018, I have taken my birthright by going to Israel and truly discovered a place where my religion is centered and evolving. On our tour we spent a couple days in Jerusalem, known as the Old City, with one of the largest historical landmarks of the country, the Western Wall. The wall is a sacred site for Jewish prayer, and prior to our visit my Shorashim tour guide, Adi, presented the group with a special opportunity.
On the day we would be at the wall, she proposed leading Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremonies for those who wanted the opportunity to officially pass as a Jewish adult; but stated that anyone could participate whether or not they had done so previously.
This opportunity immediately intrigued me for a couple reasons. First, we would be doing them at one of the holiest places of my homeland. Second, the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem lies at the Western Wall; and this immersion was basically the focus of my speech in 2010. And third, I was excited to choose a portion to read directly from the Torah this time.
There were 5 of us total that subjected to participate in the group B’nai Mitzvah. Ryan and Nicole chose to do it as their first ceremony ever, Stanley chose to do it again since he traveled to Israel in 2010 and wanted to recreate his traditional ceremony at the wall again, and Talia and I chose to “redo” our ceremonies as an opportunity for honor and reflection to this amazing, beautiful, sacred landmark that represents our religious history.
We all chose sequential paragraphs from the Torah and all sang and danced and celebrated together.
I remember feeling so humble in that moment. I was already having the experience of a lifetime in Israel, and then I stepped out of my comfort zone to learn a new Hebrew speech in only a few hours and read in front of the group of 40 people, but the opportunity of actually being in the Armenian Quarter and reading from the Torah just felt like a tribute of appreciation to my first ceremony and my family that I could not pass up.
Now today on the 8th anniversary of my original Mitzvah, I am reflecting on what it means to be a Jewish woman:
It means taking opportunities to travel when they arise,
Taking risks in group situations to maximize your individual benefit,
Finding people in your home community with similar beliefs,
And that religion and culture are lifetime commitments.
I am proud to identify as a Jewish woman 8 years later & Mazel Tov to many more!