Monday, Oct. 8, 2007

Congregation Kol Ami celebrates first women’s b’not mitzvahs

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Although Eileen Dunnell watched her son become a bar mitzvah 44 years ago, she never had the opportunity as a young woman to experience the same spiritual milestone until Saturday.

Wearing the same tallit, or prayer shawl, her son wore as a young man in 1963, Dunnell reflected on becoming a bat mitzvah.

‘‘Women in my generation didn’t have a chance to do this ... It’s just an extra experience in making being a Jew more meaningful,” Dunnell said.

Dunnell, Dara Markowitz, Robin Becker-Cornblatt, Carolyn Plaisance and Amy Gober — all members of Congregation Kol Ami of Frederick — became ‘‘daughters of the covenant” during the reformed congregation’s first adult b’not mitzvah at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Frederick.

Jewish boys and girls are considered capable of adult religious responsibilities and knowing right from wrong at age 13.

‘‘B’not mitzvah” is the plural of bat mitzvah, a formal ceremony that celebrates this religious maturity and a 13-year-old girl’s years of study of Hebrew prayer, Jewish history, customs and ethics.

The emergence of the women’s rights movement in the 1970s and efforts by reformed Jewish congregations made bat mitzvah ceremonies popular for young women, said Rabbi Daniel Sikowitz of Congregation Kol Ami.

Markowitz, 45, said the opportunity to become a bat mitzvah arrived when Sikowitz held an interest meeting on the subject.

There was such a yearning among older women who wanted this connection to their Jewish culture and roots that the congregation will celebrate a second b’not mitzvah in December, Sikowitz said.

Markowitz, a Frederick resident, had never studied Hebrew, and said her son celebrated his bar mitzvah last year.

‘‘This was sort of a moment in time where everything came to be,” she said. ‘‘You come to a point in your life where these opportunities have meaning.”