By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A group of Jewish women in their senior years will celebrate a childhood rite of passage today. The rite is usually reserved for 12-year-old girls.
Reporter: “Did you ever think that this day would come?”
Renee: “Never, never.”
At 87, Renee Marke had tears in her eyes when discussing her upcoming bat mitzvah.
“Studying and looking at the Torah…that’s kind of special to us,” says Marke.
Marke and 15 other senior women spent three months studying Hebrew as they prepared to read from the most sacred Jewish text for the first time in public, a rite that marks adulthood in Judaism and is usually celebrated when a girl is 12 or 13 years old. But at the time when these women came of age, tradition limited the rite of passage only to boys, says Rabbi-intern Anne Feibelman, who will be officiating the ceremony.
“There were never female rabbis,” she says. “It was a second class citizen situation. In the past 100 years that has changed.”
“We were always separated,” says Libby Goldstein, 94. “The men were one place, the woman in another place. In the synagogue we never came together.”
Goldstein says for years she lived a life that didn’t focus much on her faith. Yet, when the chaplain and other religious officials at the Lutheran-based Paul’s Run community offered her the opportunity for a bat mitzvah, she jumped at the chance.
“It woke up in me something that was buried inside of me for many years,” she says. “Now I feel closer to my faith. I enjoy going to the services on Friday nights.”
Helen Marimo, 90, says she’s excited about the celebration. She says the best part is that her family will get to watch her, the same way she watched them experience the rite.
“I asked my grandson would he come and he said, ‘Mom-Mom, weren’t you at my bar mitzvah? It made me grab him and kiss him!” says Marimo, beaming.
The ladies will celebrate tonight at the Paul’s Run retirement community on Bustleton Avenue. For more info on Paul’s Run, go to PaulsRun.org.