We booked Ella’s date for her Bat Mitzvah a long time ago. She really wanted to do her birthday weekend despite my better judgement. I told Ella that I wanted to do a big party outside for her in the summer and she wasn’t interested. Ella told me that she would rather do something small in the winter during her birthday weekend. You may be thinking, “Who is in charge?” I have asked myself that question many times too. I am in charge. I am in charge, and I am also a sucker. If Ella wanted something small during her birthday weekend to celebrate, I would do my best to make it happen for her. I understand that there is something special to doing it right around your birthday. I understand. I always try to get in the other person’s shoes and try to understand where they are coming from.
I had the date booked at our Synagogue and I really dragged my feet with the rest. I didn’t know what March was going to look like. The last two years have been completely and totally unpredictable. Ironically, I ordered my kids more disposable masks and as they all arrived from Amazon, masks were lifted at school. As much as I wanted to unmask our children, right before the Bat Mitzvah just increased my anxiety. The timing wasn’t good for us, but I was happy to send my kids to school without a mask today after the Bat Mitzvah!
I slowly started booking things. I booked the videographer and the photographer. Seth booked the DJ and the limo. I started to finally look at places and booked one. I knew I was going to plan everything as last minute as I could. I even booked hair and make up for the girls and I pretty last minute and they squeezed us in. As I booked each person I said to them, “If this works out.” Our videographer and venue assured me that we should be able to do this party for Ella. I didn’t hold my breath on that one.
Everything was booked and everyone had clothes besides me. The Tuesday before the Bat Mitzvah I finally went shopping for myself and found myself a great outfit. I do notice that us mothers tend to put ourselves last on the list. I figured there was stuff in my closet to wear if I didn’t find anything. I’m telling all of you wonderful mothers that we deserve a pretty new outfit too!
I had months to plan the Bat Mitzvah, but I did more than I should have the week before. Centerpieces, favors, picture boards, speeches, music list and candle lighting were finally all getting completed. I guess I was really in denial that this was going to happen. Was it really going to happen? Were we really going to get to do this?
My kids had winter break right before the Bat Mitzvah. I didn’t take them to Get Air or any fun places inside over break like I wanted to. I didn’t get them together with their friends. We went sledding, for winter walks and watched family movies. I told them to minimize their activity with others and we were going to make this Bat Mitzvah happen. I prayed every day for this to happen for Ella. You know as well as I do that a new strain could flood in and make the whole thing get shut down.
I have emotional scars that are healing. When you plan a huge Bar Mitzvah for your son (two years ago) and it gets canceled, you don’t take an event like this lightly. I knew Ella was having a hard time. I knew how stressful it was for her to prepare for her Bat Mitzvah. I knew how much school was stressing her out. I wanted this Bat Mitzvah for her so badly. Let’s give her something that makes her happy and makes her feel special! As a middle child with a demanding younger sister, she deserved to have something just for her.
I realized the other day that their Bar and Bat Mitzvah was following my birth experience with them. I had no idea what I was doing when I gave birth to Max. No one had ever said to me, “You never know, you may have to have a c section.” I figured I had curvy hips and Max would fly right out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I am very narrow inside and Max couldn’t get out. I really thought giving birth wasn’t going to be an issue for me.
After many many hours of labor, they ran me to the operating room for an emergency c section with Max. I was put out so that they could get Max out quickly. It was traumatic, and I took a long time to wrap my mind around his birth. If Max, could talk to me about his birth, he would probably tell me that it was fine. No worries mom, I came out and went to sleep and all was well.
The good news is, Max could talk to me about his Bar Mitzvah. When the whole thing got canceled, it took me a very long time to wrap my mind around it. Max was so chill about it and told me he really didn’t care. I still feel badly and wonder if we should do something for him. Max keeps telling me to leave it alone. I am listening to him at this point. Maybe we will just give him a nice graduation party?
Ella’s birth was very different from Max’s. Ella broke my water almost six weeks early and I elected to have a c section. I really wanted to try a vaginal birth but didn’t want to put Ella through that. Ella’s heart took its sweet time developing and if there was anything wrong with her, I wanted the least traumatic birth possible for her. Her heart was perfect. The c section went smoothly, but she was whisked away to the NICU.
