My Bat Mitzvah: Not Just One Day

By Amelia Geser | Issue Date: November 2010

Ari works with Tsivya Laurence and Tamzen Naegele, who became b’not mitzvah on October 9, 2010. Photo: Denise Waxman

I grew up in a Jewish home, so I always knew a bat mitzvah was coming to get me. Ever since I was little, I’ve been going to BJ children’s services, Junior Congregation, and, as my parents called it when I was little, the “grown-up services.” Later, I pushed my way through years of Hebrew School, where we learned about the Jewish life cycle as well as many prayers. I had never really thought much about my bat mitzvah when I was little, even though I remember going to the fun, late-night parties of my older cousins who had them. While I went to what seemed like thousands of these celebrations, the only thing I really learned was that sitting through the service quietly would mean cookies were waiting for you when it was over.

Later, when I was about 10, going to Junior Congregation services, and attending my fifth year of Hebrew school, I started to notice a buzz around me concerning bar and bat mitzvahs. Planning, dates, caterers, tutors, and more swirled around my friends and me. Even though I had been waiting for (well, not exactly waiting but expecting) this day to come, it still felt like a humongous surprise. Was I really turning 12? I thought I started lessons next year! It all felt way too soon.

After my first week of lessons with my amazing tutor, Bronwen, I remember going to my mom crying, “I don’t wanna have a bat mitzvah!!!” I was so upset! It just felt like so much work and too much responsibility. I told my mom all this, and she simply said to me, “OK, Amelia. You don’t have to have a bat mitzvah, it’s OK.” I remember immediately sitting up and thinking Wait a minute; I really do want a bat mitzvah. I think I said something like, “No, no, Mom. Its OK. I’ll do it.” I think that having my mom actually give me the option of not having a bat mitzvah (and of course my mom really knew I wanted to have one, she wasn’t really giving me the option) made me realize how important this step was in my life cycle and that I really had been waiting for it my whole life, and it was my responsibility to do this. Later, after my bat mitzvah, I said to my mom, “That was really worthwhile.” I think I meant that it wasn’t just my responsibility do this, but it was my responsibility to make it worthwhile. I had tried not to rush through my work and writing and wait until the party, like I had when I was little. This really was a meaningful and important day, but it was also something I had anticipated my whole childhood, and I’m happy I did make it worthwhile.

Amelia Geser’s parents, Ilene Rosenthal and Louis Geser, met at BJ so she has been a member her whole life. She had her naming on the bimah when she was 8 days old, was a member of the original Reach for Shabbat pilot program, became a bat mitzvah on January 16, 2010, leads activities for children as a volunteer at Tot Shabbat dinners, and will be an ozeret in the Hebrew School this year.