Rite of passage

Ruth Nelson, Bela Nelson, Sam Lowery and Max Lowery with Hebrew tutor Skye Fischer (center) at Temple Adath Israel.
Ruth Nelson, Bela Nelson, Sam Lowery and Max Lowery with Hebrew tutor Skye Fischer (center) at Temple Adath Israel.

When a Jewish girl reaches the age of 12 and a half, she is considered to be a daughter (bat) of the Commandment (mitzvah). A boy becomes a bar or son of the Commandment when he reaches the age of 13.

This means the child is ready to become a full-fledged member of the Jewish community, accepting the responsibility of learning and keeping Jewish law and tradition.

The rite of passage is often commemorated at a ceremony in the synagogue, where the young men and women participate in a worship service that requires him or her to read from the Torah, the Jewish Bible. Because the Torah is written in Hebrew, many girls getting ready for their bat mitzvah need to learn this ancient language.

Skye Fischer, 30, who works full time for satellite telecommunications company ViaSat Inc., helps bat mitzvah and bar mitzvah candidates prepare for this unique experience by tutoring them in Hebrew and serving as their mentor.

She was teaching Sunday school for middle school students at Temple Adath Israel when a family asked her to help their son learn Hebrew for his upcoming bar mitzvah. Since then, she has worked with a number of students, both boys and girls. She approaches her lessons in a spirit of fun, using games and readings.

Love of teaching

“I know Hebrew is a very hard language and it’s got a reputation of being so elusive,” said Skye, who has studied in Israel. “It’s easily accessible to anybody if you have the right person who can make it accessible. I love teaching it.”

While studying Hebrew and learning about Judaism, Skye and her students also discuss what it truly means to be a bat mitzvah and what they are doing on their mitzvah journey. They often have wonderful conversations about spiritual questions: Is there a God? Does the soul exist? What is prayer?

“It’s really cool to have these conversations with kids these ages because they are still young enough to be like a sponge,” Skye said. “We talk about things they can’t talk about to anybody else.”

There is always a moment when the students’ hard work begins to show results. “They start out slow and then all of a sudden it just clicks,” she said.

Skye sees the girls she tutors blossom into young women during their time together. They become more aware of their appearance and deportment and more mindful about the way they treat other people. They also grow in confidence.

“It’s beautiful to see,” Skye said.

At the ceremony, Skye feels as proud as a coach whose athlete wins an Olympic gold medal.

“I always cry,” she said. “I consider it an honor and a blessing to be part of it.”

To find out more about learning Hebrew, visit Hebrew Tutoring for All Ages at