8 Jewish women reach milestone
Carol Reiter dropped out of Hebrew school in fourth grade.
Three years later, when she was 13, the age Jewish children often get their bar or bat mitzvahs, she was otherwise distracted -- by such things as the Beatles. "I lived, breathed the music, the movies and Paul [McCartney]."
She went to temple, often a hangout for her friends, but she didn't get a bat mitzvah. "It wasn't something that seemed that important in the conservative movement for girls."
When she was 49, she received her bat mitzvah, and Saturday, with seven other women, she took part in the first adult confirmation ceremony at Temple Tikvah in New Hyde Park.
Confirmation typically occurs in some Jewish movements when someone is in 10th grade. But for most of the women, getting this rite of passage and receiving their bat mitzvahs wasn't stressed when they were teens, unlike their male peers.
But the eight women, all over 55, decided it was imperative to be confirmed, so they started preparing and studying for the ceremony -- two years ago. They learned to read and chant from the Torah, the Jewish written law. Each chanted from the text during the confirmation.
Each also addressed about 100 people gathered in the cavernous synagogue. Reiter, of New Hyde Park, spoke about how it was important to learn about different women in Jewish history. She ended her speech with a reference to a Beatles song, saying, "As the matriarch of the Reiter clan, I take the legacy and, as Paul said, I send it along with love from me to you."
Temple Tikvah was formed about four years ago when Temple Emanuel and Temple Israel of Jamaica consolidated.
"It is exhilarating," Rabbi Randy Sheinberg said of strides Jewish women have made. She grew up infuriated by women being forced to sit in the back of her neighborhood's synagogue.
"I am here today because 17 years ago to the day . . . my daughter became bat mitzvah here," said Susan Kane, of Albertson, who was confirmed. "It was a seminal moment for me, one that I had been denied by the conservative temple at which I attended Hebrew school."
Others confirmed were: Helaine Schachter, Robin Jacobson, Lois Howard and Sandy Portnoy, all of New Hyde Park; Ruth Cooperman of Fresh Meadows, Queens; and Barbara Orville of Great Neck.