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by Jessica Cogan, posted Aug 18, 2012

Hello everyone. I'm Rachel's Mom, Jessica and I have been asked to say a few words about Bat Mitzvah club from a parent's perspective.

Joel and I decided to sign Rachel up for Bat Mitzvah club because we thought that it would be a wonderful and meaningful start to her Bat Mitzvah journey.  We wanted to ensure that Rachel  understood the meaning of becoming a Bat Mitzvah and the great significance it holds in a young woman's life.  In this day and age Bar and Bat Mitzvahs seem to have become more about the party and the gifts rather than the individual's relationship with Hashem and their connection to Judaism.  We thought that this would be the perfect antidote to that . . . and we were right. It has helped us set the tone for Rachel's transition into adulthood in exactly the way we were hoping.

In the beginning, Rachel would come home from Bat Mitzvah club and I would ask her how it was and what did she learn.   I would get the standard tween answers of “fine” and “I don't know”.  I have to admit that after a couple months of this, I was a little concerned that Rachel was not opening herself up to the process.  She did not seem to be thinking about whatever was being discussed in the meetings.  I was worried that she was not making the most of this experience.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

I'm not sure if it was our trip to Israel over the holidays (a first for our children) or the Shabaton that occurred shortly after our return, but something happened.  Rachel returned from the Shabbaton a seemingly different kid . . . actually no, a young lady.  She suddenly could not stop talking about Bat Mitzvah club and how they observed Shabbat without a single video game or television, and how much FUN that was.  She spoke about the “thread” lesson where the girls were given spools of thread and were allowed to throw it all around the room, over the rafters and generally go crazy with it.  Once they were done, Chana then instructed them to unravel it all and wind it back up.  Then they had a discussion about how the thread represented their words and once our words escape and become tangled together, it is very hard to unravel them and piece things back together.  It is really hard to undo a hurt once it has been done.  This really struck a chord with Rachel - one must think before they act.

Suddenly, she was getting it.  We started to have lots of meaningful discussions and the transition from childhood to adulthood had planted its seeds.  Bat Mitzvah club taught the girls about their connection to Hashem and their connection to the world at large.  The discussions reflected a “me to we” paradigm shift as the girls started to realize that they have a larger role to play outside of just their families.  A Bat Mitzvah signifies a young woman starting to take her place in a community and embracing the responsibilities that go along with that.  Rachel's understanding was deepening as were her thoughts and her questions.

My favourite conversation happened after the girls delivered flowers to the Grandmothers at the Sharon home on Mother's Day.  In the car Rachel seemed quite pensive.  I asked her if it was fun, and her reaction was mixed.  She said that most of the residents that she delivered flowers to were so excited to see them and hugged her and held her hand.  But then she told a sad story about one resident who seemed very frightened by the girls and the flowers and was too scared to accept the flowers and just kept asking who the girls were and why they were there.  After some coaxing, the girls were able to convince her that they were there for Mother's Day, that they meant no harm and that the flowers were for her.  Tears welled up in the woman's eyes and then she didn't want them to leave, because nobody visits her anymore.

Rachel and I then had a long talk about aging and how it is an inevitable part of life.  We talked about how people can sometimes suffer as they age and often intense confusion can set in.  Then . . . this led to a discussion about life and how life is a gift that Hashem has given each and every one of us.  We honour Hashem by making good choices for ourselves and living life to the fullest.  We spoke about how important it is to make the most of our gift of life.  We spoke about how our physical body is a gift - so work hard not to pollute it, our mind is a gift – so work hard not to pollute it either.  Honour Hashem by performing Mitzvahs, and being a Mensch.  Love Hashem, love others and most importantly and above-all, love yourself. 

This conversation built upon and flowed from some of the concepts that Chana had taught the girls.   Things like: each one of them is

like royalty and so they need to keep their bodies healthy, keep themselves safe in their relationships in all respects and how doing such things is a part of their relationship with Hashem. And to me, this is the greatest achievement of Bat Mitzvah Club – it began an important dialogue with our daughters that will continue into their adulthood.  I feel grateful for this and on behalf of all the parents, I want to thank Chana for giving us this beautiful gift.

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