It’s Never Too Late to Become a Bat Mitzvah

Although bat and bar mitzvah ceremonies are traditionally held at ages twelve or thirteen, this milestone can take place at any age. On Sunday November 10th, 2019, five residents of Stein Assisted Living aged 87 to 98 years old became bat mitzvah—three for the first time.

The first bat mitzvah in the United States was held in 1922; for a twelve-year-old New Yorker by the name of Judith Kaplan. However, the practice did not become a widespread tradition until the early 1960s – meaning many Jewish seniors today have never had the experience.

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After weekly classes for over six months, the women of Stein Assisted Living earned the rite of passage in a touching ceremony attended by family, friends, and fellow residents. Taught by Corey Heinberg and Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, the women studied and familiarized themselves with the Torah and Hebrew language in order to gain a fuller experience from the Jewish religion.

Renee Waller (87), Esther Samuels (89), Sophie Melman (95), Sali Frank (96), and Ida Rose (98) all had their own reasons for embarking on this journey.

Rose, who became bat mitzvah for the first time at the ceremony, was born in 1921 in the Bronx, NY. A child of Orthodox Jewish parents, Yiddish was the primary language spoken in her household and she was well versed in Jewish religious practices – eventually sending her own children to Hebrew school. She says that having the opportunity to become bat mitzvah at this point in life was an “unexpected pleasure” that she feels lucky to have.

Samuels, a Brooklynite born in 1930, grew up with a Hebrew education. During her adulthood, she lived in Israel for two years where she picked up a second dialect of the language. She cites her desires to revisit the Hebrew language and gain a stronger sense of community as her reasons for becoming bat mitzvah for a second time.

Waller stated that coming to live at Stein Assisted Living brought back early Jewish memories with her family’s traditions – so she embraced the opportunity to study Hebrew once again. Frank and Melman, both taking part for the first time, shared desires to learn more about Jewish history and revisit past family customs.

“You’re never too old to learn new things and to reengage with the traditions and ceremonies of the Jewish faith,” says Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, Wilf Campus chaplain. The Wilf Campus congratulates these women for remaining committed to their studies and wishes them continued fulfillment in the experiences to come. Mazel Tov!