Bat Mitzvah Girl: Rita Horwitz

ritahorwitz_blogphoto_2.gifRita Horwitz shares memories of her adult Bat Mitzvah at age 66.

1930s – 1940s
My sisters and I began Hebrew School (Cheder) when we were quite young. However, I was not always so eager to go to Cheder. Classes began after public school except on Friday. Not many girls went to Hebrew School. During these years, girls did not have a Bat Mitzvah.

1998
I have been a member of Shaare Emeth Congregation since 1974. Classes will begin soon for all members who would like to participate in Adult B’Nai Mitzvah Program. (Men and Women.) A program of Discussion and Discovery. A Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Service. Reading from the Torah.

Very honestly, it has been a thorn in my side that I had so many years of Hebrew and never had a Bat Mitzvah. The thorn became increasingly more uncomfortable as I got older.

A recently retired operating room nurse, I decided to take the plunge and enroll in the class. I could still read Hebrew but very, very slowly.

Our classes were informative and interesting. We had an excellent instructor and Rabbis were awe inspiring. I was on a high road to a spiritual journey. We were all adults. No parent for direction or to push us to study. As small classes go, we developed some lasting friendships. We learned a lot and laughed a lot.

The year flew by. We had a few hurdles. Sickness, surgery, too many responsibilities. We were there for each other as coaches with pep talks. “You can do it.”

May 14, 1999
Nine adult women excited and proud to participate in a celebration of Adult B’Not Mitzvah at Congregation Shaare Emeth, hugged, laughed, cried, prayed and sang. We lead the Congregation in worship. My father would be so proud.

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With my Bat Mitzvah, I had come full circle. The thorn was gone. When you are 13 years old, you expect parties and family celebrationsbut when you are older (I was 66 years old), I had celebrations with family and friends. A celebration Friendships and Memories completed my fabulous Bat Mitzvah weekend to perfection. Many friends and family came from out of town. I was fortunate to share this celebration with my sisters, childhood friends, my roommate from nursing school and many friends and family in St. Louis.

Each Bat Mitzvah Girl made some personal remarks about their decision to have a Bat Mitzvah. Remarks filled with passion and energy.

Personal Memories at my Bat Mitzvah:
With these Hebrew classes came many memories for me—cherished memories of long ago. My father was determined to give his girls a Jewish education. I was the oldest and began Hebrew School (Cheder) before I was 5 years old.

My mother kept a kosher home. Therefore, she was not too thrilled when I came home and asked, “What’s bacon, what does it look like, what does it taste like? I’m the only kid in the whole school that doesn’t know what bacon is.”

I knew I would taste bacon. Which I did at a friend’s house. On the way home, I heard people talking about someone who was pretending the world was coming to an end. I didn’t feel so “good.” “Oh, my! It’s all my fault. I eat bacon and the world comes to an end…and everyone’s going to be mad at me.”

In high school, at one point, I had a job at a large drocery downtown. It was not a very glamorous job and I told my parents I wanted to quit. They asked if the work was too hard or if anyone was mean to me. “Everything’s OK. I just don’t like it.” My father told me I couldn’t quit just because I didn’t like it. The job wasn’t forever. This was an important lesson for me.

As I remember these wonderful memories of childhood, I know this Bat Mitzvah will be a tribute to my parents. They gave me this need for learning, for education. I’m always in a class, continuing with education. I never knew any other way.

My parents gave me a work ethic and taught me not to give up. Not only at the grocery, but with health, mergings and downsizing. They gave me the strength, the stamina to sustain me. To stand up for my rights and…Win.

My Bat Mitzvah was a tribute in memory of my parents, Sophie and Meyer Horwitz.

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