Posted by: viewfromtheriva | August 6, 2014

Split’s synagogue celebrates its first Bat Mizvah in 70 years–mazel tov Mia Metni!


Mia, ready to change the world, and already has!

Mia, ready to change the world, and already has!

What a fabulous event–the first Bat Mizvah in Split’s synagogue in 70 years! As the 3rd oldest synagogue in Europe (Dubrovnik is a bit older, but its synagogue is now a museum), for more than 500 years now a tiny Jewish community has kept the Sabbath candle alive in Split.  Although without a rabbi (Zagreb has three), the synagogue is open every day for tourists and locals alike and celebrates Shabbat every Friday followed by a Kosher meal. During the week, a small community room downstairs from the upstairs synagogue is open for locals to drop in for coffee, to chat, use the internet.

So it was a very rare treat to have the Metni family travel all the way here from the US, bringing a rabbi with them (a relative of the family, so it was a great pleasure!) to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of their rather marvelous daughter Mia (you will hear more about her later).

Since every Bat Mizvah requires reading from the Torah, a little extra practice before the ceremony couldn't hurt!

Since every Bat Mizvah requires reading from the Torah, a little extra practice before the ceremony couldn’t hurt!  That’s Rabbi Haas, a relative, on the right.

Blessed with four daughters, Bat Mizvah’s are major events in this family’s life. And lucky for them, each gets to choose where she wants hers to take place. This year when Mia was asked, she said “a place with a beach”.  So mom Meryl hit google and searched far and wide, miraculously settling on Split!  After contacting Ana Lebl, one of the board members who govern the synagogue, the date and time were set and the rest, as they say, really IS history!

Mia with her Mom Meryl

Mia with her Mom Meryl

A Bar Mitzvah (for boys when they become 13 years old) and a Bat Mitzvah for girls when they become 12 or 13 depending on whether the parents are Reform, Conservative or Orthordox,  are a major rite of passage for Jews all over the world.  It’s when Jewish parents and Talmudic tradition say that now a child is mature enough to be  “accountable for their actions”– and in the eyes of God and the Jewish community, becomes a responsible adult.

A page from Mia's "siddur", the Hebrew word for prayer book.  In this siddur, celebrants can read both English and transliterated Hebrew about the ceremony so they can fully participate

A page from Mia’s “siddur”, the Hebrew word for prayer book. In this siddur, celebrants can read both English and transliterated Hebrew about the ceremony so they can fully participate

Since Mia’s family requested a Reform Bat Mitzvah ceremony, it was more relaxed and participatory than solemn, but no less spiritual and moving.  Mia’s remarkable personal reflections on the Torah (every Bat Mizvah girl or Bar Mitzvah boy has to do this and then read their musings to the congregation) and her family’s poignant memories of what makes Mia such a special child brought laughter and tears to everyone’s eyes!

The Metni family

The Metni family and relatives, the four girls, including baby, with mom and that’s dad Alan behind the youngest

Mia chose to reflect on the 10 Commandments and how they apply to today’s world.  Using everything from sibling rivalry to amusing metaphors on contemporary life, Mia demonstrated a very sophisticated understanding of the human condition for a girl so young in years.

Mia with the Torah. holding a "yad" literally a "hand" which is a pointer used to touch the sacred scroll  instead of one's hand out of respect.

Mia with the Torah. holding a “yad” literally a “hand” which is a pointer used to touch the sacred scroll instead of one’s hand out of respect.

Both her mom Meryl and dad Alan came to the podium to talk about Mia. Apparently a prodigious handful since birth (beginning with four days in intensive care, screaming nonstop!), Mia was a tough little cookie who played fair but was like a terrier when it came to principle.  As she grew up, her passion for “justice” really began to flower.  Whether it was reaching out to the less “cool” kids at school, raising money for charity or taking food to seniors, here was a girl who already “was making a difference”.   And her parents admiration, respect as well as their love, was truly profound.

The oldest girls singing prayers as part of the ceremony

The oldest girls singing prayers as part of the ceremony

When Mia spoke about her siblings it was just like you were living with these kids–all the silly spats, wonderful love moments, it was all there to laugh at, cry at and enjoy.  What a remarkable outpouring of intimacy!

Even tghe baby got to play a role, putting the "yad" back on the Torah...with a little help from her sisters!

Even the baby got to play a role, putting the “yad” back on the Torah…with a little help from mom and her sisters!

It’s really hard to describe the feeling of being in this ancient synagogue, with a family you never met before, surrounded by a handful of locals who were invited at the last minute and came just to be a witness to something truly extraordinary; being reminded by a rabbi from Savannah, Georgia not to forget about those  Split citizens whose names are carved in stone on the synagogue’s wall who lost their lives in the Holocaust; realizing that you are one of  only 100 Jews left in this city by the sea; celebrating a coming of age ritual that has been part of Jewish life for thousands of years; listening to Mia Meni, whispering her prayers because the antibiotics she was taking after a 105 degree fever hadn’t quite kicked in yet; watching the joy–no feeling the joy–of being alive in the presence of so much love, so much promise.

Unforgettable!

We love living here, so enjoy our   website about Croatia

 

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Responses

  1. Fabulous story 🙂

  2. thank you for writing this! what a great story about a wonderful family, and your community history.

  3. What a wonderful experience to take part in!


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