Beth Joy Callis: Bar/Bat Mitzvah
Location:At her parents’ home in Nelson, BC. She was 19 years old at the time of the interview.
Date:Wednesday, August 18, 2004
ID:Digital audio recording #: 20-04:34
RT: So I know you had a Bat Mitzvah and I’d like it if you could tell me a little bit more about how you prepared.
BC: Mostly, I forget I even picked my portion out but I guess it has to do with when you’re born and what time of year you’re having your Mitzvah. [It is generally pegged to the torah portion close to one’s birth date on the Hebrew Calendar.] I forget how that came about but I remember there were certain calculations involved in it and then it was chosen and that was the part I was going to do. And then, of course there was the big hurdle of learning how to read it and speak it, and I didn’t know at all except for the little prayers that we did as a family on the holidays. Other than that I didn’t know anything. So Peter [a family friend who was her Hebrew teacher]- I pretty much - a couple times a week I would meet with Peter. He would come over here and I would learn. I had to learn with all the little accents [nikkudot – vowel symbols that indicate the pronunciation of a letter.]. I had to rely on that heavily because I didn’t know how to do it without them…
RT: You mean the dots underneath the…
RT: The nikkudots.
BC: Yeah. And I learned that. And I would call, I would ask my aunt Liz, who is here right now, because her, both her children had a Bat Mitzvah and a Bar Mitzvah, and I would ask them, ‘What do you do for this and what do you do for that?’ if I ever had any questions. And other than that, it was a kind of “Here we go!”
RT: Did Peter have a tape for you?
BC: Yeah. And then there was also a woman, I believe she was from Vancouver and she recorded herself singing my portion for me and I learned by ear quite a bit, so that was really helpful.
RT: How old were you? Were you twelve or thirteen?
BC: I was thirteen.
RT: And where did the impetus for having a Bat Mitzvah come from?
BC: It came from…well I went to my cousin Max’s Bar Mitzvah and I thought it was great. I’m just six months younger than him and it wasn’t shortly after he had his, but I thought it was a very nice celebration of life and I wanted to have one too. Basically my other cousin Natalie she had her Bat Mitzvah but I couldn’t attend that. But it was just the idea that they got to have a celebration and they had a community to do it in and a synagogue. And then also my mom never got to have a Bat Mitzvah. She grew up in a very Jewish family and they went to synagogue but she never had a Bat Mitzvah. And it was sort of for both of us to go through together. She was very involved and really excited. I mean it was sort of for her as well. We could go through it together.
RT: Did you have a Torah? Did they bring one in somehow?
BC: The rabbi that we had, he…
RT: I didn’t realize that, I should have asked you that. I just assumed that Peter conducted it. So the rabbi from Vancouver, Rabbi Marmorstein came and…
BC: Yeah, we went and met him before the Bat Mitzvah because Peter wrote to him and asked if he would be willing to come and […] lead the services because Peter said that he would, but it would not be proper if he did, and that was okay by us. The whole Jewish community was very excited about a rabbi coming out. So we emailed him, and then we went to Vancouver and we met with him. And all day we were just at his house, talking. And he said that he would be able to do that.
And then the prospect of bringing the torah out was quite a big deal. We had to go to the synagogue and actually borrow it for the weekend…or they had a spare one?
RT: Was it Or Shalom?
BC: I think so. That name rings a bell. And they had a big wooden case that they had it in and we carefully put it in our car and drove back with it and then the Bat Mitzvah was held in a community hall at Six Mile. Actually, before the Bat Mitzvah we put it on top of the piano because we figured that was a sacred enough place for it. And then we brought it to the hall for the Bat Mitzvah.
RT: How did it go back then?
BC: We drove it back.
RT: Right after?
BC: Not right after. It stayed there for a couple days. And I’m not sure if it went back with Yitzchak or if we drove it back.
RT: Did all the family come in, fly in?
BC: Yeah, lots of them did. Actually most of the relatives on my mom’s side, the Jewish side, they didn’t make it because we’re not particularly close with them. Because our connection was my mother’s parents and they passed away when I was nine so those connections are kind of fading. They obviously invited them but many of them weren’t able to make it. But my mom’s sisters and brother came with their families. And my dad’s mother and father came and that was—they’re Christian, not practicing Christian necessarily but they grew up Christian and brought my father up Christian so that was a new thing for them and they were very excited to come.
RT: They were proud of you?
RT: Were there lots of people from the community?
BC: Yep, we invited everyone in the community, and lots of them made it, and then all the people in my life when I grew up were invited as well.
RT: Seems like it was a wonderful celebration. Was there anything after? A
lunch? Or party?
BC: We had a party afterwards. So we had a caterer and lots of food. Everyone came to both events. And then a band—good friend of ours has a kind of blues/jazz/rock band—they came and played. It was all very exciting [laughs] and then we did some of the traditional dances too [the hora]. I got raised up on a chair and everyone went ‘die di die di die’ and we danced around. And my mother and father got lifted up on a chair, and some family members.