Let’s be honest, no one really thinks a 13 year old thinks too seriously about the religious commitment they’re making when they stand before the congregation and read from the Torah. More than likely they’re praying that they don’t mess up and embarrass themselves in front of the entire 7th grade class (or worse, their middle school crush). I distinctly remember almost the entirety of my bat-mitzvah even though it was well over 20 years ago. It was a special day to me and I’m not about to launch into a campaign to make any changes to the tradition…but I feel like now that I’m an actual adult I am ready to make an entirely more meaningful commitment to my Jewish identity.
It wasn’t until I experienced the joys of marriage and the trials of having children and losing a pregnancy that I had a real reckoning with my faith and my God. At 13 I (thankfully) hadn’t experienced much of anything outside of a sheltered Day School life. I didn’t wrestle with God so much as a I wrestled with my parents over their refusal to let me watch “Dawson’s Creek.” My bat-mitzvah was a major reminder that Judaism was an important component of my life and it served an essential purpose, but lately I find myself yearning to reaffirm my beliefs now that I’m actually an adult.
The trend I see is that many young Jewish kids are fairly affiliated with a Hebrew school and synagogue community and then later Hillel or Chabad in college and after that sort of ‘drop out’ of Jewish life. We settle into internships and jobs in new cities and navigate living away from the nest for the first time. Then there’s dating and maybe weddings and maybe kids and after all that there’s what I like to consider adulthood. That time in your life where you’re actually your own boss because you’re earning your own salary and possibly even the boss of a few little ones of your own.
This is where the next major crossroads of Jewish life starts – do you have a Jewish wedding, do you send your children to Jewish preschool, do you light candles on a Friday night and continue the traditions? And if you do, shouldn’t we maybe have some sort of celebration to welcome this reality?
I feel like I’ve survived a lot these past years and my faith has had a trial by fire. In the end, thanks to many hours by many kind and caring rabbis (including but not limited to, Rabbi Stutman at 6th and I, Rabbi Weinblatt at Congregation B’nai Tzedek and Rabbi Hoffman at Valley Beth Shalom and the rabbis at Congregation B’nai Israel) as well as one pivotal reading of “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold Kushner, “The Sabbath” by Rabbi Heschel and “Jewish Meditation” by Rabbi Kaplan, I’ve chose to embrace the blessings Judaism has provided me and welcome it into my adult life, of my own volition and choosing. So…who wants to party? And can I pick my own theme this time around, mom?
Marion Haberman is a writer and content creator for her YouTube/MyJewishMommyLifechannel and Instagram @MyJewishMommyLifepage where she shares her experience living a meaning-FULL Jewish family life. Haberman is currently writing a book on Judaism and pregnancy titled “Expecting Jewish!” released Winter 2019. She is also a professional social media consultant and web and television writer for Discovery Channel, NOAA and NatGeo and has an MBA from Georgetown University.