The custom in our shul is for girls becoming bat mitzvah to give a dvar torah, a speech on the Torah, just before Kiddush. She stands between the men's and women's sides. We also give a bat mitzvah the same present as a bar mitzvah - a set of Mishnah Brura.
The shul was crowded. Jonathan had to squeeze between a pillar and the mechtiza and I had to get a chair. I sat next to three ladies from Joy's father's family. So, I gave them page numbers and kept them on track and let them know that Joy would be giving a speech and that it was so far in the future because we had to go through shacharit and musaf beforehand. But it was finally time.
Joy is a lovely girl - tall for her age (taller than her mother) with long, thick curly hair and, well, the beginnings of a figure. She's also very brilliant - she's been the star of the after-kiddush shiur since she was eight. And she's also a fantasy fan. She routinely pulls me aside to tell me, very rapidly and without pause for breath, the plot of the latest series of novels she's read.
Yes, that includes Stephenie Meyers.
She gave a short, sweet, speech about how the Children of Israel needed to learn basic self-preservation after spending 40 years having all their needs taken care of. And then there was kiddush and then those of us invited all trooped to another shul for lunch. I sat next to the fourteen year old daughter of friends, with Jonathan on the other side because *this* family doesn't do separate seating.
Lunch was, um. Heavy on the protein (fish, egg salad, chopped liver, chicken, cold cuts and meat cholent) and light on the veggies. (note the list.) Non-meat eaters (incluing Joy, who stopped eating meat at the age of six) got salmon. And there was dessert.
A few hours later, I went to hear Joy lein (read the Torah) at a women's service. Flatbush being what it is, this took place in one of the very few remaining Conservative synagogues in this area - no Orthodox shul would have it. Didn't really matter in that men were not officially permitted, although Joy's father and grandfather were there. Two men do not a minyan make - I hope Scott, who is in mourning, found an earlier one.
I'm not a fan of women's services, although it's nice to hear women's voices raised high in prayer and I don't see anything wrong with them. It's just not something that makes *me*, personally, comfortable, or things I'll go out of my way to go to unless I have another compelling reason. Like Joy's leining. Her mother led and both did a lovely job. There was the problem that only Conservative siddurim were available, although we did NOT use the version of the amidah with the matriarchs. And they did the normal women's service adaptations - only one bracha before each aliyah, not two, *and* Lynn did not repeat the Amida, which can only be done with a minyan. Instead, when we finished, she said her own private one out loud with singing, but without the public portions. Also, of course, no kaddishes.
Some women were thrilled and wanted to do it again. So, it's a good thing.
The party was Sunday night. Joy chose, as her theme, wildlife preservation. There were animal cut-outs on the tables instead of number (I was jaguar. Spotted jaguar) plus t-shirts, photos and stuffed animal stuffing. We have a new tiger. And her speech was on that subject. The food was dairy Italian from a very nice place.
Most of the guests were adults, but she had a half-dozen classmates (all girls) there as well. There was a woman there to make sure the dancing went well, but there were times...well, without a mechitza and in front of the band and done by twelve-year-olds - it was a little too much. When I asked Jonathan if I were being a prude, he said he was bothered by that, too. I did some dancing, but when the band leader kept saying we looked "beautiful", I had to stop.
In the end, it's up to the girl and her parents, and this was what they wanted. And it was a lovely evening.
Our rabbi drove us home and that was that.
(We gave her a six-volume desk Talmud and Tamora Pierce's "Protector of the Small" series.)