By J. Kott-Wolle
Oil on Canvas, 22x28, painted 2019
Original photograph taken - 2015
My daughter was the first girl in the history of my family to read Torah at her Bat Mitzvah. When my sisters came of age in the mid 1970’s, girls definitely did not celebrate Bat Mitzvahs at our Conservative congregation. When it was my turn in the early 1980’s, the synagogue had adopted a more egalitarian approach to this milestone. My mother offered me the chance to have a Bat Mitzvah but I was too shy to read Torah in front of everybody and turned down the opportunity. She didn’t fight me. When my daughter came of age in 2015, I was filled with pride. She prepared for her Torah reading (Shoftim) with discipline and a measure of seriousness I did not know she possessed. I have ultra-Orthodox relatives who declined to attend this service because traditional Judaism has never recognized women in this capacity. I wasn’t angry that they didn’t come to this event. I actually understand the reasons why. When you alter something after centuries of practicing it a certain way there’s bound to be a backlash from the traditionalists who want to preserve the culture and rituals in their original form. There are lasting implications when you change the tradition. My daughter understands this tension too. We did not take offense. But my daughter is more knowledgeable in Judaism than I will ever be and I know she has the tools to continue shaping the American Jewish story. I wonder what it will look like when she is my age.