Ella’s birth experience was still difficult for me. I wasn’t able to be with her right after she was born and for several days after while she was in the NICU. However, I was awake for her birth. It was a somewhat better experience like her Bat Mitzvah. Her Bat Mitzvah was better than Max’s. We actually got to go in the Synagogue for her service. Masks were even optional which shocked me. We got to have a small party for her after the service. All and all it was a much better experience. Not fully what I would have wanted to plan, but we are making major progress.
I asked Seth for a third child. I wanted four kids, Seth wanted two, so I think three was a good compromise. I told Seth I needed this birth experience to heal my soul. I know that sounds dramatic, but I just knew. Inside I knew that Lillie was going to heal me. Her pregnancy was easy. Her birth was easy, and she was an easy baby. When she was born three weeks early, she was able to stay with me. I felt awesome right away and begged to go home early. I hate being in hospitals and couldn’t wait to get home with my new baby. Lillie gave me an awesome birth experience and I needed that.
Lillie’s Bat Mitzvah is next. We have a lot of time as she is only 9 years old. My guess is that the world will look a lot different when it’s Lillie’s turn. My guess is that we will get to plan whatever we want to do. My guess is that I will be a lot less stressed out for Lillie’s than I was for Max and Ella’s. You see how they are following their births.
It’s the Monday after the Bat Mitzvah and I am sitting here typing and processing the whole event. I can’t begin to tell you the relief that I feel. I am so very thankful that we could do something special for Ella. My sweet, easy, responsible, talented, beautiful, kind daughter deserved this. She worked so hard, and she did such a great job. Ella, I know you are going to read this, and I am so extremely proud of you.
I have so many lessons from this experience:
- Worrying is a waste of my energy. I wasted so much energy. Every time we start to worry, flip it to faith. Have faith.
- Be cautiously optimistic. I refuse to be negative. I want to be as positive as I can. However, I was cautious in my optimism. The pandemic has been very unpredictable.
- The only thing that is guaranteed is change. The changes that have happened over the last two years have been so dramatic. You just never know. Life has not looked very normal.
- Use your supports. I was talking through my stress as much as I could.
- I started yoga. I knew I needed to do something for myself to take care of myself and help me to be calm.
- I journaled and wrote out my stress.
- I made many lists to make sure I was remembering everything. This is how I keep myself organized.
- I delegated things to my husband to take care of for me including the DJ and limo. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do everything. My mom and my friends offered to help and I really need to get better with taking the help. People want to help. They don’t want us to just give to them they want to be able to give back too.
- Know that it will be ok. What is the worst case scenario? If it got canceled for some reason, we would have figured it out.
- Put things into perspective. What really matters? The war going on in the Ukraine right now can really make you realize how good our stress is. A Bat Mitzvah is good stress. Our health and safety is what truly matters.
- Pray! That helps me so much!
I feel like my mission was accomplished. The Bat Mitzvah was a success, and it feels really good. I can’t wait to see the video and all the pictures. What a wonderful experience. Maybe just maybe things will continue to go back to normal?! We made some special memories that will last my family a lifetime.
Below you will find my speech to Ella, Ella’s speech and the candle lighting ceremony we did.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
My Speech to Ella at the Bat Mitzvah
Our Dearest Ella,
Your father and I wished upon a star for you. You are sincerely our dreams come true. Gramps had a brother. Dad has a brother. Then we had your wonderful brother Max. I was convinced that we were going to have three or four boys. I didn’t believe the nurses when they told me you were a girl. It took me a few sonograms to believe you were really a girl. I had to have a lot of sonograms to monitor you and your growth. Your heart took its sweet old time developing and you were born with a perfect heart. It’s actually a heart of gold. I think you took extra time to grow that special heart of yours.
As you know, you were born almost 6 weeks early and decided to make a very eventful entrance into this world. After too many of my longest days, we were able to take our healthy beautiful bundle home with us to love.
