Paul’s Run Retirement Community, Liberty’s senior living community in Northeast Philadelphia, strives to provide meaningful moments in the lives of our residents. This commitment to living life to the fullest prompted a recent very special coming of age celebration for five women and one man.
Six residents proudly culminated their B’nei Mitzvah education in a ceremony on May 27, 2015, officiated by Paul’s Run Jewish spiritual leader, Rabbi Anne Feibelman. Family members and friends of the celebrants were beaming with pride. At the end of the ceremony Rabbi Anne led the gathering in a joyful rendition of Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov, a time-honored folk tune sung during significant milestones in Jewish life.
The setting described above is typical at a B’nei Mitzvah, a pivotal coming of age event when, at age 13, a Jewish boy or girl is recognized as an adult in the Jewish tradition. Yet, this ceremony was far from typical. The six B’nei Mitzvahs, all residents of Paul’s Run, were celebrating this sacred milestone not at the customary age of 13, but more than seven decades later.
Representing an average age of 90, five female residents—Beatrice Blum, Sylvia Greenbaum, Eleanor Rubin, Bea Wald and Mitzi Zucker, and one male resident, Bob Cohen—proudly made their aliyah, which in Hebrew means “the honor of being called upon to read from the Torah.”
Bob celebrated a Bar Mitzvah (the male form of the term B’nei Mitzvah) years earlier but was eager to re-connect with the beauty of the rituals and the Hebrew language. For each of the women, however, their Bat Mitzvah (the female form of the term B’nei Mitzvah) signified a new achievement given that this Jewish life cycle event did not regularly include females until the 1960s.
Each of the B’nei Mitzvah scholars approached their preparation and studies with vigor and dedication. “We started in January and worked hard,” said Bea Wald. “It’s a lot to learn–I give her credit,” said Bea’s long-time friend, Irene Black, who came to honor and celebrate this very special milestone her friend achieved.
“Our class met for eight months. There was active participation during class time and also homework given between classes. The participants learned about the Torah (the body of wisdom and law contained in Jewish scripture), as well as how to read Hebrew and translate prayers,” said Rabbi Anne.
“The Hebrew language, which is read right to left, can be difficult to learn at any age, but my students did it! They raised the bar on what can be accomplished in later years by demonstrating their facility with this ancient, sacred language,” she added.
By night’s end the one word on everyone’s lips was “amazing.” And, indeed it was a spectacular evening. “I am very proud and thrilled to share this occasion,” said Bob Cohen’s son, Fred Cohen. “This event is a testament to my scholars’ dedication and commitment. I am so proud that Paul’s Run could be a part of this simcha (celebration),” said Rabbi Anne.