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Museum Musings

Bat Mitzvah Program Inspires Self Reflection

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I didn’t realize just how lucky I was to be able to have a Bat Mitzvah, and read from the Torah on a Saturday morning in front of the Conservative congregation in my hometown, until the Museum’s recent Coming of Age in America program, in which scholars reflected on the history of Bat Mitzvah and its meaning to women of all ages.  


My mom was confirmed as a teenager, and then commemorated her Bat Mitzvah as an adult through an adult class offered by our synagogue. Her mother, my grandmother, was very active as an adult in Jewish organizations and commemorated the Bat Mitzvah she never had during a trip to Israel when she was in her sixties. My paternal grandmother did not have a Bat Mitzvah, but was confirmed at Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia. Her daughter, my aunt, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah on a Friday night because girls weren't allowed to be on the bimah on a Saturday nor read read from the Torah at all. I never thought about the fact that Bat Mitzvah simply wasn’t an opportunity widely available to women when they were young. Even more surprising was that I never thought about how meaningful it was for them to be able to participate in this significant ritual.


I realize now that following my own Bat Mitzvah, we had celebrated three generations of Bat Mitzvah in my family within a few short years. It’s strange to think that in a sense I was a Bat Mitzvah "first" in my family because I was able to stand on bimah and read from the Torah during Saturday morning services. 


 The Museum’s Coming of Age in America program made me step away from the details of planning a program and connect with our beautiful Museum and its content in a personally meaningful and memorable way.  




-Contributed by Emily August 

Public Programs Manager 

A Coming-Of-Age Haggadah

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As I’ve learned by working on our Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age exhibition, presented with Moving Traditions and on view now at The Laurie M. Tisch Gallery at The JCC in Manhattan, the history of bat mitzvah in America is best told through the personal stories of the young women and their families who championed this coming-of-age celebration in their communities. 


At Judith Paull’s West Hartford, Connecticut synagogue—where Morris Silverman was the rabbi and Althea O. Silverman the rebbetizin—the young women of the 1946 bat mitzvah club studied Althea’s seminal publication, The Jewish Home Beautiful, as they prepared to mark their coming-of-age. For her club project Judith created a Passover haggadah which features a re-written Four Questions among other thoughtful revisions to traditional texts read during the Passover seder. 


Judith recently donated her haggadah to the Museum’s collection through our current initiative to collect and preserve bat mitzvah artifacts in recognition of the 90th anniversary of bat mitzvah in America—that of another Judith, Judith Kaplan. 


We’ve installed the haggadah in our first floor highlight case near the lobby entrance just in time to mark this special anniversary, and conveniently, right before Passover, too.  


To learn more about Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age see this article from The Jewish Ledger that links the exhibition with Judith’s personal bat mitzvah story.   



--Contributed by Ivy Weingram

Assistant Curator



Independence Hall View Clear As A Bell

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Independence Hall politiciansWhen the Museum opened in 2010, it offered a spectacular view of Independence Mall. But the view of Independence Hall on the Mall was spoiled by scaffolding. The Independence Hall Tower, where the Centennial Bell hangs, was undergoing a much-needed renovation.  


Among the repairs were the replacement of glass in the clock faces; coIndependence Hall Towerrroded iron rods were swapped with stainless steel; a paint job; and a regilding of the weathervane.


In a recent ceremony that featured Independence National Historical Park Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod, Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah, both members of Philadelphia’s congressional delegation, the tower was declared rehabilitated and the silenced bell inside chimed anew.


When you are visiting the Museum and the Mall, make sure you check out Independence Hall. It’s a spectacular sight.


-- Contributed by Jay Nachman

Public Relations Director