Jewish teen shuns gendered coming-of-age ceremonies for a ‘super cool’ gender-neutral b’nai mitzvah
A gay Jewish 13-year-old opted to have a gender-neutral b’nai mitzvah – instead of the tradition bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah – complete with a blessing from her “super cool” rabbi.
Wanting to do “something in the middle”, Ruby opted instead for a gender-neutral ceremony known as a B mitzvah or b’nai mitzvah.
She said: “Judaism is a big part of my family – we keep kosher and my older sister had a bat mitzvah, so I knew I would have to have one too.
“But I didn’t want to be called a girl, which is a traditional part of the ceremony. And I didn’t want a bar mitzvah either. I wanted something in the middle.”
She said her mother had read about a b’nai mitzvah in an article, and when she told Ruby, she knew immediately that was what she wanted.
“I was three when I started dressing in a more masculine way,” she said.
“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.”
Ruby said that her rabbi is “the best”, and added: “She loves me, so she was super cool about it.”
Her synagogue requires a social action project as part of the coming-of-age ceremony, so the budding guitarist and rock music enthusiast decided to throw a benefit concert.
Ruby said: “I donated the money I raised to Girls Rock Campaign Boston, which runs a camp I went to last summer.
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“It’s pretty open, so you can be trans and non-conforming, and there were lots of women there who were strong and powerful and also super musically talented, kind of like Joan Jett.”
On the day of her b’nai mitzvah, Ruby “wore a blue suit and a silver tie with black boots that were like rip-off Doc Martens, but fancier”.
She said: “I looked sharp. And I wore a tallit [prayer shawl] that had rainbows on the ends, with lots of rock’n’roll patches and Joan Jett on the back — we went to this sewing place and the guy printed out a picture of her on fabric that we sewed on.”
Asked by her father what she would have done if she’d had to wear a dress, Ruby said: “I don’t even want to go there. I would have cancelled the entire thing. I do not wear dresses.”
Ruby’s “super cool” rabbi said in her blessing during 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.”