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the Bat Mitzvah of

Zoë Juniper Massman-Johnson June 21st, 2014

Officiant and Mentor: Deanna Neil Musicians: Justin Stein + Avi Sills “Song for Zoë” by Carol Johnson Coordinator: Todd Shotz


Dear Family & Friends,

We are so glad you are here with us as we celebrate Jesse becoming a bar mitzvah. This ceremony is far from traditional, imbued with its own elements of spirituality and questioning. When we undertook this journey, it was mainly in an effort toward cultural literacy. We werent’ even sure if we believed in God. But we knew we believed in community and in healing the world. Today, Jesse is called to the Torah to share a story from its’ passages and to mark his own passage into adulthood. In the Jewish tradition, “bar” means “son of” and “mitzvah” means “commandment”, but we’ve come to know it today as “a kind, ethical deed.” Jesse now takes his place in a larger community with new awareness and responsibility, with a commitment to help repair what’s imperfect in the world around him. At the same time, he is of the age to recognize and further explore his own unique, personal spiritual connections. Special thanks to Deanna Neil whose passion, creativity and joyful energy guided Jesse in his preparation for today. As always, Maj has her hand in every piece of this, and it’s beautiful because of her. Adam, Lisa, Lara and Wally have provided unparalleled moral support. And finally, we’d like to thank Beebe, Chris, Gaby, JC, Kristin and Todd for being themselves and helping in every way. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough. Simply, we are grateful. With love, Shana and John



Hinei ma tov u’ma na’eem ... shevet acheem gam yachad. Behold how great it is that we can live happily together. 1. On Community

Community is important in Judaism, fusing the idea of an ethnicity and a religion. When there was a temple in Jarusalem, it became the nerve center of Jewish life. Now that Jews are spread across the world, home, synagogues or other local institutions serve as communal centers. When I think of community I think of support, warmth and caring. I see a group of people, celebrating, relaxing, and sharing in joy or even pain together. I find this in my life with friends and family. Sitting around my kitchen table—people are always there. That becomes my community. Riding the bus to schoo, when I have all of the people who live so far away coming together. That becomes my community. Community can present challenges, as well. Sometimes I find it hard to be very involved and feel disconnectedfrom those in surrounding groups. I wonder: What happens when people don’t fit in? Take country clubs, for example. Are communities inherently exclusive? Do we need boundaries in order to have a community?

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~ Mark Twain 3

Some thoughts from Zoë

I have to be honest; prayer, in the traditional sense, really isn’t my thing. I understand the value of meditation far more. Meditation can quiet the mind so one can think deeply on the inside. It can settle you so you can direct your intention at something. But prayers often feel alienating and dogmatic. The Amidah is the central prayer in Jewish teachings. Known as the standing prayer, the Amidah has a rhythm and ritual all unto itself. But looking for space for contemplation and thought can come in any format. Meditation can be paddling up an empty river, or running in circles or up an empty trail. It means something different to each of us. But for all, it’s a way of expressing our hopes and our wishes.

“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.” ~ John Lennon 4

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.�

~ Dalai Lama


Zmj bm book 03  
Zmj bm book 03