When I started this blog, some folks asked if I were going to turn it into a book a la Julie and Julia. I gave a resounding NO. I just couldn’t see my Bat Mitzvah process as sufficiently dramatic or life-changing to interest anyone (myself included) for 300 pages.
Fast-forward about 18 months. I studied for my Bat Mitzvah ceremony, became a Bat Mitzvah, celebrated, moved on with life.
But recently, I’ve started thinking about that book idea. And now I’m intrigued.
It’s not the kind of book that I initially rejected — not a first-person memoir of spiritual quest, not an Eat Daven Love.
Instead I’m thinking of a guidebook. A companion for women embarking on the process of becoming an adult Bat Mitzvah. (And men too, although they’re not as common.)
When Sam and I got married, we were deeply grateful for a book called The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant. Diamant — who also happens to be the author of the great Biblical novel The Red Tent — explained all the traditional wedding rituals and offered creative ways to reinterpret and personalize them. Ketubah? Seven blessings? Chuppah? Diamant explained it all, accessible and encouraging and feminist and informed. I would give that book in a nanosecond to any Jewish couple planning a wedding.
I can envision a similar kind of book for adult B’not Mitzvah. It would give the history of the Bar/t Mitzvah ceremony, and the components of Jewish worship and Torah reading; it would include stories from some of the thousands of women who have chosen to become B’not Mitzvah as adults. There would be questions to encourage personal reflection about this process, and suggestions for how to make it as meaningful as possible. It would be a supplement, not a substitute, for study with a rabbi and cantor at a synagogue.
DUH! My first reaction, thinking of this a month or two ago, was to slap my forehead like Homer Simpson. Why didn’t I think of this earlier?
But then second thoughts popped up, as they always do. (And as well they should.) The market for such a book is miniscule, much smaller than a Jewish wedding book. No commercial publishers would be interested. And women have been becoming adult B’not Mitzvah on a wide scale for more than 25 years now. Hasn’t someone written such a book already?
My friend Jane, who also became a Bat Mitzvah at Temple Sinai in the past year, told me that she bought an adult Bat Mitzvah book when she started her process. My heart sank. Over the years I’ve found that nearly any time I have a Brilliant Book Idea, someone has written it already in a perfectly adequate manner.
Then last night I finally borrowed Jane’s book. And realized it was not at all what I was envisioning. It was a compendium of how to live a Jewish life, not a conversation about the Bat Mitzvah process.
Yay! I don’t think anyone has done what I’m imagining. There are lots of books for 13-year-old B’nei and B’not Mitzvah and their parents, but not for adults.
But that still leaves the question of how to fund it. I can’t put this amount of time in for free, or for an advance of a couple of thousand dollars. I think I’d need institutional support of some kind.
And it still leaves the bigger question: Is this a useful idea? Is it worth doing?
Hey you out there — yeah, you, blog readers who have tagged along with me for these months or years. Thoughts???