Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Ursula's Beach Mitzvah August 5, 2016

Ursula’s Beach Mitzvah


The event would take place in the presence of Ursula’s immediate family at the end of a 12-day visit to Savta in Israel. Ursula had arrived first, taking her first solo transatlantic trip. Her parents followed her after a week 
Ursula (12) had no preparatory study, and very little exposure to institutional Judaism. Her closest family on her father's side (my side) are non-Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews, plus  a couple of Chinese cousins.

Nova, her mother, is anti-Christian-religion, father English, mother Japanese.

James, her father, had a liberal Jewish education including Bar Mitzvah in a Reform Temple and some additional studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary's high school program, in New York city.

Savta (that's me), Ursula's paternal grandmother, had no formal Jewish education, and made aliyah (moved to Israel) in 1988 in search of community and a personal connection to Jewish history, and a strong distaste for rampant consumerism.

John, Nova's half-brother. John and Nova had the same English father, but John's mother is Ashkenazi Jewish-American. John has been a professor at University of Haifa since 1994. His daughters are Ursula's cousins.

Jan, James's cousin, Savta's niece. Jan is an Ashkenazi Jewish-American, coincidentally visiting Israel during Ursula's visit.


Discussing the idea

Prior to Ursula’s arrival on July 24, 2016, Savta consulted Nova to determine her constraints: no mention of God, no bibles, no synagogue, no rabbi. Then, after Ursula arrived in Israel, Savta consulted directly with her to determine her willingness, given Nova’s constraints. Then, at a family dinner on August 1 there was a lively group discussion about what to emphasize at the ceremony: various meanings of Judaism, Jewishness, Israel, peoplehood. Savta appointed John to officiate and John objected strenuously, mostly because of lack of time to prepare, but he promised to give it some thought.


Sent from Savta by email on August 3, two days before the event, only to people who could attend on such short notice: visiting family, Israel family, and Savta’s Tel Aviv close friends; no Shabbat observers, no overseas family or overseas friends.

In honor of Ursula Kushner's 12th birthday visit to Israel, which ends August 6, you are invited to her Beach Mitzvah at Cafe Tsfoni BeTayelet, Tel Aviv, on Friday, August 5, from 7pm until 9pm. In case you've never attended a Beach Mitzvah, neither has any of us. It might or might not include a public statement from Ursula herself. You will be welcome to speak or sing words of advice to her. In consideration of the family's "No Checked Baggage" policy, no gifts please. Donations may be made to Israel Guide Dogs for the BlindMagen David Adom, or the Tel Aviv Opera Workshop/.

We will be sitting on the sand and in cafe beach chairs. Swimming may happen. There will be homemade cake. You may choose to bring food to eat or to share, or order something from the extensive cafe menu. We will see the sunset.

Choosing Hebrew Name

At the Soup Salon on August 6, three hours prior to the procession to the beach, discussion centered on Ursula choosing a Hebrew name. Ursula means “little bear.” The Hebrew equivalent is Duba (feminine form), but that word has bad connotations in Hebrew and was emphatically rejected by all Hebrew speakers present. Various other criteria were proposed: similar spelling, similar sounds, something related to an animal. The choices were finally narrowed down to Or, Tslil, or Yael.


John’s words
We are here to celebrate Ursula's bat mitzvah. We're going to keep this short and simple.
Hebrew name?

[Ursula says "Yael"]

The purpose of the bat mitzvah ceremony in the Jewish tradition is to affirm publicly that the person is an adult member of the Jewish people.This is done at the age of 12 for girls and the age of 13 for boys, and Ursula recently celebrated her 12th birthday. So let me ask Ursula--do you want to affirm as an adult, as someone who makes her own decisions, that you want to be a member of the Jewish people?

[Ursula says "I Do"]

Well then I will affirm that you are indeed a member of the Jewish people.
Now regarding being an adult.

Being an adult in any society involves both rights and responsibilities, which you did not have when you were a child, and you are at a time in your life when you will begin to have these rights and responsibilities.

There are many of these rights and responsibilities, but I only want to mention here one right and one responsibility.

You have the RIGHT to call yourself a Jew and and you have the right to define being a Jew however you want. You can define what you want to believe as a Jew and you can define what you want to do as a Jew.

You can believe in God or you can not believe in God. You can observe Jewish religious laws or you can not observe Jewish religious laws. You can observe some Jewish religious laws and not others, of your own choosing. You can go to synagogue whenever you want, and you can choose never to go to synagogue. No matter what anyone says to you, you have the right to consider yourself a Jew and to call yourself a Jew.

However you also have the obligation to learn more about the Jewish people, our history, and to use what you learn in deciding how you think of yourself as being a Jew. You don't have to learn this at any particular time or in any particular way, it can start tomorrow or it can start in 10 or 20 years or at any time in your life, and you can learn this alone or from a teacher or in a group setting. And you will never be tested by anyone on this. But you have to learn more.

Do you agree to do this?

 [Ursula says "Yes"]

Speakers: James (Yaacov ben Reuven), Jan (Jan, bat Reuven), Merona Bat Avraham, Savta (Dvora bat Yaacov), Ursula (Yael bat Yaacov).

James’s words 


Jan’s words  [sung to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon”]

Ursula, my cousin, lives by the sea. 
She performs in opera, plays iPad games with glee.

Plans trips, read, acts, sneezes, Ursula does with flare.
Savvy traveler, patient sis, she aims arrows with care.

Whatever life brings her, may she keep her head high, 
Maintain a sunny perspective in her search for spinach pie.

May she grow up happy, seek new points of view,
Treat people kindly, keep an open mind, and learn what for her is new.

O, Ursula, my cousin, lives by the sea.  
She can sing all of Hamilton and write creatively,

Loves friends, acts, sings musicals, Ursula does with flare.
Growls when needed, knows herself. May she stay strong as a bear.

Merona's words 

Now that you're a Jew, learn how to flee! Jews are always on the run.

Savta’s words

To my granddaughter Ursula/Yael

Earlier this week your voice carried throughout the empty auditorium of the Israel Opera House for the first time. The secret is out (to the 12 of us who were there with you on stage: you have a powerful voice and a strong presence. My wish for you is to use them as your parents do: to teach, to learn, to share, to help, to accept help, to sing and dance with joy. And may you always have a full house!

Ursula’s words

I don’t know who I am yet, but I’m definitely getting a clearer idea than before. I am mostly interested in writing and music...so here is some music.

Ursula then sings the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, in Italian, from Verdi’s opera Nabucco.

[Throw candy, eat cake, and go home.]

Photos [more to come]

Ursula arrives at Ben Gurion Airport, greeted by Uncle John and Savta

On the ramparts of Jerusalem's Old City walls, August 3

On Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, July 25

 Sister reunited at Savta's, July 31

James (Dad), Nova (Mom) and John (Uncle)

Jan and Fadil (Dad's cousins)

Helena (Sister)

At John's house in Tel Aviv on departure day

1 comment:

cheryl said...

Wow !!! What a lovely ceremony !
Welcome to the community of Jews!
May you be always an asset to the Jewish people and may you continue to go from strength to strength !