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Five Hillel Lodge residents Celebrate a Bat Mitzvah

08/15/2022 11:38:04 AM


Pictured left to right:  Hillel Lodge Bnot Mitzvah celebrants Flory Benbaruk, Anne Bokhaut Koffman,
Shirley Weiner, Helen Trachtenberg and Bernice Seward, stand together beneath the Tallit.

This week’s Parasha of Ekev encompasses one of the most important passages in the Torah, a section of the Shema.  This passage is found in our holiest of objects such as the Mezuzot that adorn our homes and our gates and the Tefilin that we wear with pride when praying to G-d. We are all obligated to recite the Shema and feel its power in every word. Men, women, and children alike. In this column I decided to bring back to life an important moment in the life of 5 special women who took part in celebrating their Bat Mitzvah. It is and continues to be a right of Passage for every Jew.

Five Hillel Lodge residents celebrate a Bat mitzvah.

By Alana Belfer.

Five residents of the Bess and Moe Greenberg family Hillel Lodge in Ottawa have proven it’s never too late to have a Bat Mitzvah. Friends, family and community leaders gathered at the lodges Abraham and Dara Lithwick chapel, May 22, to watch Bernice Seward, Helen Trachtenberg, Shirley Winer, Anne Bokhaut Koffman and Flory Benbaruk, all aged between 79 and 91, become as Seward put it, “official Jewish women. “

Cantor Daniel Benlolo led the ceremony after working with the “B’not mitzvah“ participants for 5 to 6 months to prepare for the occasion. It was the third time in 11 years he has helped put together a Bat Mitzvah ceremony for the Lodge residents.

The Bnot Mitzvah participants read a Bat Mitzvah prayer and the Shema. They also recited prayers for the welfare of the state of Israel and the government of Canada. Each woman read a psalm, which she had personally selected. Trachtenberg chose to recite hers in Yiddish, while Benbaruk who is originally from Casablanca, Morocco, recited hers in French. Benbaruk also sang “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” following an introduction in which Cantor Benlolo called her voice “exceptionally beautiful”.

The women then participated in a candle lighting ceremony and gave their Bat Mitzvah speeches. “It is a bit ironic for children to attend their mothers Bat Mitzvah“, Trachtenberg noted. Her daughter came from Nova Scotia for the event. Her son and grandson also attended this special milestone. Trachtenberg was born in Poland and lost her “nearest and dearest family “during the holocaust. She survived by enduring starvation, illness, and dangerous living conditions in Siberia. She came to Canada in 1960, but after only one year, her husband died of a heart attack at 42. “As you can see my life wasn’t a happy one, but I’m still living and I am having a Bat Mitzvah at 91, Trachtenberg said, “I am not a very religious person, but I felt a spiritual change come over me, I feel like a 12 year old bat mitzvah girl“.

After the Bnot Mitzvah were blessed by Cantor Benlolo with a Tallit held over their heads, the ceremony concluded with a performance of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah by the Tamir Neshama Choir conducted by Benlolo. During the reception in the large lobby following the ceremony attendees congratulated the five Bat Mitzvah girls with chants of Siman Tov and danced to the sound of Klezmer music from a Touch of Klez.

Bat Mitzvah at Hillel Lodge


Sat, December 2 2023 19 Kislev 5784