This article aims to form a conversation between conceptual history and anthropological history, taking bat mitzvah, the coming-of-age ceremony for Jewish girls, as a test case. The term is shown to have two main conceptual meanings: first, the new religious status that a Jewish girl acquires—that of an adult obligated by the precepts of Jewish law—and second, the event or ritual marking this milestone. The close examination of the concept’s various meanings in different Jewish languages tracks its development from its hesitant beginnings in the nineteenth century to its emergence as a key concept that refers to a central ceremony in the Jewish world of the twentieth century. From that point, the article follows the two lexical paths that bat mitzvah has traveled, in the United States and in Israel, and highlights a basic anthropological difference in the ceremony’s social function.
Two Lexical Paths and Two Jewish Identities
Urban Zionism in Early Hebrew Cinema
The Zionist ethos is commonly described as pro-rural and anti-urban, with the imagined Zionist space perceived as being rural and the Zionist drama as a reflection of the life of the pioneers in Palestine. Recent studies of early Hebrew cinema shared this view. This article analyzes two Jewish films from inter-war Palestine, Vayehi Bimey (In the Days of Yore) (1932, Tel Aviv) and Zot Hi Ha'aretz (This Is the Land) (1935, Tel Aviv), to suggest a more complex view of the Zionist ethos and spatial imagery in the context of the relationship between the urban and the rural. A thematic and formal analysis of the films shows their sources of Soviet influence and reveals the presentation of the city as a nationalist space.