You were my little monkey for the first many months of your life, and you lived in the baby bjorn right next to my heart. I think about carrying you around all the time. You don’t need me to do that anymore. I cannot believe how capable you have become. You still love to hug and snuggle us, and I hope that always remains true.
It usually takes people a long time to figure out what they want to do with their life. Not you. Your feet hit the stage acting at a very young age and you completely fell in love. You came alive and lit up the whole stage the second you walked on to it. You still do that when you walk onto a stage.
You have a big beautiful presence on stage and you can also project your voice to fill the whole room. The days that I get to see you perform on stage are some of my very favorite days. You can see that the stage is your home and where you are meant to be.
You have dreamed of performing on Broadway for so long. I tease you that I’m not going to let you move to NYC. I love that I don’t phase you and that you have a strong determined mind of your own. I hope that every single one of your dreams come true because you were meant to perform. I believe that your purpose is to bring joy to people on stage. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me at your performances to tell me how much they love when it’s your turn to come on stage!
Today is another type of performance for you. It made me sad that you doubted yourself to be able to fulfill your Bat Mitzvah. Sometimes I wish that you could see yourself through my eyes. I knew that you could do it. I never doubted you. I know how smart and hardworking you are. You seem to excel at everything you do. I don’t think you see that yet, but I hope you get there.
It is wonderful to see the 13 year old that you are before us. Our smart, kind, beautiful, responsible, hard working, talented girl. We are so proud of you for carrying on this tradition. We are so proud of you for your good grades and achievements. We are so proud of you for the amazing performances you have done over the last 8 years. I am most proud of who you are on the inside. I love the conversations that we have. I love learning how your brain works. I love that you don’t take my word for things and challenge me. I love that you don’t care that I want you close to home. Your father tells you to fly.
I definitely chose the perfect father for you. If anyone will help you achieve your dreams, it’s him. Seeing the two of you learn the guitar together and perform amazes me. Seeing the two of you sing together melts my heart. Hearing you tell me that people are too disruptive in your class makes me think of how much you are like your dad. You are certainly a combo plus platter. You have a lot of your dad in you. A lot of your mom in you. And a lot of Ella bonuses too. We love who you are, and we can’t wait to see who you become as you get older.
We can’t thank you enough for working so hard to do this today. We know how hard you practiced almost every single day and our hearts melted. I would sing along with you from the kitchen as I was cooking. I would look over at your father and his smile said it all. You put your heart and soul into everything including today. You did an amazing job as we knew you would. We are so proud of you but even more important is that you are so proud of yourself. Your grandparents, Uncle Corey and Aunt Vivian are also beaming with pride watching you today along with your family and friends watching online.
You see that determination goes a long way. I hope that you see that you can do pretty much anything that you put your heart and soul into. We will always be right behind you to support you. We are here for you every step of the way. Fly birdie fly. We love you more than our words can ever say. The world is your oyster – meaning, that you can do anything you want to do and that opportunities await you. We love you, Ella Rae Greene. You continue to light up our world. Love forever and always, your mom and dad.
My Torah portion is Vayikra, meaning “God called.” It is the first portion in the book of Leviticus and is about the instructions God gives Moses to tell the priests. In order for them to conduct proper sacrifices. Vayikra is spelled “Vav-Yud-Kuf-Resh-Aleph.” The Aleph at the end of the word is written smaller than the rest of the other letters. Some rabbis suggest “Vayikra” without the Aleph means happened, as if God happened to be in the area to talk to Moses. But no one knows why exactly the Aleph is smaller. This aleph is small and mighty just like I am. Size doesn’t have anything to do with being powerful. This is something that I had to learn.
In Leviticus there is a group of priests who were doctors in the community. Back then infections and germs weren’t understood, and they were just doing their best to help the people of the community. We all find our way in our community to help others. My way of helping others is through entertainment. I love to bring smiles to people’s faces. I love to be on stage and perform for people. I am helping others in my own way. I have found my voice on the stage. We all need to find our voice and our own way to help the world. I will continue to bring characters alive and help people through my acting, singing and dancing. I am so excited to get to be the Wicked Witch next weekend in the Wizard of Oz.
