Blessing for Maddie on Her Bat Mitzvah
In the summer of 2016, Julie, Josh, Ellie, Lois, Marc, and I had the joy and pride of celebrating with Maddie, my granddaughter who was born the same month that Israel Forever was founded and both celebrated their b’nai mitzvah together. She was called to the Torah for her first aliyah at Moreshet Yisrael, the main Conservative synagogue in Jerusalem.
It was a last-minute decision and request by Maddie after four intense days of touring Jerusalem, Masada, and environs, culminating with her spending four hours at Yad Vashem where she read every description on every picture and exhibit. It also was only two days following the brutal murder of another 13-year-old girl – Hallel Yaffa Ariel – while she was asleep in her bed in Kiryat Arba. Hallel was a dancer; she wanted to become a zoologist when she grew up. She had dreams of a future. In contrast, her murderer, Muhammed Nasser Tarayrah, a 17-year-old Palestinian from the nearby village of Bani Na’im, only dreamed of killing a Jew and of dying as “a martyr.” The closeness in Hallel’s and Maddie’s ages was another stark reminder of the fragility of life. We thank G-d that Maddie was able to realize her wishes.
Now, as Maddie’s family and friends are gathered together at her spiritual home, the Westchester Jewish Center, as she chants the blessings, reads from the Torah, and becomes Bat Mitzvah, we say the shehecheyanu and again thank G-d, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion. And we say the traditional family blessing, for Maddie, as we do for all of our children and grandchildren: May G-d grant you the blessings of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah – the mothers of the Jewish people. Each one possessed unique qualities that played essential roles in the strength and future of the nation. Yet there was something they all shared, something that Jewish women for all time would strive to emulate. Each one lived in recognition that the ultimate in fulfillment is enabling others to realize their potentials as individuals and as members of the Jewish people.
We pray that Maddie and that each one of us will have the strength and courage to do our part and use our unique qualities to help bring an end to oppression and bring peace to all the people Israel – and to all the world – so that every child can celebrate her or his coming of age tradition, fulfill their dreams of the future, and realize their potentials as individuals and as members of the world community. And let us say, Amen.
Zieva Dauber Konvisser, PhD, is a Fellow of the Institute for Social Innovation at Fielding Graduate University. Her research focuses on the human impact of traumatic events, such as terrorism, genocide, war, and wrongful conviction. She served on the National Commission on American Jewish Women and is currently on the international board of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma and the advisory board of Strength to Strength. She is the author of "Living Beyond Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing" (Gefen, 2014). The book can be ordered HERE.