Vice chair, Jewish Federation of Cleveland Board of Trustees
Enid Rosenberg was bat mitzvahed at age 34, not the customary 13. What kept her from a more common course of events was that she didn’t continue her Hebrew school education into eighth grade but instead stopped it after Grade 7. For several decades.
Rosenberg views her bat mitzvah at Park Synagogue as a lesson in persistence and as an example. After all, her kids with Dr. David Rosenberg – daughter Erin and son Justin – had their respective bat mitzvah and bar mitzvah. How could she not have one herself?
“I decided to have a bat mitzvah – by myself, not with a group – right before our daughter was to enter Hebrew school,” says Rosenberg, who is prominent in philanthropic, medical and Jewish cultural circles. “How could I expect them to finish what I hadn’t? So I became a bat mitzvah at age 34. I studied with the Rev. Eli Levy at Park and Rabbi Armond Cohen officiated.”
When she was a young girl, she attended Hebrew school at Park three times a week for four years. “When I entered eighth grade, I stopped going to Hebrew school,” she says, adding with girls those days, “it was all about five years of school rather than age.
“Women were bat mitzvahed after graduating five years of Hebrew school. The point was you went to Hebrew school for five years, period,” she says. “It wasn’t that I was 13 in seventh grade, which is the usual. It is that I would have had to continue during my eighth-grade year and I just stopped after seventh grade.”
Rosenberg began to revisit her decision when Erin was in third grade in Hebrew school, reasoning that if she wanted her children to become bat and bar mitzvah, “I should have finished what I started.” At the time, Erin was 8, Justin 3. Erin was born in 1974, Justin in 1979.
So she studied with the Rev. Levy at Park, as did her kids. Husband David, meanwhile, was bar mitzvahed at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple at the customary age of 13.
“I think it was very meaningful to do it at that age,” she said of her steps toward bringing closure to her bat mitzvah in her mid-30s. “I enjoyed it, I enjoyed studying for it, and it was quite something to have my family there,” including both her parents.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about Rosenberg’s bat mitzvah but her age. “I just remember a very pleasurable experience,” she says. “It was a lesson: If you start something, finish it.” She did it for her children, she says, thinking, “I never finished that last year and I never was bat mitzvahed.” Assuming the mindset of her daughter and son, Rosenberg says, “If you don’t finish it, why should I? It’s a lesson for them, it’s a lesson for anybody.
“You need to finish what you start.”
This article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Bar•Bat Mitzvah.