Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Museum Will Showcase Bat Mitvah's 90th Anniversary

As part of a series of programs recognizing the 90th anniversary of the bat mitzvah ceremony, Mayim Bialik, best known for her portrayal of the title role on the 1990s television sitcom Blossom, as the young Bette Midler in Beaches, and her current, critically acclaimed role as Amy Farrah Fowler on the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory, will speak at the National Museum of American Jewish History on Sunday afternoon, March 25, 3 p.m.

Bialik’s presentation is part of a series of programs the Museum is presenting the last two Sundays in March to mark the bat mitzvah anniversary, which also includes an exhibition, Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age, presented with Moving Traditions, which opens March 6, 2012 and continues through April 27 at The Laurie M. Tisch Gallery at The JCC in Manhattan, and will travel to communities throughout North America.

The programs begin Sunday, March 18, 2 p.m. with “Collect-o-Rama,” in which visitors will explore and share bat mitzvah stories through personal artifacts or photographs, and be able to offer their artifacts to the Museum’s collection. “Collect-o-Rama” is part of the Museum’s effort to collect and preserve artifacts related to bat mitzvah ceremonies over the course of generations, throughout the country, and across Jewish movements.

“Collect-o-Rama” will also take place at the Museum on March 25 at 2 p.m. “Collect-o-Rama” is free with Museum admission; advance reservations are required.

Also on March 18, young women can participate in a tallit (prayer shawl) silk screening workshop with The Fabric Workshop and Museum. The workshop will take place at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, 1214 Arch Street.

During this hands-on activity, appropriate for young women ages 11 – 15, participants will each create a beautifully designed, one-of-a-kind tallit that they can take with them at the end of the workshop. The workshop is from 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. and costs $36.

On Sunday, March 25, at 2 p.m., the Museum will present a panel discussion on the history of bat mitzvah in America and coming-of-age in a women’s history context. The cost is $10 for Museum members and $15 for non-members. The panelists are:

  • Dr. Joyce Antler, the Samuel Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture and professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Brandeis University, where she chairs the American Studies Program. She is the author or editor of 10 books, including The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America.
  • Dr. Melissa R. Klapper, professor of history at Rowan University, who has conducted research on American gender studies and Jewish history, including the history of adolescence, education and women during the Gilded Age and Progressive Eras. Her publications include Jewish Girls Coming of Age in America, 1860-1920.
  • Dr. Jonathan Krasner, associate professor of the American Jewish Experience at Hebrew Union College in New York. He recently published The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education and has co-authored the article ‘Are You There God?’ Judaism and Jewishness in Judy Blume’s Adolescent Fiction.
  •  Dr. Pamela S. Nadell serves on the Museum’s Historians Committee, which advises on the content and presentation of the core exhibition. Nadell is the Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History and is chair of the Department of History and director of the Jewish Studies Program at American University.

·      Moderator: Rabbi Carole B. Balin, is professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College. She is also a board member of Moving Traditions and co-curator of the Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age exhibition.

Following the panel discussion, Mayim Bialik will share with participants her experiences as a young, Jewish woman both on and off the set of Blossom, discuss her endeavors in the academic and entertainment worlds, and explore how her Jewish background and studies inform her work today. These two days of special programs have been supported in part by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Federal-State Partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation.

On March 18 and March 25 there will be custom-designed Women’s History Drop-In Tours that will allow visitors to explore women in American Jewish history as told in the Museum’s core exhibition. These docent-led tours are available on a first-come first served basis and are free with Museum admission.

In addition, on both days, the Museum’s “It’s Your Story”™ video recording booth will be available for visitors to share their bat mitzvah and coming-of-age memories, which the Museum will archive for public viewing and share through online links. On Saturday morning, March 18, 1922 – two years after American women received the right to vote – Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan summoned his daughter, Judith, to the front of the synagogue sanctuary where she read from her own Bible in Hebrew and English along with the requisite blessings. With this revolutionary act, Judith Kaplan and her father initiated what would become the widespread American Jewish practice of bat mitzvah.

Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age features the remarkable story of how, in less than a century, individual girls, their parents and their rabbis challenged and changed communal values and practice to institute this now widely practiced Jewish ritual.

The National Museum of American Jewish History, on Independence Mall East in Philadelphia, presents educational programs and experiences that preserve, explore and

celebrate the history of Jews in America. The Museum interprets how Jews shape and are shaped by America, explores the blessings and challenges of freedom, and provides opportunities for visitors to contribute their own stories.

Moving Traditions sparks a passion for Jewish life through research, educator-training, and educational programming focusing on gender and Judaism. Its award-winning programs, Rosh Hodesh: It's a Girl Thing! and Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood, stem the exodus from Jewish life after b’nai mitzvah and inspire teen girls and boys to become engaged and self-aware Jewish leaders.

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