Everyone suddenly burst out singing

A very special Shabbat service, celebrating an adult Bat Mitzvah

On Saturday 16th October, we celebrated the adult Bat Mitzvah of our Deputy Chair, Rebecca Singerman-Knight, at a special morning Shabbat service.

Rebecca chose to have an adult Bat Mitzvah as a public affirmation of her Jewish identiy. Although Rebecca’s father is Jewish, she was not brought up in the Jewish faith so did not have a Bat Mitzvah when she was young. She rediscovered her Jewish identity in her early adult life and joined the KLS community in 2018. After participating in a course of study and being actively involved in the community for a year, her Jewish status was confirmed at the Beit Din (Rabbinic Board of Liberal Judaism) in September 2019. She then started preparing for her Bat Mitzvah – which was initially planned for May 2020 and postponed until October 2021 due to the Covid pandemic. (Read more about Liberal Judaism’s position on equilineal descent here).

Rebecca co-led the Shabbat morning service with Rabbi René Pfertzel. As she is one of the pianists in the community, this included accompanying the congregration for some of the songs.

Rebecca’s family and friends were in attendance – and some participated in the service by reading two poems – Everyone Sang by Siegried Sassoon and Meditation before Reading the Torah by Marge Piercy.

Rebecca’s chosen Torah portion was Behar – Leviticus 25.1 – 26.2. She ‘leyned’ (chanted) the first 13 verses from the scroll, having attended leyning classes given by Rabbi René in 2019 – 2020. She then invited her family and friends to the Bimah to take a look at the scoll, as some of them had never seen one before.

During her D’var Torah, Rebecca explained that she had chosen her portion as it is the one she would have read had she had her Bat Mitzvah at the traditional age of 13. The portion has great resonance for her as it introduces the idea of the Jubilee Year which occurs once every 50 years. Had Rebecca had her Bat Mitzvah in May 2020 as originally intended, she explained, she would have just entered her own 50th year. Rebecca’s reflections focussed on the themes of freedom and the home – both concepts which are relevant to her portion – and also have been relevant to us all over the past 18 months. You can read her full D’var Torah here or watch her deliver it here:

During his sermon, Rabbi René asked the congregation to consider the journeys that had bought them to the Synagogue that day – in keeping with the themes of the week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha. He talked of different ways it was possible to live a religious life – by making the world a better place, by following commandments, or by a undertaking a journey of self-discovery. He then reflected on Rebecca’s journey to KLS and the various different roles she holds – Deputy Chair, Press and Publicity officer, pianist and a member of the livestreaming team – to name a few! And – of course – there was an element of ‘roasting’ – comparing Rebecca’s loud laugh to the sound of the thunder at the revelation of Mount Sinai! You can read his sermon here.

Speaking after the service Rebecca said “It was such a wonderful and important day for me – to be able to affirm my Jewish identity in front of my family, friends and community. I loved co-leading the service with Rabbi René and having the opportunity to leyn from the Torah scroll and share my reflections on my portion. The preparation for the day was hard work but worth every minute – I hope that I have also inspired others to do the same”.

Rabbi René said “It’s always a privilege to see an adult preparing for a Bar/bat-Mitzvah to reaffirm their commitment to the Jewish community. Rebecca was brilliant, inspiring, and her Bat-Mitzvah was one of the highlights of the year. She can be proud of all the work she put into leyning her portion and writing a great D’var Torah. I strongly encourage anyone who would like to have an adult Bar/bat-Mitzvah to contact me. You won’t regret it!”

You can watch the full service here: