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Meet our Adult Bar and Bat Mitzvah Students 2015-2016 • 5776

and hear about their unique and inspiring Jewish journeys


Judy Gussman

I grew up in an atheist family, Jewish by descent and cultural proclivities. When I was 13, I had no interest in bat mitzvah, or Judaism. But, there was an empty space inside of me. It’s taken me until now, at age 72, to see if that empty space might be filled within the religion of my birth.

I initially decided to become bat mitzvah in honor of my ancestors, who through millennia had cared enough about being Jewish to not forsake it, even in times when life would have been much safer if they had.


Erik Kolacek


My name is Erik, and I'm an East Bay kid, born in the city of Oakland. 


I am Jewish on my mother's side, my maternal family having emigrated from the former Czechoslovakia during the years between 1900 and 1910. 


When I was a small child, my father was drafted and spent what felt to me like several years fighting in Vietnam. His absence put all of the responsibility for raising me onto my mother, who I bonded with intensely. 


Lauren Mizock


A central theme of my experience of Judaism has been feeling like I was never Jewish enough. My mother is Methodist. I didn't go to Hebrew school as a child. I married an agnostic man raised Catholic. At least a Jewish friend reassured me about this. He said, “Your husband is a doctor? You really are Jewish!” But I didn’t want my future children to feel the same inadequacy I felt without the matrilineal bloodline. So I decided to affirm my Judaism with our adult b’nei mitzvah group before starting a family.

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