A surprise Bat Mitzvah…from 1910

December 15, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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Ninety-year-old Bruce Symonds visited Sydney’s Great Synagogue’s to celebrate 100 years of Bat Mizvahs because both his daughters celebrated theirs at the Shule…and learned his mother had been one of the original six girls Batmitzvahed in 1910.

Marise Brass checks out her own 1932 Batmitzvah

Marise Brass checks out her own 1932 Bat Mitzvah

“It came as a complete surprise to me”, he told J-Wire. Out of curiosity, the retired doctor checked out the exhibition at the ceremony and discovered Lorna Trenn, his late mother, on the list of the original girls. He said: “Although she lived to 97, I do not recall her ever telling me about the Bat Mitzvah ceremony. Both my daughters were Bat Mitzvahed at the Great….and my father, my son and of course myself were Bar Mitzvahed there, too.”

Susan Bures sent this report of the Shule’s Bat Mitzvah Centenary

From a Bat Mitzvah celebrated in 1932 to one celebrated in 2009, women of all ages attended The Great Synagogue’s Centenary Bat Mitzvah celebration last Sunday.

More than 150 women, many with their families, attended the ceremony followed by the opening of the Centenary Bat mitzvah exhibition in The Great’s museum and an afternoon tea.

“While The Great synagogue and avant garde are not expressions we freely associate”, Rabbi Lawrence said, he detailed in his speech to the congregation the many ways in which The Great has been ahead of its time.

“In this building we saw the first Confirmation of Jewish women, the first Bat Mitzvahs of Jewish women as groups and the first individual Bat Mitzvahs in an orthodox synagogue in Australia.”

“I believe it was here and in this building that women first celebrated Bat Mitzvahs on a Shabbat and first spoke during the service; here that they were first able to hold and process with the Torah scroll, first admitted to the Boards.

“It is here that we celebrated the first woman to become President of an Orthodox congregation in Australia.”

Rabbi Lawrence said the centenary of Bat Mitzvah celebrations is another reason for The Great Synagogue to be proud of its contribution to a more fulfilling position for women within orthodoxy.

“And we continue to do so through our Women’s Shabbat, our association with the women’s tefilla group and our promotion of pre-nuptial agreements,” Rabbi Lawrence said.

The Great is a leader and can continue to play a dynamic role in making Jewish orthodoxy accessible and relevant to the fullest extent that Halacha permits.

“Today confirms and celebrates a century of commitment to innovation and change.”

A concept of congregant Marcelle Marks, the Bat Mitzvah Centenary exhibition was designed by curator Lori Burck and shows the names of all the women who marked their “Confirmation, Presentation” or Bat Mitzvah at the Great.

There are pictures of groups of Bat Mitzvah girls when that was the fashion and some of the individual B’not Mitzvah of today. Dresses worn by some of the B’not Mitzvah are on display and even a pair of plaits, cut from the head of Marcelle Marks to signify her “coming of age” at her Batmitzvah.

There are veils worn by the girls when the “Confirmation” ceremony had echoes of the Christian custom, and symbols of both Shavuot and Chanukah when the group Bat Mitzvah ceremonies were held in the past.

At the afternoon tea, the oldest Bat Mitzvah “girl” cut the cake and presentations were made by President Michael Gold OAM.

He paid tribute to the organisers and “the strength of spirit and enthusiasm our members have for the congregation”.

As one congregant said about the function: “What an innovative idea – The Great is always at the forefront of good ideas.”


One Response to “A surprise Bat Mitzvah…from 1910”
  1. Mazal Tov to the ladies and the Synagogue too!

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