Seniors rededicate themselves to Judaism at the Jewish Home

Adorned with boutonnieres, the six stood under a canopy and recited in unison the blessings before and after the Torah reading. During the ceremony, they each read teachings about the Jewish holidays and ended by singing "L'Chaim" together.

"A lot of these seniors were young adults during the Depression and World War II, when they were deprived of the ability and time to consume this kind of education," said Rabbi Malcolm Sparer, who presided over the ceremony.

Five of the participants were women who grew up at a time when bat mitzvahs were not common.

"In those days you didn't think about it [bat mitzvahs]" said Cora Latz, 76, one of the six participants. "But now, you do."

Latz was confirmed at Congregation Sherith Israel in 1938 but never had a bat mitzvah. "I've been to many of the younger bar mitzvahs and a couple of the older ones. I thought, why not me?"

Sally Isaac, 84, who read about Purim and Chanukah at the ceremony, agreed. "Everyone is doing it, so why should we be out of it?"

Isaac comes from what she called a "rabbi family" — her grandfather and great grandfather were rabbis. She raised her two sons in an observant home.

"I observed all the feasts and fasts, and all the religious rites and commandments," she said.

Another participant, 85-year-old Richard Kahan, had a bar mitzvah when he was 13 but said he learned more reading on his own than he did in Hebrew school. Though not religious as an adult, he maintained an intellectual interest in Judaism.

For him, the rededication ceremony was a reminder that Jewish education has often been incomplete.

"Generally, all we know is how we've suffered," he said. "We do not know a body of literature about our accomplishments."

Fay Gorenberg, 78, Etta Perkins, 72, and Jeanette Vanoss, 82, also participated.

The rededication ceremony was an outgrowth of a weekly study session led by Sparer, spiritual leader at the Home. The group studied the weekly Torah portion, Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), as well as ritual and custom.

Sparer said that although he tries not to get too emotionally involved in the ceremonies he presides over, he was "moved that older people were more anxious to attend my class than wait for the nurse to give them their pill."

Reflecting on the ceremony, Vanoss said: "I hope my father, Joseph, was listening. He would be thrilled."