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THE TRUTH ABOUT MY BAT MITZVAH by Nora Raleigh Baskin

THE TRUTH ABOUT MY BAT MITZVAH

By Nora Raleigh Baskin

Age Range: 10 - 13

Pub Date: March 25th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4169-3558-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

When her Nana dies and bequeaths her a Jewish-star necklace, 12-year-old Caroline enters a period of self-reflection with some confused ideas about what her Jewish identity signifies. Her interfaith family pretty much ignores all religious celebrations, including the High Holy Days, limiting Caroline’s experience to rare remembrances of Hanukah candle lightings that gradually transitioned to Christmas gift-giving. A friendship with Rachel, who has been attending religious school and is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah, piques Caroline’s interest in finding out more about being Jewish. Is wearing her grandmother’s Jewish star enough? Does Caroline need to have a Bat Mitzvah to be a Jew? Baskin poses some important questions for a child struggling to find her own religious path. However, although she correctly points out that a girl born to a Jewish mother is always a Jew who will automatically “become” a Bat Mitzvah upon her 12th birthday, the author denies the concept that a Jewish identity develops through the religious and spiritual education a child receives at home and within the greater Jewish community. It seems incomplete, if not incorrect, to conclude this diminished theme with a scene in which Caroline explains that all of Rachel’s studying for her big day was unnecessary since her reaching the milestone birthday is enough. Despite the interpretation that one’s concept of religious identity is personal, this is disappointing in its final message. (Fiction. 10-13)