91-Year-Old 'Thrilled' About Her Bat Mitzvah In Ohio

Flo Wish, 91, practices for her bat mitzvah on March 22. i i

hide captionFlo Wish, 91, says she has been working "very happily and very hard" for her bat mitzvah on March 22.

Lisa Dejong/The Plain Dealer
Flo Wish, 91, practices for her bat mitzvah on March 22.

Flo Wish, 91, says she has been working "very happily and very hard" for her bat mitzvah on March 22.

Lisa Dejong/The Plain Dealer
Wish, at the lectern, is one of 10 women ages 89 to 96 who will be bat mitzvahed. i i

hide captionWish, at the lectern, is one of 10 women ages 89 to 96 who will be bat mitzvahed. The ceremony is typically for girls ages 12 and 13.

Lisa Dejong/The Plain Dealer
Wish, at the lectern, is one of 10 women ages 89 to 96 who will be bat mitzvahed.

Wish, at the lectern, is one of 10 women ages 89 to 96 who will be bat mitzvahed. The ceremony is typically for girls ages 12 and 13.

Lisa Dejong/The Plain Dealer

For preteen Jewish girls, a bat mitzvah ceremony typically marks a coming of age.

And a group of Ohio women shows that it's never too late to come of age, so to speak. Nine women in their 90s — and one who is 89 — may well set some sort of records for maturity when they are bat mitzvahed March 22 in the Cleveland suburb of Beachwood.

One of them, 91-year-old Flo Wish, tells NPR's Robert Siegel that they were "so excited and so thrilled" when Rabbi Howard Kutner extended the invitation to take part at Menorah Park Synagogue.

In Reform or Conservative Jewish congregations, a girl is called sometimes at the age of 12, or at 13, like a bar mitzvah boy, to read from the Torah, the five books of Moses. She also will read from a related piece of Scripture, typically from one of the prophets.

But it's become increasingly common in recent years for adults to have a bar or bat mitzvah, sometimes because they never had one in their youth or sometimes because they feel it would be more meaningful now that they're more mature.

Wish said things were different for girls when she was growing up.

"When we would have it, back when we were about 12 years old — that would have been back about 1930 — we were not even permitted to walk on the ... pulpit," Wish says. "Women were not even permitted to read from the Torah. But things have changed tremendously. Women have been given the opportunity to read from the Torah and participate as part of the minyan, the group of 10 men, which one has at a service.

"It's not been an easy thing for us," she says. "We've watched our children and our grandchildren have their bar and bat mitzvahs and it's been a delight for us. But the thought of being able to have it at this point — and this is the first time it's been offered to us this way — we were just so delighted and so thrilled to have the opportunity."

And how's her Hebrew these days?

Wish says she and the other women have been working with Kutner on their Hebrew recitations "very happily and very hard."

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