On Saturday, March 24 — after two years of study led by Rabbi John Franken, Cantor Micah Morgovsky Rabbi Marc Disick and Fran Schechter — six adult members of Temple Sinai in Stamford stepped up to the bima and read from the Torah to celebrate their b’nai mitzvah. Much like the tallit that each one wore, the spiritual journey that brought each of these adult b’nai mitzvah to this moment was infused with a deeply personal meaning.
Dr. Bill Hines’ tallit was purchased in honor of his bar mitzvah in Curacao at Mikvé Israel, the oldest functioning synagogue in the western hemisphere. The New Canaan resident grew up in an ultra-reform synagogue in the Midwest that forbade bar mitzvah. The b’nai mitzvah class deepened his knowledge of Jewish tradition and helped him learn Hebrew.
Beth Peters created her tallit using a photograph she took during her first trip to Israel. For the New Canaan artist, the bat mitzvah experience was a big step outside of her comfort zone, but sharing the experience with her mother, Carol Ruth Shepherd, added a special dimension. Peters designed Shepherd’s tallit from a photograph of a Tel Aviv sunset, also taken on Beth’s trip to Israel with Temple Sinai. Shepherd, who lives in New Canaan, chose
to have this religious experience now, since it was not available to her when she was young. However, in 1937 Shepherd was the first girl to read from the Torah at her confirmation at B’nai Israel in Bridgeport.
Fran Schechter‘s tallit was first worn by her father-in-law Abraham Schechter, who immigrated to America in 1910 from a shtetl near the Russian city of Odessa. The tallit was given to his son Alfred Schechter when Alfred married Fran, and later passed down to their son, Ethan, when he became a bar mitzvah. The New Canaan resident taught beginning Hebrew in the adult b’nai mitzvah class last year. She decided to celebrate her reaching the “senior citizen” stage in life by chanting from the Torah during a second bat mitzvah.
Jarod Lojeck’s tallit was a gift from his in-laws, upon the occasion of his conversion, and was part of the chuppah at his wedding to his wife Jillian last August. The Stamford resident became a Jew by choice at Temple Sinai in 2009. He hopes the bar mitzvah process will prepare him to help his own (future!) children with their bar/bat mitzvah studies.
Meryl Japha’s tallit was presented to her by her parents when she became president of Temple Sinai (2007-2009). It symbolizes the Stamford resident’s meeting of the two tracks of her Jewish life, leadership and spirituality.