The bumping music, the disco lights, the photobooth props and a theme that could’ve only been created by a preteen: these are some of the things you might think of when imagining a b-mitzvah party. But if you didn’t have a b-mitzvah party when you were 12 or 13, or if you simply want to relive that awkward magic, great news: you can!
As one of many Jews who never had a bat mitzvah at 13, I was intrigued when I came across a TikTok of someone who had one at 31. Having never gone to Hebrew school and being riddled with anxiety over having to speak in an unfamiliar language in front of a large crowd, getting bat mitzvahed when I was younger simply never appealed to me. But now as an adult slowly approaching the big 3-0 and wondering what could’ve been, I was intrigued to hear more from people who wanted to do or re-do this pivotal coming of age celebration.
After viewing that original TikTok, I spoke with three people who chose to have bat mitzvahs in their thirties about why they wanted to, what they did to celebrate and how they felt about their experiences.
For Dani Audas (she/they), having a bat mitzvah for their 30th was a great way to lean into nostalgia and recreate the same vibes they had at their Beach Bash bat mitzvah in 2006 — including a custom dress to perfectly replicate their original and fake braces to top it all off. While this 30th birthday celebration wasn’t entirely focused on the religious significance that a bat mitzvah normally has, Dani still recited a few prayers and songs including the Shehechiyanu to signify the importance of the day. Many of the attendees also experienced Dani’s original bat mitzvah 17 years ago — a perk of friendships that span decades! Dani said that the experience was a lot of fun, and a “great excuse to rent a cheap, dated venue and party with [their] friends.”
Sarah Beaumont (she/her), whose TikTok I originally saw, didn’t have a bat mitzvah at 13 — she was a Hebrew school dropout. Leading up to her 31st birthday, she was excited about the prospect of having a “reverse bat mitzvah.” But without a rabbi present, she didn’t feel it was entirely appropriate to include the same religious elements one might expect to see and instead focused on some cultural Jewish themes and the “classic early-2000s vibe.” Despite never getting to have a full ceremony, she did have a “mini mitzvah” on her Birthright trip to Israel where she was able to read from a Torah with a rabbi facilitating. Having a party back in the U.S., however, allowed her to bring her Jewish culture to her family and friends, many of whom had never experienced a bat mitzvah before. While Sarah notes her party wasn’t exactly representative of a typical bat mitzvah, she was still grateful that she was able to “share how integral and fun these celebrations [are]” for Jews coming-of-age.
Dani Berkowitz (she/her) had a slightly different approach to her 31st birthday bat mitzvah. For her, incorporating the religious aspects was essential. A bat mitzvah simply “wasn’t in the cards,” for her when she was 13 so it was important to her to have one at 31 as a way to connect to her grandfather who was a rabbi and showcase her “continuous journey of self-discovery and reaffirmation of [her] identity.” For her haftarah, Dani chose to read from Micah 6:8. She didn’t know when she selected this section that she would soon find writings from her grandfather about this exact reading, allowing her to feel his presence even more on the day of her celebration. She also wanted to party, and her Barbara Streisand “Hello Dani” theme brought together Dani’s personality and “a joyous blend of personal quirks and nods to the diva herself.” A surprise flash mob rounded out the celebration, and Dani said the entire event was “the best day of [her] life.”
A common theme among these three Jews who had bat mitzvahs in their 30s is the desire to celebrate a turning point in their lives while including a part of their faith and culture that means so much to them. For so many of us who grew up with fellow Jewish friends and family, a b-mitzvah isn’t an uncommon experience and we often take for granted these celebrations others may not get to partake in. If you didn’t have one as a teen or you want a redo, take this as your sign to do it! As these three stories illustrate, it can be very meaningful to come of age once again.
While you learn a lot as a teenager, there are so many more things to pick up as an adult: How to make friends outside of work, how to do your taxes without sending your W-2s to your dad and when to start dressing for comfort instead of fashion. But even more, our relationships with ourselves, our loved ones and our Judaism changes — so why not have a party that reflects who we are and plan to become as adults? Having a b-mitzvah signifies entering adulthood, and there’s no rule that states you can’t celebrate those same sentiments as you’re older and more learned. After talking to Dani A., Sarah and Dani B, I find comfort in knowing that I still have a chance to celebrate — and I look forward to whatever the future has in store for my own bat mitzvah.