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Meet Jewish Gateways Participant Joan Leavitt

Joan Leavitt is excited to celebrate her adult bat mitzvah on Saturday, June 29.


Finally this year I decided to participate in the Adult Bar and Bat Mitzvah class and to honor myself –- to grant myself something I literally have wanted for the past 51 years. My experience in the class has far outweighed my expectations. It has renewed my interest in Judaism in an adult way. I am learning, I am asking questions which have been with me for decades that I never before felt I had a place to ask and discuss where I feel valued no matter what I do or do not believe.  


Joan always loved Jewish rituals and traditions. She grew up in Cleveland where she attended a Conservative synagogue. She was the president of her Jewish youth group, participated in B'nai B'rith Girls, went to the Jewish Community Center's overnight camp and then became a counselor there. In college she briefly thought about becoming a rabbi. However, she says:

Joan Leavitt and husband_edited.jpg

Kearry O'Brien and Joan Leavitt 

I also felt somewhat torn; I experienced a strong pull to learn about the diversity of cultures in our world. So I stepped away and began my exploration.  


Today Joan and her husband of 31 years, Kearry, live in Livermore with two dogs and a cat. Their daughter Anna studies kinesiology at San Diego State University. Joan works in real estate and is building a business with Primerica.

Joan continued going to High Holiday services with a great friend from Cleveland.

We found Jewish Gateways High Holiday services and decided to give them a try. We have been back twice. I love the feeling that all are welcome as well as the inclusion of ritual and tradition, new and old. Rabbi Bridget is a true permission giver. My Jewish experience included guilt and shame, and to have someone giving me permission –- let alone a rabbi -- has been huge for me.  

Following her bat mitzvah, Joan plans to continue with Torah study. She's excited to join the Torah for Everyone class since exploring the Torah was one of her favorite parts of her bat mitzvah studies.  


I also told Rabbi Bridget that I love working with Hebrew and learning to understand what I am reading. She suggested finding a chevruta, a buddy with whom to pursue that, and I'd like to.  


My favorite thing I have learned this year is the Jewish tenet of welcoming the stranger. Jewish Gateways does exactly that. I am so grateful to have found it and I look forward to more. Thank you Rabbi Bridget and Jewish Gateways!

Joan will celebrate her adult bat mitzvah on Saturday, June 29, with three others, each of whom will share how they have connected to meaningful Jewish tradition as adults. Being there is interesting and moving whether or not you know the bar and bat mitzvahs.

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