A Bat Mitzvah is a religious ceremony recognizing a girl’s coming of age in Judaism. The ceremony involves a religious celebration and usually includes a Torah reading. There are different rituals in different movements of Jewish law.
Traditional Judaism had strict Halakhah, or laws, that prevented women from participating in most of the rituals of the synagogue. Girls who were close in age to boys were often called up to be Bat mitzvahs. However, a bat mitzvah did not necessarily include full equal participation in the synagogue rituals.
The term “Bat Mitzvah” (literally “daughter of the commandments”) came into use in 1922 to refer to a coming-of-age ceremony for girls. Today, many branches of Judaism allow women to be involved in these ceremonies.
In addition to its celebration, a bat mitzvah has a transformative impact on women’s rights in Jewish life. In the United States, for instance, it has contributed to recognizing girls as a legitimate part of the Jewish community.
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Initially, a bat mitzvah was only held for girls who had turned twelve. This was not a required ritual, but it did offer girls the opportunity to authenticate their participation in the Jewish community.
In the 1970s, however, coming-of-age ceremonies for girls became more widespread. This was mainly due to the work of second-wave feminism, and these women, largely pioneering, promoted egalitarianism within Jewish law.