It was my daughter’s bat mitzvah last week. 

Nina Manolson
(Courtesy Nina Manolson)

We had the most wonderful celebration and deep, heartfelt ritual!

As part of the ceremony, I spoke what was in my heart and mind to Ruby on this special day. When I was done, one of my dear friends came up to me and said, “You have to share that speech on your blog. Every woman—young or old, Jewish or not—needs to hear those words.”

So…even though it feels a bit vulnerable because these are my personal words to my daughter, here they are.

This is what I most wanted Ruby to know on her bat mitzvah—and it’s really what I want all women to know.

I talked to Ruby about being a powerful woman, and the five things it takes to be a powerful woman in this world.

I hope you find it valuable and inspiring too!

Here it is:

This past Monday night, the four of us were sitting down for dinner and we were chatting about the bat mitzvah. We were going over the details and what still needed to be done. I mentioned I still needed to write what I was going to say during the service.

Ruby said: “Seriously, Mom, the bat mitzvah is this Saturday and you haven’t written a thing!”

I said no, I haven’t written anything because there’s really only ONE thing I want to say to you on your bat mitzvah day.

Really, just one thing.

Then—and here’s the advantage of having kids who are writers—they told me to just say what I really wanted to say right up front, and then explain exactly why this is the most important thing for me to say to you today.

So, with much appreciation to my kids for structuring my speech, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

bat mitzvah candle
(Courtesy Nina Manolson)

Here’s what I really want to say today—to you, Ruby:

  • Never stop speaking your truth
  • Never stop saying what you mean
  • Never stop writing your life, your thoughts and your feelings
  • Never stop dancing, your passion and beauty
  • Never stop expressing your vision
  • Never ever stop being loud and proud about your opinions

Ruby, most people in this world take a while to find their voice, to figure out what they think and how they want to express it, but that’s never been you.

You’ve always been opinionated; you’ve always had a voice. A clear voice, and a clear point of view.

And absolutely, sometimes it feels a bit intense, and there have been times when I’ve shushed you or tried to have you look at things from a rosier perspective. But even in those moments, when I’ve wished that your perception of the world wasn’t so astute and acute, I celebrate you and applaud you.

I take deep pride that you say what you think and feel, that you rant, that you complain, that you say what you want and need.

You are your own young woman.

There’s something very cool that you embody, which is a powerful femininity and a fierce strength, and I want to champion and support you in having both. I love that you embrace all things girly and all things powerful.

Ballet seems like the perfect metaphor here—a very apt analogy for you, of course.

But it’s kind of like how people can get fooled by the grace and femininity of ballet dancing. They think it’s such a delicate art form and yet nothing could be farther from the truth. It takes huge strength, hard work and a tenacity to be a ballet dancer.

You are a strong dancer, my girl—on stage and in life.

And of the many things I could be talking to you about today, I want to talk to you about your strength and your voice.

And in addition to reflecting back to you what I see, I want to offer you five things to take with you as you go through life as a powerful woman.

Ruby Manolson
(Courtesy Nina Manolson)

One is community.

To walk this world as a powerful woman, we need support; we need community. And I want you to look out right now. Just take a moment and look out. This is your support; this is your community.

Just pause for a moment—and check out this amazing gathering of people—that have come for you.

Family, old friends, dear friends, school friends, dance friends, Hebrew school friends, mentors. This is quite a crew, right?

It’s kind of like last night at Shabbat services, when the rabbi asked you and your tribe to come up to light the candles, and there you were with 20 people standing by you and behind you.

We will always be standing by you and behind you.

The second thing I want to give you is actually something you’ve already claimed formally for yourself today, and that is your identity as a bat mitzvah—a daughter of the commandments—a woman with a Jewish heritage and Jewish identity.

This is something you’re already stepped into with such grace, but I want you to know there’s so much more for you here in this world of spirit and deep tradition. You have a whole spiritual journey ahead of you. And the cool thing is, you get to explore and discover what deeply enriches you, what lights you up and what connects you to your unique definition of God, Spirit, Shechina, Adonai.

There’s no right way to do this spiritual journey of life, but this temple—the amazing leadership that has been here for you with Rabbi Cari, Rabbi Rim and Beth, your amazing Hebrew school friends, our special experiences at Mayyim Hayiim, your own depth and curiosity—these will all guide you well.

The third thing I want you to have in your life as a powerful woman is compassion. Compassion for others, as well as deep compassion for yourself.

I loved that you talked today about how everyone needs to be allowed to make mistakes. Because inherent in that permission to be truly human is compassion—understanding that we’re not perfect, and we deserve to be treated with kindness, tenderness and care.

I know you set a high bar for yourself in life. You do a lot of things really well, but I ask you to hold those high expectations in one hand, and in the other I want you to hold an equal, if not more, amount of self-compassion. I want you to be kind with yourself.

The fourth thing I want to offer you today is something that I want you to give yourself, and that is vulnerability. And that’s because when you are vulnerable—when you let life in and really let it touch you at your core, and you let your self, your authentic self, out, in all of its realness—it’s exquisite.

I feel very privileged to be let in to this inner, vulnerable world of yours, and your writing has let other people in as well. I just want you to know that your vulnerability, you being real, is very, very powerful.

The last thing I want to offer you today has always been yours and will always be yours—and that’s me.

I want you to know in your journey of life that I am always on your side. Always. Even when we’re cranky with each other, I lose patience, you lose patience, I’m here. There’s always somewhere to land and just be without being “on.” I’m right here for you.

My dear little, big, powerful, fierce and beautiful girl.

I am very proud of you and just want to reflect back to you that.

There is power in you.

There is wisdom in you.

Yes, I know it will grow and evolve, but I don’t want you to wait ‘til it’s all “just so” to share it with the world. I want you to take the wise words that you shared today about letting yourself make mistakes and go out and give the world the gift of your power.

I don’t even care what format it takes.

Whether it’s your dance, your writing, your YouTube channel idea, anything.

Just keep sharing what is real for you.

I want you to be the powerful woman that you are.

And to you, who is reading this, I want you to be the powerful Jewish woman that YOU are.

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