Celebrating the First Bat Mitzvah in America


Heather Feinstein, Staff Writer

March 18th marked the 100th anniversary of the first bat mitzvah in America. Bat mitzvahs are the Jewish celebration of a twelve or thirteen year old girl becoming a Jewish adult. They are now viewed as a common practice, for girls across America regularly become official bat mitzvahs. However, the establishment of the bat mitzvah is fairly recent as its first appearance in America was on March 18, 1922 when Judith Kaplan became a bat mitzvah. The one hundredth anniversary of this milestone is monumentous because it displays the significant progress that has been made for gender equality and women empowerment. 

Kaplan’s groundbreaking bat mitzvah was celebrated after her father, Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, wanted to give his daughter a chance to have an official ceremony to properly honor her in becoming a legal Jewish adult. This event was a significant point in the history of conservative Judaism in regards to recognizing females. It served as the building blocks for establishing equal roles amongst males and females during Jewish religious services. 

Today, in conservative synagogues, women are allowed to go on the bima—a raised platform where the Torah is read—and are able to read Torah as well. A century ago, only men were able to step onto the Torah and chant the stories provided in the Torah. Additionally, across the nation, Jewish girls who are twelve or thirteen are able to properly celebrate their bat mitzvahs by reading from the Torah, and having a bat mitzvah has become a pretty common occurrence in the country. 

Leah Bloom, a sophomore at FTHS, was given the opportunity to be able to have a bat mitzvah and said, “I feel honored that Kaplan had the courage to break gender stereotypes and pave the way for women to become recognized with a bat mitzvah. I am so grateful to have had a bat mitzvah, for it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in Judaism.”

Because of Kaplan’s courage to become the first girl to have a bat mitzvah, she was able to allow bat mitzvahs to eventually become a common event for Jewish girls who can celebrate legally becoming a Jewish adult. Although males have had centuries of accepted bar mitzvahs, Kaplan overcame gender stereotypes and proved to the nation that women can have equal opportunities.