An exhibit marking the 90th anniversary of Judith Kaplan’s bat mitzvah opened this week at The JCC in Manhattan.
“Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age” was prepared by the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia and Moving Traditions, an organization focused on Judaism and gender.
The exhibit is based on more than 150 responses to Moving Traditions’ “Bat Mitzvah Firsts” survey. The selected personal stories range across the American-Jewish spectrum, from secular to ultra-Orthodox and from small town to urban center.
“In conducting research for the exhibition, we heard from women who were willing to raise their voices and challenge the gender expectations of their time; these ‘bat mitzvah pioneers’ moved girls and women from the margins to the center of Jewish life,” said Deborah Meyer, Moving Traditions Founder and Executive Director. “That bat mitzvah – once a radical innovation – is now a nearly universal tradition shows how Judaism continues to evolve in each generation.”
“This exhibition illustrates important linkages between the movement for women’s equality and the development of American Judaism,” said Josh Perelman, the Museum’s chief curator and director of exhibitions and collections. “Through the lens of bat mitzvah it shows how individuals have the power to make change happen and the ripple effects that accompany these changes, which in itself is not just a Jewish story,” he added.
The exhibition includes bat mitzvah stories from around the country and across Jewish movements, a timeline of relevant historical milestones, and an interactive component in which visitors can share their coming-of-age story and photos. Among them women whose stories are represented are Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and activist Ruth Messinger.
The JCC is located at 76th and Amsterdam in Manhattan.