The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah


Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on September 24, 2010

Today is a tough day.

I realize, though, that there are few problems in life that can’t be improved with one of the following: a baggie of ice, a cup of tea, or a glass of wine.

Now to pair the proper solution to its problem…


The Hat Report

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on September 12, 2010

I am making a first tentative foray into the world of Jewish women’s head coverings!

Sure, I cover my head when I am called to the bimah. I use one of the courtesy doilies provided with the yarmulkes in a bin at the entry doors. (Generally people wear their own preferred head covering, but communal ones are provided for guests or people who forget.)

According to Rabbi Castiglione, who is leading my Bat Mitzvah class, the state of head coverings for women in Reform Judaism is pretty much open to personal conscience and beliefs.

The raw framework is: we wear a head covering as a sign of respect before God when we pray in a synagogue and especially when we are called up to the bimah to read from the Torah or be close to the action during services. It’s the exact opposite of hats in secular life, where to remove one’s hat is a sign of respect. In Judaism, a bare headed man puts a “hat” (yarmulke) on his head before he enters.

On the other hand, traditional Judaism forbids cross-dressing, which is seen by some as encompassing women in yarmulkes. (There always seems to be a tension between two or more competing goals in Judaism.)

Reform Judaism is gender-egalitarian, so women have prayer roles equal to those of the men. Therefore, in Reform temples you’ll see many women in a variety of head coverings of their own choosing, from suede, sateen, or silk yarmulkes in a rainbow of colors from muted to feminine. You’ll also see women in a newer type of head covering which is a beaded creation strung on stiff memory wire wound in a circular shape.

The Conservative movement is pushing toward egalitarianism and the vast majority of women I saw at High Holiday services last week wore some version of these yarmulke-type head coverings. Sure, there were some doilies. There were some bare heads. There were a few scarf/shawl arrangements and a couple of hats (though much fewer hats than I’ve noted in past years; perhaps this is a sign of the great Conservative Jew die-off as our movement ages.)

I found a woman who hand beads the stiff-wire feminine head coverings to sell on Etsy. I ordered one and it should arrive any day now. If it’s here by Yom Kippur, I’ll wear it when I make the Kol Nidre appeal (as part of my Ways and Means duties) during services on Friday night.

My beaded head covering comes with “attached comb” and I sent a note to the seller: “Please include any instructions you have for how to attach it to my head.”

I took Eva to see a local community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof last weekend, and they did a great rendition of the wedding party complete with men dancing while balancing bottles on their hats. I have a feeling it might be kind of like that. Or bobby pins.

They Knew They Were Poets but I Didn’t Know It

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on September 1, 2010

digital image by Simon Howden

I was an English major but didn’t realize until last night that my Torah portion (a portion of a portion, really) is written in rhyming couplets.


In my defense, it’s in HEBREW, for God’s sake!

I have a lot to share about what’s going on with my studies and the plans for my Bat Mitzvah, but for now, let’s just say my portion is very biblical. It’s Jacob’s blessing of his sons from Vayikra. The hardest word to say in my section is “Yissachar.”

My classmate Louis has one of my new favorite Hebrew words in his portion: “Oyvecha.” Contrary to how it sounds, it is absolutely unrelated to “oy vey.”

Oy vey.