There is something I would like to add that is important to my community so therefore it is important to me. In just a couple weeks the Jewish World celebrates the 100th anniversary of the very first bat mitzvah. This is a very important anniversary as it means there has been 100 years of bat mitzvahs, and this truly shows that this community is so strong and dedicated. So here’s to 100 years and many more.
On a more personal note, my mom often tells me about my coming into this world almost six weeks early. She says that she wishes I cooked longer, and I tell her that I couldn’t wait to meet my family. When I was born, I was whisked away to the NICU. It was long days for my parents while I was in the NICU. I am so thankful to the nurses and doctors at Sisters who took care of me and got me to a place where I was able to head home with my parents. This is what has inspired my Bat Mitzvah project. I told my mom I want to help the NICU. You may not know that I have written a few books. I wrote The Fastest Raindrop and Super Ella which I wrote in elementary school. I also wrote I Remember Heaven with my mom. I want to raise money for the NICU. The NICU is important to me. I am selling my books to raise money for the NICU and am also planning to do a book signing to raise money. Then I will deliver a check to the hospital. I am honored to be able to support the NICU and would love for you to help me with my project by purchasing my books.
I have so many people to thank. I would like to start with thanking Harvey Horowitz for all the work he did to tutor me for my Bat Mitzvah. He is truly an amazing teacher and I am so very grateful that I had the pleasure of being his student. I would also like to thank the Rabbi and Cantor for supporting me and helping me get prepared for my Bat Mitzvah. The work you did and continue to do is very appreciated.
I want to thank my grandparents for supporting me in everything I do. They come to all my shows and recitals and are always there for me. I am so happy to celebrate this special day with them and to carry on this tradition. Words cannot say how much I love and appreciate my fan club! I love you Bubby, Sabah, Gramps, Patty, Grammy and Grampy.
I wanted to thank My Uncle Corey, Aunt Vivian, and cousins Chase, Ashton and Minka for making the trip to Buffalo from Virginia to be here for me. It means so much to me that they are here today. I love them all very much.
I want to thank all my friends who are here to support me. It means a lot to me to have them here. Thank you all so much for just simply being here. I appreciate you all extremely, however I also appreciate the friends who couldn’t make it today. You all mean so much to me.
I want to thank Mr. Bruce for being so good to our family and for being here today. You mean a lot to the Greene family, thank you.
I want to thank my siblings who mean so much to me. I am so thankful for them. Thank you, Max and Lillie.
I also want to thank my parents. I know that they would do anything for me, and I know how important this day is to them. I appreciate everything they do for me.
You guys made me who I am today and without your love and continuous support I wouldn’t be who I am today. You are truly amazing parents; I thank you endlessly.
A few years ago, if you told me I would be here today I would have said you are crazy. Now I realize I did it and achieved this great achievement. Just goes to show that anything can happen if you let it. That is not to say that it was easy but if you work hard at something, you can make it happen. Thank you all for being here with me today. You all mean the absolute world to
Candle Lighting Ceremony
- Bubby and Sabah – Music to play: We are Family.
I’m so blessed to have all six of my grandparents in town. They all make me feel so very loved.
I’m going to start with my Bubby and Sabah. They have given me so much love and support over the years. They come to so many performances and are two of my biggest fans. I know that they would do anything for me and for that support I thank you two. I love you both and would love for you to come up to light this the first candle with me.
- Gramps and Patty – Music to play: Celebration.
Next is Gramps and Patty. Gramps and Patty are some of my biggest cheerleaders. I can always count on seeing them in the audience and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate their love and support. As they add pearls to my necklace one by one, I feel more and more loved. The traditions you two have started with me I truly cherish. I love you both and would love for you to come up to light candle number two with me.
- Grammy and Grampy – Music to play: I’m beggin, beggin you.
I have spent many days and many nights over my life at Grammy and Grampy’s house. When my mom goes to ring their doorbell, I tell her that it’s our home too and she should just walk in. They share their house, their food, their pool and their love with me. Their generosity and support and overall, them as people have shaped who I am today. I hope that they know how loved and supported I feel from them, and I would so love for them to come light candle number 3 with me.
- Uncle Corey and Aunt Vivian – Music to play: Buffalo Bills Shout.
