Publisher: Kehot Publication Society
Author: Shayna Meiseles
Created by: Esther Frimerman
Format: 6" x 9" Hardcover, 224 pages
Eleven-year-old Debbie Solomon didn`t know her Bat Mitzvah year would be such an adventure. Her best friend develops a nose for trouble, her swimming rival is a winner in more ways than one, and her parents just don`t understand -or do they? Then Debbie uncovers a family secret that only she can resolve...and life will never be the same.
Luckily, Debbie, whose honest reactions to her predicaments ring true, has joined the Bat Mitzvah Club. There she discovers that becoming a Bat Mitzvah is much more than a party - it`s a way of life.
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The Bat Mitzvah Club: Debbie`s Story is a novel by Shayna Meiseles about Debbie, a young girl attending the Chicago Hebrew Academy who worriedly anticipates her Bat Mitzvah (the Jewish ceremony for girls transitioning from childhood to adulthood), and becomes mortified when her mother enrolls her in the Bat Mitzvah Club, where she learns of an unsolved family mystery from her grandmother. The Bat Mitzvah Club: Debbie`s Story is enthusiastically recommended as being an adventurous, thoughtful and enjoyable story.
-The Midwest Book Review
Debbie Solomon, the heroine of The Bat Mitzvah Club: Debbie`s story... is 11 years old, just months away from becoming bat mitzvah. And she is not happy about it.
Her family has just transferred her and her little sister, Miri, from a public school to a Jewish day school. That isn`t so bad, because she catches up with her class very quickly, is doing well in school (except for math!), and has made some really good friends, especially Leah.
She is also one of the best swimmers on the swim team and is hoping to compete in the junior finals.
Everything would be fine, except that her parents keep trying to talk about her bat mitzvah. When she thinks about it, all that comes to mind is Leah`s brother David`s bar mitzvah, which was a very lavish affair. Besides, she would have to make a speech in front of a whole bunch of guests, and that is very scary.
Just to make matters worse, her parents enroll her in the Bat Mitzvah Club, an after-school program for girls her age. She is not pleased about this - not only will she have to think about becoming bat mitzvah, but it will make her late for swim practice.
When she gets to the club, she is pleasantly surprised. Several of her classmates are there, including Leah, and the teacher, Mrs. Levy, seems to be very nice and makes the class interesting.
As time goes by, the girls discuss what it means to be a bat mitzvah and what it means to be Jewish, and especially a Jewish woman. Debbie had never thought about that much.
Mrs. Levy describes the bat mitzvah as "the time when your G-dly soul becomes complete. It`s like your soul has been waiting all this time to really show itself and now it saturates you like water fills a sponge." It was something Debbie had not recognized.
Each girl is given a journal to write their thoughts in, and Debbie finds that she can sometimes express her feelings better in writing than she can to people.
Debbie has to decide what kind of person she wants to be. She doesn`t have to go along with the rather harebrained ideas Leah has, and she is entitled to have other friends besides her and make her own decisions. She also realizes that although her little sister can be a pest, she is still her sister.
As Mrs. Levy explains, bat mitzvah is "the time to start training yourself to check in with your mind before you go along with your heart."
When her family realizes how grown up she is becoming, she is let in on a family secret. Her beloved grandmother had an older sister, named Esther. When World War II began, Esther left home and joined the resistance. She was never seen again. The family had tried for many years to find Esther, but finally gave up.
For a school project, Debbie decided to find Esther, a task that would take a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of hoping and dreaming.
It meant a lot to her grandmother and her parents that she was trying so hard to unite the family.
When her bat mitzvah came, there was no ice sculpture or big show, just an elegant luncheon, with lots of flowers, close friends and family, and a wonderful surprise.
-The Canadian Jewish News