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February 27, 2013

JCC initiates bat mitzvah photo exhibit

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

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An exhibit display explains the history of bat mitzvahs as part of the Janice Charach Gallery’s new exhibit, “Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age.” The exhibit combines local residents’ bat mitzvah photos with materials from a touring exhibit.

WEST BLOOMFIELD — A new photography exhibit at the Janice Charach Gallery will capture the personal journeys that dozens of local Jewish women have made in celebrating their bat mitzvahs.

The gallery, held in West Bloomfield’s Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, will host “Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age” Feb. 21-March 31.

Gallery Director Terri Stearn said the exhibit includes materials on loan from the National Museum of American Jewish History and Moving Traditions. In addition, the exhibit showcases bat mitzvah photos submitted by local residents, as well as female rabbis.

Stearn said the topic is special to the hearts of many JCC visitors. “We are a Jewish museum, and I think it’s interesting to this community,” she said. “Everybody has been to a bat mitzvah.”

The exhibit explains the history behind the bat mitzvah, a relatively new rite of passage in Judaism. According to Stearn, bar mitzvahs for 13-year-old boys have been a tradition for thousands of years, but the first bat mitzvah for girls only occurred in 1922 in New York.

Traditionally, youth who undergo bar mitzvahs or bat mitzvahs assume a greater role in Jewish society. During the rite of passage ceremonies, the child may read passages from the Hebrew Bible or discuss faith-based topics.

Bat mitzvahs have become commonplace in Reform and Conservative congregations, and some Orthodox Jews are adopting the custom too, Stearn said.

Lisa Kravitz, of Farmington Hills, is one of the women who sent the Janice Charach Gallery photos of their celebrations. Kravitz said she remembers her bat mitzvah from around 30 years ago as a big family dance party.

She explained that her bat mitzvah was aligned with Humanistic Judaism, which celebrates Jewish cultural traditions from a secular perspective.

“Mine was not traditional,” she said. “I read a Hebrew poem from Ecclesiastes. I wrote a long speech about Judy Blume and being a people person … and being a part of young people’s lives.”

Marni Foster, from West Bloomfield, also said she had her bat mitzvah around 30 years ago. She said she recalls being grateful for being adequately prepared for the ceremony; it eased her nerves. And she also talked about the party, which was held at her father’s plastic recycling factory in Hamilton, Ontario.

“I remember having my best friend’s brother be the DJ for the party,” she said. “We got a bus to take all my friends there.”

The Janice Charach Gallery, 6600 W. Maple Road, will host the “Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age” exhibit Feb. 21-March 31. Admission is free. Learn more about gallery hours at www.jccdet.org, or find out more by calling (248) 432-5449.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.