Ashira Weinreich Becomes Bat Mitzvah
Ashira Weinreich, daughter of Rebecca and Tara Rose Weinreich, became a bat mitzvah on Saturday, October 11, 2014. Larry Nathenson interviewed her for this issue of G’vanim.
How long did you study for your bat mitzvah, and what Torah and/or Haftarah portions did you chant?
I studied with Rae Antonoff, one of our Ohr Chayim teachers, for over a year. I also began to learn trope with Rae when I was 11 before studying for my bat mitzvah. I chanted 3 aliyot from Ki Tisa and 4 from V’zot Habracha. I also chanted the full haftarah for Ki Tisa, from Ezekiel.
Why did you want to have your bat mitzvah during Sukkot?
I was born during Sukkot, and my Jewish birthday fell on the Shabbat of Sukkot this year. The Friday evening service was at BCC, and my bat mitzvah service on Saturday morning was at Temescal Canyon Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. The service was in one of the buildings there and the lunch was outdoors in a beautiful setting under the sycamore trees that were like a sukkah to me. My BCC community came with me and supported me with so much enthusiasm and love. Family members came from around the country too.
What does being Jewish mean to you?
It helps me connect with my roots. There is so much to learn but at the same time you are encouraged to question. Jewish learning combines facts and figuring out things for yourself. Judaism is unique to each individual because we all experience it differently and are encouraged to question and work out our own Judaism. We are not required to believe in God and what’s in the Torah in a certain way. We can create our own picture of Judaism and share it with everyone else in our Jewish community.
People find Judaism in different places. I find it in nature as well as in my Jewish community. Judaism is about embracing the person you are and the person you imagine yourself to be and trying to make that a reality.
You’ve been coming to BCC all your life. What are your earliest memories of BCC?
I remember learning and having fun with my friends and the older kids who would help me. We would create games to help us learn. I don’t think of it as Hebrew school but as a fun activity. If you’re with your friends and have a community to learn with, it doesn’t become “school” but just Judaism and your own Jewish community. I’m still very close to some of the older kids who have graduated from Ohr Chayim but have remained my good friends.
Other than Ohr Chayim and your bat mitzvah, have you participated in services at BCC?
Yes, during High Holidays this year and last year I had the honor of being one of the gabbais, using the yad to help the congregation follow the Torah reading on the screen.
How do you like school? Have you had any problems at school because you have two mothers?
I have just started middle school and I love it. I like all subjects, especially math and science and also art and sports. I haven’t had any trouble at school because of my family. I’ve grown up in a very safe environment and always thought my family was normal. I grew up with such a loving and caring community and also go to a gay/lesbian sleep-away camp at Camp Tawonga. At school some people think it’s cool that I have lesbian parents. It has changed over my lifetime from people being confused to people thinking it’s cool. Things are changing very quickly and I think it’s going to keep going in that direction.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am working on a bat mitzvah project of creating greeting cards that include my own drawings and paintings. The proceeds will go to two causes. One will help homeless people on Skid Row, where I help to make sandwiches and distribute them. The other will help organizations trying to create rainforest conservancies in Central America or other places so that the people there will have the same protected access to wilderness that we have with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. If people would like to help me with this project by buying greeting cards, they can go to my website at helpawakens.com.