Hi, my name is Kate and I’m Jarrah’s mum.

And before I start, I’d just like to say how much I enjoyed listening to you all speak today and how beautiful you look.

As Jarrah said before in her speech, our family lives on an organic farm about an hour and a half away from here. Because we live so far away from Melbourne the decision to let Jarrah do a Bat Mitzvah class each week was one we had to think about. Why should we take her all the way to Melbourne on a five-hour round trip each week? What did we hope she’d gain from it? And how did we think it might help her in the future?

I guess the decision-making process was made simpler because Jarrah’s big sister Indi did her Batmitzvah here a few years ago and got so much out of it. And also, although our family live far away from a Jewish community, we are still Jewish and we want our kids to grow up and know about Judaism. We want them to feel like they are part of a Jewish community even if they don’t live close to it and, most importantly, we want them to have a Jewish identity and values.

So every Wednesday I finish my work on the farm a little bit early, I have a shower, change into my Melbourne clothes and I drive into the nearby town to pick Jarrah up from school. After about ten minutes of packing up, chatting with friends and getting her bag, we hit the road for the big drive. On the way we listen to music while Jarrah tells me about her day. Later, on the drive home, there’s always lots to discuss. She tells me about the theme of the afternoon and what activities she did and then we talk about it and dissect it all the way home.

It’s a huge afternoon for both of us but I always get this feeling as we are driving through the forest to our farm that I’m bringing home a different girl to the one I left with; someone with more knowledge, more depth and more compassion. I guess it’s all part of this rite of passage year. This time in your lives that marks the end of something and the beginning of something else.

This whole year’s Bat Mitzvah program has been about learning about your religion and your history and culture from your elders. It has been about finding your own place. It has been about supporting and acknowledging you as an individual and as part of a community and hopefully giving you a sense of belonging.

From the discussions about inner beauty, to the baking and giving of the challah, from the celebrations of chaggim to bearing witness to the stories and experiences of a Holocaust survivor, from practicing Shabbat to visiting a mikva. In amongst the laughter and fun, all of these lessons have been leading up to this moment, your Batmitzvah.

In Hebrew, Bat Mitzvah literally means the daughter of a mitzvah, daughter of the commandments. Officially, today is the day when you are considered to be an adult in Judaism. Before, you were a kid and your parents were responsible for you, but now you are responsible for yourself.

I’m not so sure that you need to take on all that being an adult entails just yet, but I do think that this is a very important and special moment in your lives. We are here to witness your first steps into womanhood. We are here to support you as this big wide world opens up to you and we are here to encourage your unique talents and gifts.

Just as people from our Jewish religion and cultures all over the world have been doing for thousands of years.

Ok, so for the past 15 years our family has lived in Daylesford but when I was your age I lived in Melbourne and, like most of you, I went to a Jewish school and learnt Hebrew and about biblical times. And when it was time for my Batmitzvah I stood up on the stage with the 80 girls in my year, all of us wearing white drop waist dresses, all of us wearing white ballet flats and all of us with our hair half-up half-down. We recited prayers, we sang songs, we did Israeli dances and we did some readings. As far as I can remember there was not one single point in the ceremony where I spoke alone, nor was there any time when I could express myself as an individual with opinions.

I think that one of the main reasons we in our family really love the chabad bat mitzvah program is that not only does it teach girls about Judaism and prepare you for Jewish adulthood; it also treats you as individuals where your opinions and personalities are valued and encouraged. In teaching you about the rich heritage you have inherited, the chabad program aims to help create young women who are more able to navigate a confusing world, more confident in who they are and where they’ve come from.

I think that going forth from here as young women that it is important to feel strong in your self and your beliefs. Just as you’re not wearing the same dress as the girls next to you – like I had to – you also won’t feel the same as her in different situations that you’ll come across in your life. That’s what makes you special. I hope you can hold onto that specialness in the future and use it to stand up for what you believe in and to help you find your way in the world.

I also hope that your lives are filled with love. I hope you find things that you absolutely love to do and get to do them often. I hope you find a bunch of people to love you and support you and make you laugh. I hope that you find some amazing people to love. I hope your love is fierce and that at times it knocks your socks off.

I think this is such an exciting time in your lives and I know that I speak for everyone here when I wish you a massive mazel tov.