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Meet Jewish Gateways Participants Steve and Linda Wolan

Steve and Linda Wolan, who live in Berkeley and have two adult children, had come to Jewish Gateways High Holiday services for several years. Last year they decided to participate in Jewish Gateways' adult bar and bat mitzvah class. They wanted to learn more about their Jewish heritage and to encourage their granddaughetrs to have bat mitzvahs as well.


Steve grew up culturally Jewish in Chicago. At age 13 he  was relieved that his parents did not encourage him to have a bar mitzvah like all of his friends. However, as an adult he found himself wanting to know more, but worried that he would be judged by fellow Jews if he revealed his lack of Jewish knowledge.


Steve and Linda Wolan celebrate their bar and bat mitzvahs 

Steve was inspired to join the adult bar and bat mitzvah class because he found High Holiday services, led by Rabbi Bridget, created a community that was open, understanding, and caring.

I learned that acknowledging my lack of knowledge and finding a way to learn is an important life skill. Because of the non-judgmental attitude, I was able to participate and feel that my interpretation of the Torah passages were often perceptive and meaningful to me.

In contrast to her husband of 48 years, Linda, a real estate professional, never felt like she lacked Jewish knowledge. She had attended religious school for many years and celebrated Jewish holidays throughout the year. Her parents, who fled Germany to escape Nazi persecution, were founding members of a synagogue. For her, becoming bat mitzvah was about searching for deeper meaning. 

Participating in this year-long class has made me realize how much Jewish knowledge I already have, but I have seen this ceremony today is just the first step in the life-long process for me of learning about who I am as a Jew spiritually and continuing to study Torah.

Linda was also inspired by her mother, who had her bat mitzvah at age 60, and hopes her granddaughters, 18 months and 7 and 10 years old, will do so too when they become young adults.

I hope that they will follow in my footsteps as I follow my mother's lead. My tallit shows the four matriarchs, and I would love to pass this down to our granddaughters as a symbol of Jewish learning and family continuity.

Steve and Linda continue their learning in Jewish Gateways Torah for Everyone class, which Rabbi Bridget hosts. They also attend High Holiday services and bring their grandchildren to the family services.

You can learn more about what each of the Wolans discovered during their adult exploration of Judaism by reading the brief and moving talks each of them shared at their bar and bat mitzvah service. Steve's is here, and Linda's is here. Enjoy!

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