Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Kagan Had Synagogue’s First Bat Mitzvah

High Court nominee was at modern Orthodox shul

Print Email
Kagan today on Capitol Hill.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Couldn’t make it up. As a 13-year-old girl, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan demanded and received the first bat mitzvah at her Upper West Side modern Orthodox synagogue.

The notion of gender equality had been making great strides in most denominations by the time the early ‘70s rolled around, the New York Times notes. Though modern Orthodox and led by a modern Orthodox rabbi, Kagan’s shul—Lincoln Square Synagogue, still active on Amsterdam Avenue at around 69th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—had been started by Conservative Jews.

On May 18, 1973—a Friday night—Kagan read from the Book of Ruth (and gave a little midrash on it, too). So not a traditional bat mitzvah, but still the first one of its kind there.

The Jewish Theological Seminary’s Shuly Rubin Schwartz puts the whole thing in context:

In terms of timing, this was the period when young women coming of age, who had those kinds of expectations for equality and taking leadership positions in the secular world, began to question: Why can’t I do this in the Jewish world? What is unusual is that she asked it in an Orthodox institution where that was an unheard-of question at that point.

Growing Up, Kagan Tested Boundaries of Faith [NYT]

Print Email

What was unusual and ignored in this piece is the courage of the Rabbi of the Shul, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin for giving her the space to do her thing. Rabbi Riskin was the first to authorize a women’s halachic minyan. His shul was one of a kind: A shul with a paid membership of 3000 single New York under the age of thirty. A courageous man of principle creating space for a strong young girl.

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

Read about Elena Kagan on and her support for racist views. It is sad that the Jews chosen are all to the extrem left. She is not qualified to be on the Supreme Court and more and more the Supreme Court does not represent the people who have to live under the laws that the Congress passes but also does not live under them. Emininent Domain was a bad decision.

Good site! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your RSS which must do the trick! Have a nice day!


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Kagan Had Synagogue’s First Bat Mitzvah

High Court nominee was at modern Orthodox shul

More on Tablet:

American Jews Must Stop Obsessing Over the Holocaust

By Shaul Magid — Jacob Neusner shows how an identity founded on oppression and persecution limits the potential of the Diaspora