At Los Angeles Jewish Health, B'not Mitzvah to Remember
Connections to Care Mobile Hero
Home / News & Events / Newsletter / At Los Angeles Jewish Health, B'not Mitzvah to Remember

At Los Angeles Jewish Health, B'not Mitzvah to Remember

Jan 31, 2023
Casey Joseph, Judith Karon, Marcia Mass and Sue Solender with Rabbi Ron Goldberg
Judith Karon, Casey Joseph, Marcia Mass and Sue Solender with Rabbi Ron Goldberg

The great dramatist and author George Bernard Shaw famously declared that "Youth is wasted on the young." But Shaw clearly never met the residents of Los Angeles Jewish Health, whose incredible energy, dynamism, and desire to learn prove it's always a good time to engage in a journey of self-discovery.

Last month, four Los Angeles Jewish Health residents celebrated their b'not mitzvah. In a ceremony typically celebrated by 12 or 13 year olds, the 4 women stood in front of their community at Eisenberg Village to read from the Torah and offer their interpretations of its text, in the process honoring the faith of their forebearers and affirming their commitment to Jewish peoplehood.

For Casey Joseph, Judith Karon, Marcia Mass and Sue Solender, deciding to study for an adult bat mitzvah required a leap of faith on multiple levels.

"Whether you're a teenager or a woman somewhat past that, it takes a lot of courage to stand up in front of family and friends and chant words in an unfamiliar language, becoming links in a chain that extends all the way back to Mt. Sinai," says Rabbi Ron Goldberg, rabbi of Los Angeles Jewish Health's Eisenberg Village campus. "I am just thrilled for these women, whose determination and hard work were on display for everyone to see."

Rabbi Goldberg officiated at the ceremony, the outgrowth of an adult b'nai mitzvah program he put together with Chief Mission Officer for Los Angeles Jewish Health Rabbi Karen Bender. He says most female residents of Los Angeles Jewish Health never had the opportunity to read from the Torah as young adults—and that he and Rabbi Bender are thrilled to help them engage with Jewish liturgy and tradition.

"Today our female residents—who as girls may have been denied a chance to do what their male counterparts were doing—get to stand up and speak for themselves," Rabbi Goldberg says.

Marcia Mass with President-CEO Dale Surowitz
Marcia Mass with President-CEO Dale Surowitz

Making her own decisions about what she could do was particularly important to

Casey Joseph, 69, a native of Pittsburgh who moved to Los Angeles with her family

when she was 11. "I was always interested in learning about Judaism, but I was always

told ‘no' because it was something reserved for boys," she says. "I never stopped

thinking about it and knew it would be important for me to do at some point. Being

at Los Angeles Jewish Health, I realized now was my moment, and I reached out and

grabbed it."

Sue Solender, 80, felt similarly. "When I was in grade school, the Jewish community in my hometown of Minneapolis built a Hebrew school, and I wanted to go, but my mother told me I couldn't," she says. "So, I waited and waited, and once I arrived at Los Angeles Jewish Health, I decided that, if they ever had an adult bat mitzvah study group, that would be a sign."

For Marcia Mass, 81, the bat mitzvah was a chance to connect with her roots. "My parents moved out to Los Angeles to get away from the orthodoxy of my father's family, so they were not religious, and we never did anything special to mark the holidays," she recalls. "When I had my own daughters, I decided it was important for them to be raised as Jews and to learn about their culture, and both of them had bat mitzvahs."

Yet, Marcia never fully explored her own Judaism, and Los Angeles Jewish Health opened her up to the possibility. "I studied hard, and I'm so thrilled it came together and that I was able to share it with three other strong women," she says. "It was a marvelous experience."

Casey Joseph with Chairman Andrew Berman
Casey Joseph with Chairman Andrew Berman

This was the second adult bat mitzvah for Judith Karon, 83. In 1995, she studied with her rabbi in Duluth, Minnesota, and took advantage of the bat mitzvah event as an occasion to have a family reunion. "People came from all over the country, and I did the whole thing: Torah reading, haftorah, big party with music. It was special. But this time, at Los Angeles Jewish Health, it was much more spiritually significant to me," Judith says.

"Part of what was so wonderful was that the four of us developed a closeness as we learned and prepared together," she continues. "Also, when I got up in front of the congregation, I saw the place was packed, and I was just blown away. All of our friends were there, and our fellow residents, and the staff, and even the chairman of the board of directors and the CEO."

During the ceremony, Los Angeles Jewish Health CEO and President Dale Surowitz presented the b'not mitzvah with Kiddush cups; Andrew Berman, chairman of Los Angeles Jewish Health's board, handed out commemorative certificates to mark the occasion. Their presence was just one of the many things that made the warmth and excitement in the room that day palpable, Judith says. "There was just this incredible sense of community. You really had to be there to experience it!"

