Bar & Bat Mitzvah Memories

Daniella Sheldon

On Friday morning I thought I should polish my flute for the upcoming performance that night in shule at 6pm. Luckily at 4.30 I decided to practice just one more time.

As I played I noticed one of the springs was broken! After a couple of frantic phone calls mum managed to borrow a perfectly working flute from our family friends. That was hiccup #1.

Shul went well. My three months of learning and my mum hassling me had paid off. The only thing was it went TOOOOO quickly. It felt like it was over in just 30 seconds.

After months of worry we awoke to a warm and very sunny day. That morning the microphone came. The only problem was it didn’t work. Luckily our next door neighbour is a sound technician and so after about an hour he realised the problem: the speaker was stuffed up! It was mum to the rescue again; with her screaming and crying she got a guy out here in record time to fix it up.

The last problem was a surprise jumping castle. It was only meant to take up one quarter of the garden, but when it was blown up it took up the WHOLE garden! That was OK because some of the adults liked it more than the kids!

I had a couple more surprises — a band that played Israeli music so I could be picked up on a chair and thrown up on a table cloth; blown up baby pictures that were life size and an amazing cake.

All in all I had a wonderful time and I hope everyone else did too.

Daniella Sheldon sent this email to cousins in Glasgow, Scotland who were unable to attend her bat mitzvah in Sydney.


Michal Fisher

I had chosen to celebrate my bat mitvah with my family and friends. I had a celebration at school. For this, my class of girls had fun while learning and doing activities to learn about the responsibilities of a woman such as candle lighting and kashrut.

We had a project on kashrut where we had to talk about the guidelines and what we do about difficulties. We also had booklets from which we learnt the halachot (the laws) of candle lighting, We learnt what to do in certain situations such as who we should ask to light the candles if we are in hospital. We also learnt about tsniut (modesty) and how to dress, speak and behave appropriately.

Before my bat mitzvah I had chosen to learn all six prakim of the Pirkai Avot (Ethics of the Fathers). I studied new things during my bat mitzvah learning time. One of the most famous rabbanim, Hillel, said the following: Im ain ani li mi li, – (if I am not for myself who am I).

Before my bat mitzvah I was worried mostly about things concerning me like what clothes I should buy or what exciting things I should do.

But now that I am bat mitzvah and an independent young lady, ma ani? (who am I?) What things are really important to me? What can I do to make things better? Ve im lo achshav aimatai? (if not now then when?).

Now that I’m bat mitzvah I don’t need to wait. I can do things now that I couldn’t do before. I can make the world a better place by doing mitzvot and helping people.

Michal Fisher is a student of Leibler Yavneh College.


Racheli Waysman

Two generations ago, when my mum’s mum turned 12, it was just considered to be a normal birthday. There was certainly no thought of a Dvar Torah or reading from the Torah.

When my mum celebrated her bat mitzvah in Brisbane, she and ten of her friends spent a year of learning with the rabbi’s wife. On one Sunday afternoon, they all gave their own ‘mini’ Dvar Torah on one of the Ten Commandments, recited the Thirteen Principles of faith and sang some Jewish songs. The celebration was followed by an afternoon tea in the shul hall.

For many months before my bat mitzvah, I studied my sedra with a learned woman who taught me how to take a creative approach to my parashah and how to apply the lessons learned in many different ways.

Later, I delivered my parashah in our shul after Musaf and I remember seeing tears run down the faces of my mum and buba. After this we donated a kiddush to the members of the shul. My abba gave a dvar Torah also at the kiddush.

Three weeks later we continued the celebration with our family and friends at Leonda. I gave a speech about my loving family and friends and what bat mitzvah means to me. The rest of the evening was made up with brackets of dancing, lots of eating. but most importantly, with wisdom which was related to me by the rabbi, my mum and my abba. The highlight of the evening was being around my family and friends.

Racheli Waysman is a student of Leibler Yavneh College.


Alana Herz

Before the ‘big night’ the girls had bat mitzvah lessons with Morah Sharp. We learned about the halachot of the lighting of the candles on Friday night, kashrut and tzniut.

While learning all these interesting topics, we had the privilege of having Rabbi and Mrs Fredman come from Israel to teach us.

The girls learned about the importance of time, mitzvot, tefilla, the approach to ecology and bal tashchit and tzniut. Mrs Fredman really helped us to open our minds and present ourselves as Jewish people.

The boys learned about different aspects of mitzvot — how a person will get more reward for doing a mitzvah that he was commanded to do as opposed to a mitzvah which we did voluntarily.

We started off our bar/bat mitzvah celebration learning about self-esteem. After that we all met in the hall and began our celebration.

Firstly we had refreshments and then the parents sat down and listened to a song that Year Seven called Olam HaYeladim and watched a slide show which Mar Ufaz Parchi had prepared.

Rav Garfunkel and Morah Sharp spoke about each student who received a mezuzah handmade by Ethiopian immigrants in Israel, a certificate and a personalised plate made by Vered, one of last year’s Sherut Leumi girls. It was an occasion we will never forget.

Alana Herz is a student of Leibler Yavneh College.


Dion Esterman

I had my bar mitzvah just a few months ago. I had been preparing my laining for over a year and now the time had come. I was nervous.

