COVID Bucket List: Adult Bat Mitzvah
STYLE MagazineBat Mitzvah

COVID Bucket List: Adult Bat Mitzvah

Caryn Hanrahan shares her experience fulfilling a dream during the pandemic to complete a rite of passage missed as a young adult.

Caryn Hanrahan is the president of the Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah

Photo by Lorrie King // The class chose to donate to Free99Fridge, community mutual aid pantries.
Photo by Lorrie King // The class chose to donate to Free99Fridge, community mutual aid pantries.

Now that society is starting to open back up, I find myself reflecting on my COVID bucket list. Last summer, when it became apparent that the pandemic was going to be with us for a while, I started a mental list of random projects that could be accomplished during lockdown. There were a lot of “misses” in the beginning, like that MasterClass subscription that I signed up for and have yet to use.

How about you? Did you write your first novel? Did you learn to play the guitar? Did you even attempt to clean out the garage? I would have to say no to all of the above. The guitar proved too difficult, so I enjoyed learning the basics of African drumming with a wonderful online community.

One of the brighter sides of this pandemic was the number of online opportunities for learning.

Group Photo by Andy Siegel // Rabbis and participants: Rabbi Peter Berg, Bobbie Serra, Hether Warshauer, Lorrie King, Isak White, Zac Commanday, Caryn Hanrahan, Susan Taylor, Cantor Deborah Hartman and Rabbi Steven Rau.

What’s on your spiritual bucket list? I joined the armies of challah baking devotees until I realized that the “COVID-19” was not just a pandemic but a weight gaining plan when Shabbat dinners are just you and your spouse! As the pandemic slogged on it became apparent last fall that the winter was going to be bad. I decided I needed a project that would nurture my spiritual side while giving me a sense of accomplishment. I decided to look into the continuing education classes that were being offered by area synagogues.

One of the items on my life bucket list has always been to celebrate an adult bat mitzvah. Having been raised in a traditional household I was not allowed to read Torah on Shabbat. I didn’t complain at the time as my smart parents bribed me with promises of a new stereo and an extravagant Sweet 16 party. My 13-year-old brain thought I had gotten a pretty good deal.

Photo by Lorrie King // Isak White is restocking the Hosea Williams food pantry.

As an adult I have been blessed to witness my four children’s b’nai mitzvah. Two in Israel and two in Atlanta. I knew it was something that I would like to accomplish when I had some extra time on my hands. The pandemic provided the time to focus on this endeavor. It also provided the ease of in-home classes on Zoom (No Atlanta traffic to bother with). I joined the adult b’nai mitzvah class at The Temple and began my studies last fall in Zoomland.

When my mother contracted COVID and died in December, the weekly study sessions became a soothing balm to my frazzled being. My Torah portion was Bamidbar, the first chapter in the book of Numbers. The Hebrew word midbar means desert or wilderness. I was in my own spiritual desert while the world around me continued a very real struggle against death and loss. Our Zoom room became a personal Tent of Meetings for me. I showed up weekly to learn and laugh with a community who, like me, was searching in their own way. We studied, supported and laughed, and slowly a new rhythm was established in my life.

My father became a bar mitzvah in Germany shortly before his synagogue was destroyed in Kristallnacht. As formal Jewish education was impossible in Germany during that time, my father was taught his Torah portion by my grandfather at home. Like my father, I was tutored at home using technology that was unimagined in 1938.

Group Photo by Andy Siegel // The Temple class: Bobbie Serra, Hether Warshauer, Lorrie King, Isak White, Zac Commanday, Caryn Hanrahan and Susan Taylor.

Bamidbar starts off with G-d commanding Moses to take a census of all the Israelite males over the age of 20. Just like my portion, society is focused on counting. We just completed a national census. We also focus on counting the victims of the pandemic both here and abroad. In an earlier biblical count, there were about 600,000 Israelites in the desert. At the time of this writing, we are close to the same number of Americans that have died from COVID. Just like the Israelites, we are wandering in an environment that most of us have never seen before.

As society begins to reopen I may be able to revisit some other items on my bucket list. Maybe it’s time to start training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro like I always dreamed of.

How about you? Is it time for you to start working on your post pandemic bucket list?

Caryn Hanrahan is a retired certified nurse-midwife and past board chair of the Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah.

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