Vacation is over… 2011 has begun… which means there are less than two months to my Bat Mitzvah date.
I have two Bat Mitzvah-related things on my to-do list this week — writing my d’var Torah (Torah commentary speech), and coming up with an invitation list. One is deeply substantive, the other logistical. You can guess which one I’m starting with.
I’m surprised that this is complicated, but it is.
If this were a book publication party, I would invite every single person I know (and then some whom I don’t know). For our wedding a hundred gazillion years ago, Sam and I also cast a really wide net and invited about 170 friends, relatives, and work colleagues. At my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in 2007, we had 30 out-of-town family members from places as far afield as Rhode Island, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles as well as dozens and dozens of her friends.
But this feels different.
This feels more internal. I embarked on an adult Bat Mitzvah process to reach certain internal goals — becoming more familiar with the religious (as distinct from cultural, political etc.) aspect of Judaism, and gaining competence and comfort with prayer services. I wanted to know that, if I were the only adult Jew left standing after some Holocaust-like disaster, I could lead a Shabbat service. I wanted to feel like I had earned my tallit.
That’s different from a wedding or a teenage Bat Mitzvah, which are communal life-cycle events that mark milestones in the life of a person and her or his family. It’s different from a book party, which is both a marketing tactic and the celebration of a creative project that you are sending out into the wide world.
Basically, I want to chant Torah and give my d’var Torah as part of a regular weekly Shabbat service at my synagogue. I don’t want a weekend-long extravaganza with a Friday night “rehearsal dinner” and a Saturday night banquet-with-disco-ball and a Sunday morning brunch. I don’t want fountain pens, Israel bonds, or the midlife equivalent. I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to attend just because they are my friend. I don’t want relatives feeling pressure to fly 3,000 miles to show their support.
I’d like to have my Bat Mitzvah service feel part of a community of people with a genuine interest in being there. So here’s who I’d love to have:
- Members of my synagogue, Temple Sinai.
- Family members who don’t have to go through an airport security line to be there.
- Friends — Jewish or non-Jewish — with an interest in attending Shabbat services or learning more about Judaism.
- Friends and others who have followed my Bat Mitzvah process and would like to see how it all turns out!
That last category includes you, dear blog readers. I’m sending out a small number of Evites and if you don’t get one (maybe you’ve been reading the blog quietly without commenting so I don’t know you’re interested? or maybe I don’t even know you?) and would like to come, send me a note via the “comment” box on the blog page and I’ll be absolutely delighted to add you to the Evite list.
Not that anyone ever needs to be invited to attend services at a synagogue — you can walk in and be welcomed at any shul anywhere in the world — but it’s always fun to get a personal invitation. :-)
Meanwhile, I will try to navigate this surprisingly complicated process of inviting people who might be insulted if they don’t get an invitation… while at the same time, letting everyone know I will most definitely *not* be hurt if they don’t travel 3,000 miles or if there are more compelling things for them to do on a Saturday morning.
For the record: Although I’d love to have you join me, attending this Bat Mitzvah is not a litmus test of do-you-really-love-Ilana.
On the other hand… if I get a novel published in 2011, and have a book party, attending that, or at least buying the book, will be a litmus test!