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Monday, January 30, 2017

Hannah's Bat Mitzvah - Part 1

At the rehearsal, reading from the Torah
It's been an incomprehensible two weeks since Hannah had her bat mitzvah. I've been struggling with what to say here, because in the days that followed, President Trump officially took office, and chaos has reigned every day since then. Our family has marched, sent letters and emails, and struggled to keep up with and explain every day's new catastrophe. It feels crazy to have had such a joyous, meaningful celebration in light of all that has happened.

But celebrate we did, and it was a fabulous, amazing, spectacular day. There aren't enough words to describe all of the emotion and joy that I experienced as Hannah helped to lead the service alongside our Cantor, then chanted her Torah and Haftorah portions, and delivered her speech to our community. Her speech was particularly amazing, and a real reflection of who she has become. She talked about growing up, recognizing that she needs to care about important issues, and that she can use her voice to alter the behaviors of others. She spoke about body shaming, and contributing to a culture that only prizes the privileged, and the lack of compassion we often have for others. She pledged to lead her life as a Jewish adult differently, committed to doing the right things. She proved it the following weekend by not giving up when we had a hard time getting downtown to the Women's March for Equality in Boston. She went from leading the congregation in prayer to "praying with her feet" in just one week's time.

Sitting in the front row of the sanctuary, I was as "in the moment" as I could possibly be. I couldn't see much of what was happening around me, and so I focused on Hannah. I realized I was singing louder than I typically did with certain prayers, because her weeks of nightly practicing them with me had improved my own knowledge of them. I stood next to her for the rabbi's blessing, a moment I've probably witnessed hundreds of times before, but this was finally our moment. In the months leading up to this day, I'd cried so many tears. I'd even cried on two separate moments earlier that morning. But in the service, watching her, standing next to her, blessing her, I had no tears left. Just immense pride in her and who she has become, pride in myself and Marc for the role we have played in it, and pride in the palpable love we felt from so many people in that room.

I listened to all the advice I'd gotten. For me, it wasn't over in a flash. I felt every moment. I took it in and savored it.

All of the planning, worrying, thinking about this day was completely worth it. The party went off beautifully. I really can't say that anything didn't go as planned. My wedding distills down to a few stories of mishaps, but not this party. Even the girls who were missing their shoes at the end of the night eventually found them. I got the thing I most wanted, which was a selfie with Hannah and her Snapchat filter. Hannah had an amazing time with her friends, especially her Bowen girls and her Camp Yavneh friends, including some who came from NY and CT to be with her. I took a few videos she didn't want me to take at the time, but I know she will love having them some day. We were so fortunate to celebrate with so many of our friends and family, and most fortunately, all four of Hannah's grandparents were there to spend this special day with her.

I will not gloss over how much work and expense all of this was, and I am very grateful that we were in a position where we could do it. I learned a lot, and while it was a more anxiety-producing process than I had expected, I wouldn't change any of it now. But I do hope that at Max's bar mitzvah, I'm a little more chill. Thank goodness I have four years to recover before then.

I'm labeling this as part 1 as I'm sure I'll want to share more photos when I get the official ones from the photographer. For now, my Snapchat selfie, with no promises that I will ever log in to Snapchat again. And Hannah, "bat mitzvah high five."


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