The young girl from my daughter’s middle school class in Baltimore really wanted a bat mitzvah, really wanted to belong the congregation, really really wanted to be Jewish. In a way I fully understood, she thought she was Jewish, even though neither of her parents identified as Jewish. She lived with her dad, who had a Jewish father. On her mother’s side, her closest relationship with a grandparental figure was with a step-bubbie and a clan full of Jewish aunts and cousins.
The congregation was guided to accept a “teen membership.” I guided her and her dad towards understanding, accepting, and embracing the value of a formal conversion and immersion, aligning her Jewish identity with Jewish status. And then came identifying the bat mitzvah date, and portion, and it was Tazria! (Try singing the headline of this column to the tune of “Maria” from “West Side Story.”) [Read more…]