NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — In Judaism, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a coming-of-age ceremony. Nowadays it happens when a boy or girl is a teen. But for those who weren’t able to go through it earlier in life, Tower One/Tower East, a senior living community in New Haven, is holding a “B’nai” Mitzvah.
Betha Kahn was born in a little town in the south of Germany called Beerfelden. At the time, there was already a Hitler cell in place.
“I had an aunt who with her husband and daughter perished in Auschwitz,” Kahn recalled.
But for the 95-year-old, there was never a doubt about her religion.
“I always knew I was Jewish and I was always proud to be Jewish,” Kahn said. “I didn’t have this particular Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony but my four grandchildren and three children all did this so I’m just rounding out the circle,” she joked.
Kahn is one of fourteen seniors at Tower One/Tower East who is participating in the B’nai Mitzvah on Sunday, December 17.
“B’nai Mitzvah is a term we’ve sort of come up with which is a collective,” said Rabbi Benjamin Scolnic of Temple Beth Sholom in Hamden, Conn. He will be performing the ceremony.
“The central portion of the service is the Torah service where they get called up and it’s the blessing,” explained Ruthie Greenblatt, a spiritual advisor at Tower One/Tower East.
What makes the event even more special is that it coincides with Hanukkah.
“It’s sort of a double beautiful thing that not only people are doing and proclaiming their identity, but they’re proclaiming their identity at a time of holiday that’s about identity,” Rabbi Scolnic said.
These seniors have waited a lifetime to become full-fledged members of the Jewish community.
“A lot of these people are in their 80s and 90s and they never had the opportunity to have this ceremony when they were 13 years old,” Scolnic explained. “Most of them are female and at the time, in the synagogues that they went to, there wasn’t an opportunity for a female to have this ceremony.”
“So for the women to get up and bless the Torah on the same stance as the men equally, I think it’s a dream come true.”
“So for the women to get up and bless the Torah on the same stance as the men equally, I think it’s a dream come true,” Greenblatt said.
“I’m all for anything that women can do that they couldn’t do before,” Kahn said. “I’m glad that some men are getting their come-upins,” she joked.
This will be the second B’nai Mitzvah the Towers have held. The first was in 2009. To learn more, visit TowerOne.org.