I’m so thankful that my Uncle Corey and Aunt Vivian flew into town for this special day. It means so much to me that they are here with me today. I know that they would always be there for me. They also share their home with us, and it feels like a third home to me. I always love visiting them and spending time with them and I love when they come to town. Thank you so much for being here with me today. I would love for my Uncle Corey and Aunt Vivian to come light candle number four with me.
- Cousins – Chase, Ashton, Minka – Music to play: The Family Madrigal.
I love my cousins Chase, Ashton and Minka. I have such a good time playing with them whether we are at their house, Grammy and Grampy’s house or my house. I love all the time I get to spend with them. From running around their house with them to night swimming at Grammy and Grampy’s house. They are so special to me, and I love and cherish them greatly. It means so much to have the three of them here with me today. I would love for my cousins to come up and light candle number five with me.
- Teagan, Ellary, Cate and Krista – some of my first friends – Music to play: Thank you for being a friend.
Next are some of my very first friends. I have so many memories with them at school, theater, our homes, all the birthday parties, girl scout meetings, swimming, camps and the list of memories goes on and on. I am truly ever so grateful for them. They have been there for me over the last many years of my life and are such good friends. I am so thankful that they are here with me today to celebrate. Krista, Teagan, Ellary and Cate, please come light candle number six with me.
- School friends – Andrew, Ryan, Samantha, Jessica – Music to play: You’ve got a friend in me.
I have met some great friends at school. Their personalities and supportiveness have truly helped me get through middle school as a whole. I am so grateful for the memories we have made and are going to make. I would like to invite Andrew, Ryan, Samantha, and Jessica to please come light candle seven with me.
- Theater Friends – Ally, Lyra, Gabby, Theater Tegan – Music to play: Somewhere over the Rainbow (because they are all about to do the Wizard of Oz)
If you know me, you know I love theater. With all the years I have done theater I have met some of my very best friends. Ally, Lyra, Gabby, and Tegan are some of the friends I have met at theater and spent many hours of my life with. I thank them for being such amazing friends and amazing people. I absolutely love all our time at theater together. I now ask Ally, Lyra, Gabby, and Tegan to please come light candle 8 with me.
- Max – Music to play: 24 K Magic.
Next is my big brother Max. Max is genuinely the best big brother I could ever ask for. Whether it be helping me with math, diffusing a fight between me and Lillie, or whatever the case may be, max is always there to help me with whatever I need. He is genuinely so kind, so loving and very supportive. He has truly helped me become the person I am today with everything he does and continues to do for me. I love and cherish all the time we have spent together. Max will you please come light candle number 9 with me?
- Lillie – Music to play: Classic.
Lillie my little sister is next. I have so much to say about her I do not know where to begin. I’ll start by saying she has one of the biggest personalities I have ever met. She genuinely changes a room when she walks in it. Her personality radiates to everything around and I think everybody who knows her would agree with me. She is one of the silliest, kindest, and most sassy people I have met. I love my little sister so much. Lillie, please come light candle number 10 with me.
- Mom – Music to play: Mom
Next is my beloved mother. I love you more than words could say. But there is so much more to say than just how much I love you. The amount of work you do is astonishing, and I am forever grateful for that. You work so hard for us kids. But all of that aside you are an amazing mother and more than that a great person. You light up a room when you walk in it and are the backbone of our family. I love and appreciate you endlessly. Please come light candle 11 with me.
- Dad – Music to play: Butterfly Kisses
Next is my dad. I have so much I could say about him. He is one of the calmest most collected people I have ever met. He genuinely makes you feel whatever he is feeling whether it be happy sad or somewhere in between. He does an astounding amount of work for my family, and I will forever be grateful for that. He is the glue that holds our family together in every sense of the expression. I hope he knows how much of an amazing dad he is and how much I love him. Dad, could you please come light candle number 12 with me?
- This last candle is for Ella from Mom and Dad. Music to play: Seize the Day.
We are so very proud of you and wish you a very Happy 13th Birthday and a Happy Bat Mitzvah. This is a very special day for our very special daughter. We love you so much. Let us light candle number 13 together.