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Jane Katzer Pace

My Journey to This Moment

– Jane Katzer Pace, June 16, 2018

While reading through our Machzor during the morning service this past Rosh Hashanah, I found this verse to which I made a strong connection;

“I try to walk the road of Judaism. Embedded in that road there are many jewels. One is marked “Sabbath” and one “Civil Rights” and one “Kashrut” and one “Honor Your Parents” and one the “Study of Torah” and one “You Shall be Holy.” There are at least 613 of them and they are different shapes and sizes and weights. Some are light and easy for me to pick up, and I pick them up. Some are too deeply embedded for me, so far at least, though I get a little stronger by trying to extricate the jewels as I walk the street. Some perhaps I shall never be able to pick up. I believe that God expects me to keep on walking Judaism Street and to carry away whatever I can of its commandments. I do not believe that God expects me to lift what I cannot, nor may I condemn my fellow Jew who may not be able to pick up even as much as I can.”

This is how I see my journey to becoming a Bat Mitzvah. I have picked up certain jewels of Judaism in getting to this moment.  Growing up, I had very little involvement with synagogue life. After my brother was a Bar Mitzvah, my parents did not continue as members of our local synagogue. Throughout high school and college, I did not have any Jewish affiliations or connections.

After my husband Vincent and I married, and we had our first child, our son Greg, I remember my mother asking Vince if we could have a Bris at home. Vince agreed, and I remember saying to myself “Here we go, I better start learning about my religion”.

As our first two children Greg and Sarah reached preschool age, I thought Synagogue preschool would be a good start for our children and a good start for me.  We chose Rodeph Shalom Nursery School. It is here in this building that I learned with my children about the Jewish Holidays, Tzedakah, and celebrating Shabbat.   As fate would have it, Rabbi Holin was the spiritual leader of Rodeph Shalom Nursery School. Vince felt very comfortable with Rabbi Holin and that meant a lot to me. So, Vince and I followed Rabbi Holin and joined Kol Ami in 1995. Rabbi Holin and Kol Ami are the first and second jewels I acquired along my journey.

Greg, Sarah and Julia, our youngest were students of Kol Ami religious school. As part of the school curriculum there was a Family Education series. The parents would meet with Rabbi Holin and the students would meet in a group with their teacher or religious school director. We would learn about the Torah, liturgy, and rituals.  Then we would meet as a group and discuss what we learned and how it related to us. I really enjoyed this series and see it as another jewel along my walk of Judaism.  This family education series sparked my interest in becoming a Bat Mitzvah someday.

Kol Ami also offered a hands-on learning series led by Roz Holtzman. These sessions helped to boost my confidence in asserting my commitment to Judaism. The hands-on series consisted of tutorials, some of which were, how to have Shabbat at home, how to conduct a Seder and how to make Havdalah.  It enabled me to start having Shabbat at home with my family, whenever we are home on a Friday night. This was an easy jewel for me to pick up and it is a very special one.

Another jewel is the addition of the Mishkan T’Filah Siddur, that we now use at Kol Ami.  I enjoy reading the prayers and being able to follow along with the transliteration and now thanks to my B’nai Mitzvah classes, the Hebrew. The prayer book is inviting for all members of our synagogue including our non-Jewish partners. The readings that are included are insightful and comforting.

Becoming a Bat Mitzvah today is the most important jewel that I have picked on my walk down the road of Judaism.  I am proud that I followed through with the two-year commitment of diligently studying in preparation for this day. After experiencing my children’s journey in becoming Bar and Bat Mitzvahs it became a goal of mine to learn more about my religion.

I would like to thank Rabbi Holin for your interesting lectures, thoughtful questions, that always keep us engaged. Roz, thank you for your excellent instruction. I will always cherish and appreciate being a student of yours, from your hands-on tutorials to your diverting Hebrew games. Thank you, Rebecca, for your help with chanting, you helped to make my Torah portion even more meaningful. Elaine Stevens you are” The Woman”. Thank you for everything that you do for our synagogue.

I especially want to thank my husband Vincent for his loving support throughout our entire marriage.  I want to thank my children for their encouragement and for their presence here today. My family is truly the crown jewel I have acquired on my journey.