The sun had already risen over the tops of the Old City walls as five women and their families gathered at Robinson’s Arch — the Herodian-era corner of the Temple Mount that is the government-approved site for alternative prayer services. Some donned prayer shawls. All readied themselves for their long-awaited bat mitzvah.
They were dressed in their synagogue best, flat shoes as a concession to the uneven ground, but garbed in stockings, suits and dresses, hair coiffed and Hadassah lifetime member brooches pinned to their sweaters and lapels, marking their allegiance to the organization that brought them to the ancient arch at that hour.
“This is a sisterhood,” said Barbara Goldstein, the deputy executive director of Hadassah Israel who acted as the morning’s master of ceremonies. “Hadassah is not a denomination, but it makes sense that they wanted to do this together.”
The women are in Israel for this week’s Centennial Celebrations, marking the organization’s 100 years of good works. All five of the bat mitzvah celebrants, ages 65 and up, are from the same community in Aventura, Florida, where they began thinking about celebrating their bat mitzvah several years ago.
It was Linda Goldstein who first had the idea, via her mother, Yetta Fried, who died before she could bring the celebration to fruition. But Goldstein enlisted several other friends from their Hadassah study group, and they’ve been preparing for two years, said Joyce Bloch, who held a headshot of another friend, Sharon Blumberg, who couldn’t come because of a family illness.
Bloch shook with emotion as she spoke following her Torah reading, remembering her brother’s and sons’ bar mitzvahs, and remarking on the significance of alternative, non-Orthodox religious celebrations in Israel.
Wearing the tallit and kippah that belong to her granddaughter Miriam, who will be bat-mitvahed next month, Goldstein, who studied at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University during the 1967 Six-Day War, was the only celebrant to read directly from the Torah.
“I just don’t want it be over with,” she said, surrounded by her husband, daughter, son and granddaughter. “It’s been so meaningful.”