Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Aging Studies

Major Professor

Cathy L. McEvoy, Ph.D.


Aging, Ritual, Epigenesis, Case study, Judaism


A growing number of Jewish women are participating in adult bat mitzvah ceremonies in many synagogues across the United States. Little is known about the reasons why women choose to participate in a bat mitzvah ritual as an adult. It is also unclear if women of different ages have different reasons for participating in bat mitzvah.Older women were often not given the opportunity to participate in the bat mitzvah ritual as a young adult, and it is unknown why older women choose to accept the challenge of bat mitzvah. It may be suspected that Jewish women are interested in adult bat mitzvah for a variety of reasons; it could be related to childhood experiences, identity concerns, learning opportunities, or any other number of reasons. Erikson's theory of human development was chosen to explore possible reasons why middle-aged and older women chose to participate in bat mitzvah as an adult because Jewish tradition views the bat mitzvah as a human development issue, and Er

ikson recognized the importance of ritual and religion in people's lives.An exploratory case study design used to gather a) interviews with middle-aged and older women who participated in bat mitzvah, b) interviews with their teachers, and c) information from the women's writings about their bat mitzvah experience. This research explored whether these women were using the bat mitzvah ritual to address life stage crises as delineated by Erikson's theory of human development. Analyses of data sources indicated that the majority of women were dealing with issues during their bat mitzvah experience that were consistent with the Erikson stage they were in, as well as revisiting earlier life stages, which is suggested by the concept of epigenesis as part of normal human development. Emergent themes also explored were the use of bat mitzvah as an aging ritual and conversion. Suggestions for further research include expansion of the interview protocol to include questions related to more

Erikson stages, and the examination of the role of additional Jewish rituals in human development.