Correspondence about my daughter’s bas mitzva

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4 Responses

  1. Joel Shurkin says:

    Both Reform and Conservative streams allow bas (or bat) mitzvah at 12 for girls as well as 13. Parents actually have a choice. My daugher’s will be just before she is 13.

  2. Shawn says:

    These are interesting and sensitive comments. I want to pick up on one statement, though, and see if the moderators are willing to open it up to wider discussion:

    The ones who changed the status quo are the ones who cracked the facade of unity, not the ones who kept on doing faithfully what we had always done!

    Although there is no question that Reform and other movements within Judaism have made changes to the status quo, there also is no question that Orthodoxy has changed. The very idea of “Orthodoxy” as a group category did not exist before the late 19th century, and we must not forget that it competed with a “Status Quo Ante” party that rejected both the innovations of the Reform and the reactions of the Orthodox. Although they did not survive, they really were the only ones who could claim with some accuracy that they “kept on doing faithfully what [they] had always done.” In the mid- to late 20th century, U.S. Orthodoxy moved to the right, as documented by Orthodox sociologist Samuel Heilman, among others. (He attributes this in part to the hiring, by Modern Orthodox day schools, of Haredi teachers — because the Modern Orthodox had so successfully convinced their children to become doctors, lawyers, etc.) Theologically, Marc Shapiro has documented how despite the fact that adherence to Maimonides’s 13 Principles is considered the sine qua non of Orthodoxy, in fact very few of the Rishonim & Acharonim in fact held by them — and no one calls them unOrthodox. Consider as well the important differences between the Hertz Chumash and the (Artscroll) Stone Chumash; both are “Orthodox.”

    So let’s not indulge in the myth of an authentic, essential, immutable “Orthodoxy” that was always exactly as it is and continues to battle (by implication) against an inauthentic, incoherent, fluid “Reform.”

  1. January 11, 2005

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