At 83, Victoria Mertes was one of the youngest participants during a b’nai mitzvah service held April 23 at Sinai Temple in Westwood.
“I never got the chance to do it,” Mertes said. “In my era in New York, if you were not a boy or a man, you could not become a bat mitzvah.”
Jews often celebrate a second bar mitzvah at age 83, based on the tradition that 70 years is an average lifespan. The event at Sinai Temple honored more than 50 participants, age 83 and older.
“I think it’s important to have something to celebrate at every age,” said Cantor Arianne Brown, who organized the event.
Unlike a traditional adult b’nai mitzvah program, which requires yearlong study, the event’s participants were expected only to fulfill aliyahs throughout the Saturday Shabbat service.
Mertes says her participation was bittersweet. Her twin sister, Molly, who passed away three years ago, had once asked Mertes if she wanted to have an adult bat mitzvah. At the time, Mertes says, she was too busy with a job and family obligations.
Although she was “just plain anxious” beforehand, Mertes said she took comfort in knowing Molly would be there with her in spirit on the bimah.