Sign up for the LAJHealth Newsletter, Connections.

Recent Articles

Feb 6

At Los Angeles Jewish Health Love Knows No Bounds

When 94-year-old Jack Schlaifer agreed to officiate at the wedding of his grandniece, Alison, and her fiancé, Daniel, he was building on a family tradition: months earlier, he had performed the marriage ceremony for Alison’s father (his nephew Charles) in the backyard of his Westlake Village home. Jack was honored when Alison asked him to do the honors for her wedding as well. They laid out plans for a similar ceremony, in the same venue, on New Year’s Day—until life got in the way. “In November, I had a fall, and I fractured my L5 [a region between the lumbar and sacral spine in the lower back],” Jack says. “Suddenly, I was living in a rehabilitation facility, and all bets were off. I called Alison and told her, ‘You can’t count on me for the wedding.’ I was sad about it, but what could I do?” Alison knew exactly what he should do: proceed full steam ahead. "She said, “Uncle Jack, I don’t care where you are; I want you to marry us. We’ll come to wherever you are!’” he recalls. “I was incredibly moved.” All that was left was to coordinate with the staff at Los Angeles Jewish Health. LAJH is a place that Jack, a native Angeleno who had raised his family in the Valley, had long known and loved. “I joined The Guardians (a support group of LAJH) in 1980, and when they formed The Executives, I was a founding member and, later, president,” he said. “I served on The Executives’ board for 30 years.” Jack reached out to Los Angeles Jewish Health staff, and everyone enthusiastically leaned in to ensure all details were arranged. On January 1, 2024, in a cozy family room on the Grancell Village campus, Jack gathered together with Alison, Daniel, and an intimate group of family to give the couple his blessing and pronounce them “man and wife.” “It was an amazing wedding, and it brought me a lot of naches [joy],” Jack says, smiling. “After it was over, the family went for sandwiches to Brent’s Deli, which is Alison and Daniel’s favorite place. It was perfect.” Once the ceremony was complete, it was back to the hard work of rehab. Every day Jack has both physical and occupational therapy, and every day he gets a little bit stronger. While the road to recovery is long, he is grateful to be walking it at Los Angeles Jewish Health. “I’m lucky to be here,” he says. “The care is wonderful, and the people are great.”
Read More
Feb 6

Special Intergenerational Program Honors Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Spirit of Coming Together for the Greater Good

Members of the Jewish and African-American communities have long found solidarity in common purpose, with a history of teaming up toward the pursuit of equal rights. As the New Year began, two diverse community groups gathered at Los Angeles Jewish Health to remember the legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while continuing to build toward a unified future. They literally came together to break bread. In collaboration with Challah and Soul, a program that seeks to educate and unite the Jewish and Black communities, high school students from Adat Ari El congregation traveled to Los Angeles Jewish Health for an adventure in baking and storytelling. During the fascinating intergenerational event, LA Jewish Health residents shared memories of Dr. King as they worked side-by-side with the students to braid loaves of challah. The result: a wonderful afternoon of raising awareness, passing along a beloved Jewish tradition, and fostering strong intergenerational bonds. “The students arrived with smiles and great energy,” says Susan Leitch, community manager and safety officer at Los Angeles Jewish Health and a key organizer of the event. “It was wonderful to see them interact with our seniors.” Created by Shonda Isom Walkowitz, the founder of Bucks Happy Farm in the Lucerne Valley, and Judi Leib, a chef and veteran of the food services industry, Challah and Soul was built on a mutual interest in helping Blacks and Jews rediscover the things that make them natural allies. As challah dough was passed to the assembled residents and students, Judi spoke about the importance of food in uniting diverse people, and Shonda offered her thoughts about the similarities between the Black and Jewish experiences. “This event showcased how much wisdom and perspective LA Jewish Health seniors can offer to the broader community,” Julie Lockman-Gold, special projects coordinator at Los Angeles Jewish Health, says. “Especially during a time of rising anti-Semitism, our residents have a lot to say about inequality, injustice, and racism. Giving them an opportunity to be heard – and for students to learn from their experiences – was truly meaningful.” The event drew a large turnout of residents from Grancell Village’s Mark Taper Building and Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center, as well as 20 Adat Eri El students and some of their family members. “Watching them partner to make the challah, you could see the joy on everyone’s faces,” Julie recalls. “When the bread was done baking, the smell was amazing, and people were so excited to dig in!” By the end of the afternoon, the happiness and contentment that filled the room were clear indications of the event’s success. It was a feeling shared by all participants. Julie added, “As the students were leaving, Adat Ari El’s program director, Sara Markus, told me she’s already thinking about doing it again next year!”
Read More
Jan 24

Inaugural Classic & Exotic Car Show

Hirsch Family Campus No charge to supporters of LAJH RSVP Here
Read More