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For seniors, special b'nai mitzvah is the chance to reach a long-lost milestone

Diane Cohen regrets quitting Hebrew school as a child. Now 70, she finally had her bat mitzvah. “It meant that I could fulfill something in my life that I always wanted to do.”

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Diane Cohen regrets quitting Hebrew school as a child. Now 70, she finally had her bat mitzvah. “It meant that I could fulfill something in my life that I always wanted to do.”

SPRING HILL — It was something all of them wanted to do but never really had the chance.

In a special b'nai mitzvah service two weeks ago at Temple Beth David, Rabbi David Levin made it possible for 14 women and one man to reach a milestone in their lives.

They became daughters and son of the Torah, or "ones to whom the commandments apply."

During the service, the group read from the Torah and said prayers as a group.

Then they individually read a portion of the haftarah — a short selection read on every Sabbath.

Each also gave a speech.

Traditionally, a bar (for boys) or bat (for girls) mitzvah is at the age of 13.

For the 15 seniors participating in the service, that was a long time ago.

For widower Seymour Videlock, it had been nearly 70 years.

"There are things in life that you want to do, but you just can't get to it," Videlock said. "Life got in the way."

When Levin told his congregation last year that he was forming a group for a class, Videlock realized it was his long-lost chance.

Unable to be bar mitzvahed in his youth, Videlock said it was because lessons during the Great Depression were too expensive.

Later, he served in the Army during World War II, and then had a family to support.

In a poem written for the occasion, A New Turban, Videlock shared with the group how his personal desires in life had to be set aside for other things.

"Yet still for knowledge did I have a thirst," he wrote near the end of the poem. "Now comes time for my return to my root, cleaning away the wasted years, as I can. By the donning of new robes head to boot, as Joshua did, topping it with a new turban."

Videlock is happy to have fulfilled one of his goals in life.

"It was my chance, and I was not going to miss it," he said. "I'm very glad I did it. Now I can go on with the rest of my life."

Diane Cohen, 70, had begun Hebrew school as a child, but her mother let her quit. It's something she always regretted.

When Cohen's youngest son was 13, he was bar mitzvahed at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

"That was the moment that started me wanting to do it," she said.

When Cohen was rearing her family, she took a refresher course and learned Hebrew.

But the years passed by.

When Levin presented the opportunity to attend a monthly class to prepare, she knew the time was right for her bat mitzvah.

"I taught. I was a counselor. I did a lot of things. It just wasn't the right time," she said. "This was."

The group studied Judaism and took classes in Hebrew for about a year.

"Each person had a part to read in the service," Cohen said. "We read our portions in English and Hebrew, and then we conducted part of the service."

Cohen said this is a new beginning for her.

"It meant that I could fulfill something in my life that I always wanted to do."

Trudy Lieberman, 66, was bat mitzvahed with the encouragement of her husband, Irwin, the temple president.

As a child growing up in New York, she found that girls did not go to Hebrew school.

"My brother, of course, did, but my sister and I never did. I never thought anything of it," she said.

Then several years ago, another rabbi offered the necessary class. But it required two years of learning Hebrew.

With a full-time job, Lieberman was unable to take the class.

"When Rabbi Levin suggested doing this and said we could read from the transliteration, I discussed it with my husband and he said I should do this," she said.

"As it was, my husband passed away the end of July. I just felt I had to do this for him."

Lieberman had about a dozen family members, coming from as far away as California, attended the service.

Along with the others, Lieberman was presented with a tallis — a prayer shawl — during the service. Hers was presented by her brother, her brother-in-law and her son.

"I was just ecstatic," she said. "There are no words to explain how I felt with everybody being there."

Gloria Goldman, 67, the cantorial soloist at Temple Beth David for the past 18 years, sang the chants for the special service.

It was also her bat mitzvah.

"As a child, I attended an orthodox temple, which didn't recognize girls in this capacity," she wrote in an e-mail. "I was graduated but never bat mitzvahed."

Like Lieberman, Goldman had made sure her son was bar mitzvahed.

"As well as my daughter and granddaughter, (who were) bat mitzvahed," she wrote.

Her husband was also bar mitzvahed at age 13.

Now it was her turn.

"I am proud," she wrote, "that I now, too, have made our family chain of Judaism even stronger by strengthening my individual link by becoming a bat mitzvah daughter of the Torah."

For seniors, special b'nai mitzvah is the chance to reach a long-lost milestone 06/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 2, 2009 3:23pm]
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