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I’m Getting Bat Mitzvahed on Birthright

A Tableteer explains why she’s taking the plunge, along with a dozen others on the bus

Margarita Korol
June 15, 2012

Take one look at me and there’s no doubting my womanhood. But when Yoav, our group leader, began tonight’s program with the question: “How many people here have not been bar or bat mitzvahed? Don’t be embarrassed,” I was one of the dozen or so whose hands sprang up unapologetically.

But I was caught off guard when he continued: “How many people would like to be bar or bat mitzvahed here on this trip?” A few tentative hands were raised. Mine was not among them.

While I’ve explored my Judaism through my writing and art, because of my family’s past in the Soviet Union, I grew up in a nonobservant family. Having a bat mitzvah just wasn’t something I had ever imagined doing until tonight. In fact, the first thought that came to my mind was I can’t make this decision myself, I need to talk to my mother—an urge I haven’t felt in a long time.

But the more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me. Last year, my 12-year-old sister had the first bat mitzvah in my family since the onset of totalitarian communism in the old country. My knee-jerk reaction to call my mother was not the result of spending the past 72 hours with Jews, but also that my having a bat mitzvah would be a way to further honor her, a single refusnik mother who risked her life to save mine. (This has been a good month for her.)

Having spent a good amount of time in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago as a kid, I know that it’s appropriate to demand presents on this occasion. So, dear readers, this Saturday I’m officially becoming a woman at 26 years old, and I like gift cards.

In all seriousness, when it dawned on me that my ceremony—to take place in the basement of our grungy Jerusalem hotel—will fall exactly a year after the week of my sister’s bat mitzvah, I can honestly say that I’ve never been so excited about my personal Judaism. Birthright mission accomplished?

Margarita Korol is a pop artist and designer in New York City.

Margarita Korol is a pop artist and designer in New York City.