Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lily's Bat Mitzvah

The weekend before last (July 12-13th), we headed off to Cloyne to celebrate our niece Lily's bat mitzvah. Some of you might be wondering "What's a bat mitzvah?" Others of you might be asking yourselves "Where's Cloyne?" Still others might be wondering how this event slipped through the blogging cracks. Read on, and all your questions will be answered...

First, a bit of religious context. I am going to explain most things as I go along, but I'm also sticking a few explanations at the end, to try and keep the sentences from getting too choppy. A bat mitzvah* is a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony, where a teenager (typically 12 or 13 years old) is welcomed as an adult member of the Jewish community. Now, this welcome is more symbolic than practical, since other "adult" pursuits like driving, voting, working, etc., are still a few years away. However, it is an important milestone, and an opportunity for the extended family and religious community to get together and celebrate. The bat mitzvah is also the first time that the person is called to read from the Torah**. This is a significant honour and, because the Torah is a) in Hebrew, b) written without vowels, and c) typically sung rather than simply read, also a significant challenge! Finally, the person usually gives a short reflection after the reading, and there is often some kind of party afterwards.

Now, on to the next question: "Where is Cloyne?" Now, some American readers might figure that, if only they had grown up in Canada, they would probably know where Cloyne was, and that Cloyne is probably the capital of Ontario or something. Well, it ain't. Cloyne is a tiny town about three hours north-east of Toronto, about an hour off Highway 401 (the major highway that goes from Toronto to Montreal). So, the natural follow-up question for you inquisitive blog-readers is "Why Cloyne?" It so happens that Cloyne is the town nearest to Camp Gesher, a Jewish summer camp that Lily has attended for the past few summers, and that her mom, Sarah (my sister) attended when she was a kid***. The camp emphasizes social justice values and a Zionist perspective, with a hearty dose of general camp chaos thrown into the mix. Most importantly, the camp is a place which has helped shape Lily's Jewish identity over the past few years and so, for a variety of reasons, this is where the bat mitzvah was held.

The reason this event slipped through the cracks is that Natasha took the camera with all the pictures with her to Saskatoon and I had a few other things to do.

And finally, oh ever-patient blog reader, you are probably asking yourself "Okay, okay, but what about the pictures!?!???" Never fear, there are pictures!
We arrived at our accommodations, Marble Lake Lodge, on Friday evening in time for supper. We were happy to reconnect with many of my far-flung aunts, uncles, grandpa and a cousin. We were also excited to introduce Rachel to them and reacquaint them with Sam, as many of them hadn't seen him since he was three months old.
The lake was just as picturesque in the morning as it has been the previous evening. After some frantic preparations, it was time to head off to Camp Gesher...
 The sign welcoming you to Camp Gesher
 An archway over the road leading to the camp
My dad with all of his siblings (and one of my cousins on the far left), who came from Los Angeles, Washington, DC and Ottawa.

After the family, guests and campers assembled at the beit tarbut (literally "house of culture", used for dances, plays, etc.), everyone processed down to the waterfront for the ceremony.
There was a small pool behind the tent where the bat mitzvah was held, and of course Sam and Rachel were fascinated by it. Fortunately, neither kid actually fell in...
 ... although Rachel certainly gave it a good shot!
 A picture showing the tent where the bat mitzvah was held.
My dad, mom, Lily, Grandpa, and Sarah

Following the bat mitzvah there was a lunch in the dining hall, and then we headed over to
Bon Echo provincial park for a boat tour in the afternoon.
 Bon Echo Park is on Mazinaw Lake, which is famous for its native pictographs...
 .. and also for its kayak-riding dogs (!).
 Rachel kept trying to get a closer look at the cliffs... or maybe trying to dive into the lake...?
 Some of the pictographs, showing various animals and spirits
Another view of the cliffs, which apparently were a popular subject for the Group of Seven, a group of famous Canadian painters.
Friends and family gathered for a dinner back at Marble Lake Lodge in the evening

Following dinner, there was a brief havdalah (end of the Sabbath) service at the camp, followed by a dance for the campers and guests. We chose to stay behind at the lodge, visiting with my aunts and uncles, chasing Sam and Rachel around, and packing to head out the next morning.

Finally, Sunday morning rolled around, we stumbled out of our beds bright and early, and managed (after a quick stop to say goodbye to my grandpa) to get on the road by 8:30. And so, after a surprisingly smooth trip down various Ontario highways, we made it to the Hamilton airport in plenty of time to get Natasha and the kids on a plane to Saskatoon.

* Literally "daughter of the commandment"; for a boy, the ceremony is a bar (son of) mitzvah
** The first five books of the Bible (Genesis to Exodus), hand-written in Hebrew on a long scroll. Here's a picture from Wikipedia, in case my attempt at explaining it isn't going too well...
*** In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I also attended this camp for a summer when I was nine. Although both Lily and Sarah loved it there, I did not have a particularly good time, and so did not return for any additional summers.


  1. So funny-- another of my blog friends FREQUENTLY goes to Bon Echo lake (and takes pictures and puts them on her blog)...when I saw your first picture of it, I was like 'WHY IS EVERY SINGLE LAKE IN CANADA SO DANG GORGEOUS??!?!'...only to discover it's the same one! Ha! So I feel a little bit better that perhaps there aren't hundreds of these ridiculously gorgeous lakes up there. But it is seriously gorgeous! And what a fun bat mitzvah weekend!

  2. Reminds me of a camp up in New Hampshire I was a camp counselor at a few summers in college. Very pretty!

  3. I love that she had her Bat Mitzvah as a camp! I used to love summers at camp, but never knew anyone who had a b'nai mitzvah there. I'd love to go back though, so I guess that just means I need to find a relative of mine, and get them to have their b'nai mitzvah at a camp so I can attend. Ha!


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