By Edna Lipworth
When Heather Super and Chips Klein were discussing how they missed out as children by not having a Bat Mitzvah, a strange concept emerged.
They approached their Rebbetzin, Goldie Plotkin at Chabad Lubavitch of Markham and asked whether, under her dynamic guidance, they could prepare any interested women, of all ages, for a Bat Mitzvah.
Skeptical of the interest this would have, they were taken aback when over fifty women responded with great excitement at the irresistible prospect of a two hour long weekly lecture and Halachic instruction by their charismatic Rebbetzin. The course enrollment had to be capped at 52 and over the course of a year, not one of these women dropped out! Lectures were so captivating and relevant that if anyone was unable to attend one week, it was not unusual that they would send a recording device so as not to miss a word.
Each week a different topic was examined, from the laws and customs of Hachnasat Orchim (Hospitality), to Laws and customs of keeping Shabbat, the value of children, importance of Tehillim and even the less delved into topic of the private world of preparing the dead for a Jewish burial.
Each week questions about Jewish general knowledge and Halachah (Jewish Law) were prepared by the women to the best of their ability. These questions were compiled in a book especially for this course by Talia Klein. The questions were taken up in lively Chevrutah-like group discussions. Interesting questions were then answered by Goldie with her usual rich embellishments from the Mishnah, Tanya, Kaballah and even personal accounts of her own family?s history, dating back to the time of the Cossacks in Russia.
All the women in the course then celebrated with a Bat Mitzvah on Shabbat morning, November 27, 2010 at Chabad Lubavitch of Markham, when they were recognized and given an official Bat Mitzvah certificate. A Kiddush followed in celebration with their families and friends.
At the Women & Wisdom Bat mitzvah Graduation celebration Michelle Benjamin spoke and there was not a dry eye in the house as she described her story.
“In 1990, when I was due to celebrate my Bat mitzvah, my beloved father passed away suddenly and my Bat mitzvah dream, so within my reach, was never realized. As a 12 year old girl, I had so many unanswered questions for Hashem and so began my spiritual journey that has led me to this day, a day I dedicate in honor of my father.
“For me and many of the women participating in this Bat mitzvah course, Women and Wisdom, we have been given a second chance to fulfill a mitzvah that we missed out on.
“No words can describe how much knowledge of Yiddishkeit, inspiration and pleasure I have gained from this course ?not to mention the example I am setting for my family and children-to discover and explore my role as a Jewish woman and to never give up on a dream.”
Linda Ruskin said, “If this course was intended and designed to ignite a desire for further study, knowledge and understanding of what this title means, then it has without doubt achieved its aim.
“For quite some time I was looking for a course or series of lectures that could fulfill what I was hoping for, to clarify and increase my Jewish knowledge and to revitalise and enhance my Jewish thinking and practice. I found this right here in our community where I wanted to be. The power of being together with more than fifty other women, studying together was uplifting and motivating.”
One fact emerged from the participants and rang out loud and clear. These women all had a thirst for improving their knowledge of Judaism, its culture, Halachah, Torah and the beauty of knowing that Hashem is accessible to all of us, no matter how meager we feel our level of knowledge might be.
This belief pervades the precepts of CHABAD and is a large factor as to why Jews of all levels of knowledge and observance feel so at home in their warm, non-judgemental and accepting Chabad houses, large and small, that are scattered around the world wherever there is CocaCola, and even where Coke is not!
Goldie gave credit to the foresight and belief of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson OBM who emphasized, above all, the importance of the Jewish Woman, the Akeret Habayit, or foundation of the home, as the primary source of her family?s observance. He always told women to get out there, not to remain hidden in the home.
Their influence is to be felt throughout their communities, and their knowledge developed for the purpose of the survival of the Jewish nation. Videos were shown in the classes of the Chabad Houses that are painstakingly established in these far-flung corners of the earth, with few Jews and next to no kosher food. The equal partnership and single mindedness that exists between the Rabbi and Rebbetzin in these CHABAD Houses is remarkable.
The women decided that these learning sessions were too good to end and a weekly Shiur would continue the momentum of learning that they became so reliant on to boost their week!
A new Women & Wisdom course will begin again in February 2011 and anyone interested in joining can call (905) 886-0420 to register while there are still spaces available.