MONTREAL, APRIL 20, 2009- The English Montreal School Board (EMSB), in conjunction with the YM-YWHA Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre, completed its first Group Bat Mitzvah program recently. Adopting the same format followed by the Jewish day school system, there were eight girls from five EMSB schools – Royal West Academy, Royal Vale, Edinburgh, Willingdon and FACE — enrolled.
The actual bat mitzvah ceremony and reception was held at Beth Zion Congregation in Côte Saint-Luc while classes took place on Sunday mornings at the Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre in Snowdon. Teacher Samantha Druzin began the course by explaining that a bat mitzvah is a coming-of-age ceremony marking a Jewish girl's acceptance of responsibility for carrying out the commandments of the Torah.
The curriculum covered a variety of topics that included: being a friend and associated mitzvoth, being a daughter, Jewish foods, Shabbat, body image, biblical women/modern female role models, Tikkun Olam/getting involved and making a difference, Holocaust education and Israel. Field trips were organized to the Mada Community Centre to take part in the preparation of a hot kosher meal to Montreal’s needy, and to a mikvah, a “ritual bath” used as a purification ceremony within Judaism. Immersion in a mikvah is also required during a traditional conversion to Judaism and in some cases for new cooking implements, although in a different pool of water. The girls also learned how to bake challah. A considerable amount of time was spent preparing for the ceremony, including music, song and the preparation of individual speeches.
Ms. Druzin has taught in the Jewish Heritage program at two EMSB schools and previously coordinated a Group Bat Mitzvah Program at Akiva School. She is currently studying at McGill for her Bachelor of Education while also working at a number of local synagogues. Ms. Druzin has a Bachelor of Arts in Honours Jewish Studies and has also completed one year of studies toward a Master of Arts in Jewish Education. Ted Lazarus, with equipment from Steve’s Music Store, served as the musical accompanist and played a critical role as well in preparing the girls for the ceremony. Rabbis Ira Ebbin and Yona Berman, from Beth Zion and Shaar Hashomayim Congregation respectively, delivered remarks from the bima.
Susan Apter, the Y’s assistant director, community programs, was the coordinator of the program while the parents of the eight girls served as a very active steering committee.
The Bat Mitzvah girls came together in many cases as strangers and became friends. They studied together, discussed their different viewpoints, created centerpieces for each of the tables at the reception and worked together with their teacher, Samantha, to learn the songs and write the speeches that they performed in a most beautiful ceremony.
At the ceremony, Executive Director Michael Crelinstein and Program Director Barbara Adler represented the YM-YWHA while Commissioner Joseph Lalla and Regional Director Paola Miniaci did so for the EMSB.
A reception attended by the close to 300 guests was held in the beautifully refurbished Beth Zion Spector Auditorium and catered by Blossom by the Plaza. Party animation, light and sound was provided by Global Events (www.global-events.ca). This included emcee Brandon Kader, the gloGirlz animators and the G-Squad breakdancers. A wide array of giveaways, notably a number of iPods, kept everyone happily on the dance floor for most of the party. Balloons were everywhere in the room, supplied by Giggles party and costume centre (www.giggles.ca) in LaSalle.
While the cost of the program was borne by the parents, the late Ben Weider made a generous contribution a few months before he passed away.
Families with Jewish girls going into Grades 6 and 7 next year are invited to attend an information meeting for the 2010 Group Bat Mitzvah on Tuesday, April 28 (7 p.m.). It will take place in room J3 of the Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre (5400 Westbury Avenue) in Snowdon. For those seeking additional information please call Susan at (514) 737-6551 ext. 320 or Mike at (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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YM-YWHA Montreal Jewish Community Centres
(514) 737-6551, ext. 574