What is a Bat Mizvah?
What is a Bat Mizvah? Article and pictures by NYC lifestyle photographer Angela Cappetta.
Sophie’s mom, whose wedding, maternity, newborn, infant and other milestones I have shot, sent me an email. Sophie was turning thirteen. We all know what this means. So I had to saddle up and do it. My team was shooting a Bat Mitzvah in NY. Now, where to begin. The limitations of COVID notwithstanding, my advantage was that I know this family well. they are truly remarkable. It was clear to me that I was going to shoot this more like a family milestone, however, and less like an event.
Because of COVID there was to be no party. In other words, there was to be no party.
Obviously, I could not bring second shooters, assistants or techs. It was me and one grip. My cinematographer was working alone. Three of us in all. I didn’t know how it would work out, I just knew it would. Because it always does. We started off shooting footage and frames at the family townhouse. The mom and teen got ready together. Their doggo helped out by lying on my foot from time to time. My only request from the whole day was to shoot Sophie in her dress walking the dog before we all left for the Synagogue. She was happy to oblige.
Then we were all on to the Temple. I was not permitted anywhere but one area with a grand view of marble carvings. The Cantor and Rabbi were tiny in the frame. I knew it would add much needed literal depth of field to my assignment. A counterpoint to the intimacy of the townhouse. I loved it. By limiting my team to a balcony, they were giving us an opportunity to do something different. The staff was all so accommodating. They made sure we had everything we needed. They were just so happy for Sophie.
There were no congregants, just the immediate family, a few cousins and a handful of Sophie’s squad from her school. All wore masks and dolled up. They really showed up for their friend. These friends and family were so proud of her. The sanctuary at Temple Emanu-el is very beautiful. Sophie read the Torah as the Cantor’s and Rabbi’s voices echoed gorgeously around the room.
What is a Bat Mitzvah
Although I know what a Bat Mitzvah is, having seen two nieces experience one, I really didn’t know what it was like to shoot one. I am the only photographer in New York who has never shot a Bat or Bar Mitzvah. Until now.
So, what is a bat mitzvah? As per Jewish law, a girl makes her bat mitzvah 13, this is the norm for Reform Jews. Before the pre-teen reaches age 13, however, her parents hold the responsibility for their child’s actions within the community. During the ceremony, the parents give thanks to God and talk about their child’s attributes in the community. In other words, the child is now considered accountable for their actions from a faith perspective. After the ceremony within the temple, mitzvah’d children are said to now bear their own responsibility as per Jewish law, tradition, and ethics. Furthermore, they are able to participate more fully in their own Jewish life by being active members within their temple. The bat mitzvah is a stepping stone into maturity.
From my cinematographer who wore two masks and a visor:
“I think the main thing is that trying to keep safety in mind, I distanced myself more than may have been necessary under regular circumstances. Other than that, it didn’t affect how I packed my kit.”
On why he had two masks and a visor:
“I was being utterly safety conscious about being near people who weren’t in my family bubble. I doubled down”