By Marion L. Usher, October 2013
I grew up In Montreal, Quebec in a mostly Jewish neighborhood. I say mostly, since we had no contact with the families of other faiths. My father helped build the first Conservative congregation in our new neighborhood. Both parents were totally immersed in synagogue life. Our parents kept us close to them with weekly Shabbat celebrations, and inviting our friends over after dinner to play ping pong or watch a movie. Our friends enjoyed good food and fun times at our house.
When I turned 13, my father turned to me and asked me what I thought about having a Bat Mitzvah. I was totally surprised since there had never been one in our synagogue. Our Rabbi, Maurice Cohen, had approached my father to see if I might be interested. I was totally delighted. The event was celebrated on a Friday night. At that time, 1955, we still had separate seating and women were not able to have allyiot. A Friday night service was the compromise solution.
I did my Haftorah, a D'var Torah, sang some of the liturgy, and ended with Adon Olam. It was one of the most important experiences in my life. I felt empowered, something I have held onto always. What a gift Rabbi Cohen gave me when he suggested that I become the first Bat Mitzvah in our congregation, actually in Montreal!
Marion L. Usher, Ph.D, Clinical Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, George Washington University School of Medicine, Creator of "Love and Religion: An Interfaith Workshop for Jews and Their Partners."
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