Ruby Marx, a 13-year-old from Massachusetts, has shared her experience of holding a B’nai mitzvah, or gender-neutral coming of age Jewish ceremony.
In Jewish culture, it is customary that when a male or female child turns 13, a ceremony is held to celebrate. Traditionally, either a bar mitzvah – male ceremony – or bat mitzvah – female ceremony – is attended by family and friends to commemorate the person reaching adulthood.
Marx told British newspaper The Guardian her B’nai mitzvah (the plural of ‘bar’ or ‘bat’; ‘bar’ means son and ‘bat’ means daughter) was “so much fun.”
Mazel tov Ruby Marx on your B mitzvah! We love @RavClaudia's blessing for you: “Keep bringing your full self to the world. The world needs people that don’t shy away from their true self; we will always be there for you.”
— Keshet (@KeshetGLBTJews) July 28, 2020
Marx detailed how her love of classic rock like Joan Jett and learning to play to guitar inspired the ceremony.
“I was the first person at my synagogue to have B mitzvah,” she said.
“I was three when I started dressing in a more masculine way. I don’t feel like a boy, but I don’t feel like a girl either. And the way I’ve expressed my gender has always been supported.
“My family knows I’m going to be masculine and still use female pronouns and just experiment. I talk to them about everything. All my grandparents know too.
“People sometimes mistake me in bathrooms, but it hasn’t been a big problem. At my school, there are definitely other kids in my grade who are playing with gender. And there are kids who are gay, like I am, and bi. They’re all very accepted,” she told The Guardian.
She knew from a young age she wanted a non-traditional ceremony, she said. And her rabbi was completely supportive.
“My rabbi is the best rabbi and she loves me, so she was super cool about it,” she said.
The rabbi said a blessing at the ceremony. “Keep bringing your full self to the world. The world needs people that don’t shy away from their true self; we will always be there for you.”
At the mitzvah, Marx raised money for the Girls Rock Campaign Boston, which runs a summer camp, by performing rock covers.
A Brooklyn Teen Who Identified as ‘Pangender’ Had a ‘B’nai’ or ‘Both’ Mitzvah in 2018
— Chinmay Bidkar (@CBidkar) March 27, 2019
A Brooklyn teenager who identifies as pangender — both male and female at once — got the idea to celebrate a B’nai mitzvah from a set of twins who opted for the non-traditional ceremony.
Lion, a 13-year-old middle schooler, told The New York Times, “I can identify with male and female and others in between … I don’t really feel masculine, and I don’t really feel feminine.”
Hilda Cohen, Lion’s mother, told The Times, “We didn’t make a big deal out of it. We just sort of did it.”
In April 2017, another teenager, Milah Carlone, had a b mitzvah at Romemu, “a progressive, Upper West Side synagogue,” The Times said.
A Teen With 6 Siblings Living in Northeast England Also Chose a Gender-Fluid Ceremony
A synagogue has held the first known gender-neutral B’nei Mitzvah in the UK for Esther Thorpe, a nonbinary teen https://t.co/nDay82m8x5
— Bi-Trans Alliance (@BiTransAlliance) March 14, 2018
Esther Thorpe, from the village of Otterburn in northeast England, identifies as non-binary. When they decided to opt-in for a B’nai mitzvah, their mother Miriam Taylor Thorpe was worried.
“I was quite concerned because if something is important in your coming of age, it should reflect who you are in a person and not squeeze you into the traditional two genders that we happen to have just because of history,” she said in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Miriam Thorpe and her husband, Martyn, have six other children, one of whom had already come out as gay when Esther led the service in front of 100 people in December 2017. “It may have been the country’s first gender-neutral b’nai mitzvah,” according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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