Presents had already started arriving from overseas a month before and they continued to arrive throughout the week before my bar mitzvah. My grandparents arrived with family and friends from New Zealand to celebrate with us. The Friday night meal was held in my honour at my cousin’s house and I led the benching for the first time.

The day had finally arrived. I was dressed in my bar mitzvah suit and slowly the shul started filling up. By the time it came to my laining, the shul was packed. I got onto the bimah and waited for the Cohen to be called up. He made his brachot. I took a deep breath and began: “Amen. Vayicach Korach ….” I managed to get through my sedra quite smoothly. As I concluded my haftorah I was greeted with a lolly throw and lots of mazel tovs, which echoed around the shul.

I had a kiddush at my house after shul and it was packed. The food was tasty, the drinks were cold and I was surrounded by people wanting to wish me mazel tov.

I had a reception that night. The atmosphere was joyful and we danced and ate late into the night and early morning. I got up the next day early to go to shul and later opened my presents with my grandparents.

My bar mitzvah was a once in a lifetime experience. I can now be counted in a minyan, wear tefillin, can lain and be called up to the Torah. And do I wish that I could do it all again? I would happily answer YES (and not just for the presents).

Dion Esterman is a student of Leibler Yavneh College.


Tahlia Trijbetz

It has been said that magic is a mythical and unrealistic experience, but there are few words to describe the feelings that I encountered that evening. ‘Magic’ must be included.

At my bat mitzvah, the commencement of the evening’s proceedings was delayed until the first three stars could be clearly sighted in the twilight filament.

With siddur in hand, I confidently conducted the Ma’ariv and Havdallah ceremonies, within the familiarity of my own home. These were followed by the delivery of my very own D’var Torah to the many guests seated in the marquee before me.

The evening held another unique dimension. The three loosely-hung walls and the sparsely woven palms of the succah brought what can only be described as a magical atmosphere.

I felt an overpowering sense of pride that felt quite magical. I knew that the purpose of that day was indeed special, as for centuries boys had become bar mitzvah, but it had only been in recent times that the tradition of a girl to become bat mitzvah had truly come alive. We had created our own ritual, different from what I had seen before and therefore all the more extraordinary. We broke free of the shackles binding us to tradition.

My bat mitzvah was a rite of passage. It marked a beginning rather than an end of my involvement in religious education and the Jewish community. It was the beginning of my forming a mature relationship with God, a relationship I will carry with me and develop for the rest of my life. It was a relationship and a tradition that I will pass on to my own children and my children’s children.

In the past, when I made a decision involving my Judaism, the responsibility of that decision lay on my parents. As I became a Jewish woman, the decisions I was going to make in the future would be my own responsibility.

This occasion marks my connection with other Jews around the world and a link to Jewish tradition. Becoming bat mitzvah marks the beginning of my responsibility as a Jewish adult.

We celebrated yet another touching milestone which added to the surreal atmosphere of the evening. Unbeknown to me, my mother had compiled a volume of my poems, stories, articles and many other ‘pen to paper’ creations that I had written from my earliest days as an ‘author’.

The presentation of this published edition was one of the most powerful and meaningful experiences of the evening. I will treasure this magnificent gift for the rest of my life. Entitled “Beginnings”, the chronicle’s inscription read; “from the beginnings of writing to the beginnings of womanhood”. I believe that my bat mitzvah is the beginning of the rest of my life.


Hayley Stein

We celebrated my brother Ryan’s bar mitzvah on February 17-18, 2001. We had the shul service at the North Shore Synagogue and the function was at the Hilton Hotel in the city.

The planning was exciting as was the anticipation. Arranging the invitations, chocolate bars and the food took a lot of time.

Some weeks before the bar mitzvah, my family and I went to look for a dress for me to wear. My mum went into Harts and asked if they sold dresses in my size. They said yes, so we bought a shiny, sparkling, glittery dress, all for me! I thought I looked beautiful in my blue dress.

Practising my speech made me nervous. Everyday I improved, but I got more nervous. However, it sounded just right and I wasn’t shaking anymore.

The shul service was held on February 17. It was the start of Ryan becoming a man. We listened to him say his Haftorah (Yithro) Maftir and sing songs. As he walked off the bimah everyone threw lollies at him. My friends, family, other children and me ran up and grabbed all the lollies. My dad then said a lovely speech to Ryan and handed him a poster and a siddur. (Dad is president of our shul, so it was very special).

The spectacular, fantastic function was probably the best night of Ryan’s and my life. The dancing was amazing. I loved watching everyone do different steps. The band was superb. We enjoyed listening to all the Jewish and pop songs. The food was mouthwatering.

We had salmon for an entree, chicken and chips with vegetables for the main course and fruit and ice-cream for dessert. The chocolate bars we created were delicious. There were little models of a Torah on each table and on our table there was a Jewish bear all dressed up.

After the function, we came to the room to open the presents. Opening presents is my kind of fun, but the presents were all for Ryan and they were better than my birthday presents. I wanted all of them. The money, scanner and all the rest!

Next my mum and dad went to bed in the room at the Hilton, but Ryan and I stayed up till 5am and slept for an hour. We had great dreams.

It was a fantastic weekend. I will always remember this superb moment of my life and I am greatly looking forward to my bat mitzvah.

Hayley Stein was Master of Ceremonies at her brother’s bar mitzvah in Sydneyr.

This article republished with thanks to the Australian Jewish News