Under the tutelage and leadership of Rabbi Barbara AB Symons, the women aimed their studies and anxieties toward Saturday, Oct. 16, 10 a.m., when the congregation, families and friends will turn out to see and hear the results of their joint efforts in the first adult b’not mitzva class at Temple David.
With Jewish backgrounds ranging from Orthodox to Conservative to Reform to almost secular, and with knowledge of Hebrew ranging from somewhat to minus zero, the women began studying Torah, Jewish literacy and Hebrew, even without the vowels, in the equivalent of a three-year college course.
The women immediately became best friends as they shared their lives, their difficulty or ease with grasping a new language and their fears of forgetting even temporarily what they had struggled and plodded to learn. Volunteer Hebrew teachers Bruce Antonoff, Susan Bortz and Marcia Walsh spent countless hours with individual students, working on pronunciation and intonation of each word in each Torah portion.
The women agree that the warmth, wit, intellectual curiosity and spirituality of Symons set the tone for the intense 16 months of learning and credit her with being a role model to all.
“It has been an honor and privilege to work with the 16 members of the adult b’not mitzva class,” said Symons. “The class, whose ages span exactly 50 years, shared their varied Jewish experiences from their hearts, minds and souls. I have learned as much from them as they have learned from me and I will look forward to accompanying each woman on the next stage of her Jewish journey.”
The joy of learning was tempered with sadness last week in the death of George Weinberg, husband of Helma Weinberg, the oldest member of the b’not mitzva group. Her new friends became immediate family as they held hands and hearts to offer sympathy and support.
The Torah portion for Oct. 16 is Lech Lecha, which means “Go forth.” As the b’not mitzva class of 2010 has learned, Lech Lecha embodies the ultimate journey of all people. “Within each of us there is a continuing search for knowledge, for meaning in our lives and in the world. We thank Rabbi Symons for inspiring us to go forth.”