Written by Lisa Berman

Oh to be a 12 year old girl these days. No, not because of all the Justin Bieber look-alikes in their classes, though surely that doesn’t hurt. And yes, being a 5th, 6th, or 7th grade girl is still rife with challenges – academic, social, sports, bullying, peer pressure, etc. Add to that the weight of preparing to become a bat mitzvah and you’ve got a whole lot on your plate.

These days we are only eleven years away from the 100th anniversary of the first bat mitzvah—Judith Kaplan’s in New York City in 1922. Yet the tradition seems to be having a renaissance in interest surrounding it, with a number of programs in the area focused on the experience of these young women as they take on the responsibilities of a Jewish adult.

Last night at Mayyim Hayyim we wrapped up our fall session of Beneath the Surface: A Program for Bat Mitzvah Girls and their Mothers. Buoyed each of three Sunday afternoons with chocolate, raspberries, sparkling cider and Milano cookies, moms and girls shared their favorite family rituals, learned about Rosh Hodesh and mikveh, reflected on transitional moments in their lives, wrote poetry together, and created rituals to mark this crucial moment in their lives as mothers and daughters together.

Here’s what one young participant shared with us tonight: “I love this program because I really got to interact with my mom and do stuff with her that was special and ‘our thing’. This was really meaningful and made me have a different attitude about my bat mitzvah. Also, I got to share this meaningful experience with the most special person on the planet – my mom!”

And from a mother, “This program is absolutely, amazingly, awesomely phenomenal. It was even more meaningful and heartfelt than I thought it would be. I loved the opportunity to meet other moms/daughters and to hear about their triumphs, challenges and ideas. What meant most to me was the very sacred, peaceful space created by the program coordinators. This program has deepened my relationship with my daughter, with Judaism (and how cool it is!) and my understanding of Bat Mitzvah as a passage. As a result, my relationship with my daughter is deeper, more meaningful, and better than ever because of the time spent here with [Mayyim Hayyim].”

Click here for information about the March 2012 session.

But no need to wait until March – on Sunday, November 20, join other moms and bat mitzvah girls for “Today I Am a Woman: Bat Mitzvah Stories Around the World… and in Boston”. This program, created by the Hadassah Brandeis Institute, Jewish Women’s Archive, and Mayyim Hayyim, is based on the upcoming release of the book “Today I am a Woman” edited by Barbara Vinick and Shulamit Reinharz. Girls will discover bat mitzvah stories from around the world, meet other bat mitzvah girls, create a craft project, and explore their own bat mitzvah stories with maps, writing, interviews, and art. The program is at Temple Reyim from 2-4:00pm; click here for more information or to register.

Finally, the Jewish Women’s Archive has recently released “MyBatMitzvahStory.org” – a fabulous, highly interactive website which “was created to provide young women with information about Jewish women role models and a forum to express themselves and their Jewish identities creatively.”  Definitely worth a look.

No 12 year old girls should ever be heard to say, “I’m bored” again! Here in Boston, there are a plethora of activities tailored just for her. Next up – something for her brother… we’re working on it.

Lisa Berman is the Education Center Director at Mayyim Hayyim.  She has been involved with Mayyim Hayyim since it opened its doors in May 2004, initially as a trained Mikveh Guide and then as the liaison with area congregational religious schools and adult learning groups to direct their experiences at Mayyim Hayyim’s Education Center.  Since its inception, more than 12,000 people have come to learn about the ancient ritual of mikveh at one of Mayyim Hayyim’s educational programs.  Lisa, her husband, and their two children are members of Temple Shalom of Newton.