The Women Who Came Before

The Women Who Came Before2022-09-13T11:04:16+00:00
Your bat mitzvah year is an opportunity for strengthening family ties, deepening connections, and learning more about yourself. It is a year in which you can look inside you and around you, giving thought to who you are and what your place is within the Jewish community.

How do you picture your bat mitzvah? A party with dancing? A challenge or adventure? An event in a synagogue or with a community of women? Maybe you’d like to integrate a number of elements: an expedition, a speech given at a place that has meaning to you? Whom would you like to celebrate with? Your mother and sisters? Close friends? Women who are important in your life? All of your friends and relatives? Perhaps you’d like to celebrate with all of your friends and relatives? Is there a subject that you want to delve into to prepare for your bat mitzvah? Do you want to learn a Torah portion (parasha), a halakhic question, a religious text, or a philosophical idea? Do you want to share what you’ve learned with guests at an event?

The book The Women Who Came Before helps you find your own way to celebrate your bat mitzvah. The book contains dozens of ideas for subjects to study, places to see, and activities that can connect you to your community. You may want to take ideas from different ceremonies and build an event that is tailor-made for you or you may choose an entire ritual described in the book. And each activity in the book revolves around one unique and inspirational Jewish woman from the distant or recent past.

The Women Who Came Before (“עכשיו תורך“in Hebrew) is a book designed for bat mitzvah girls. In it, you will meet dozens of Jewish role models and learn about the ways in which they realized their own dreams. Pick and choose from possibilities for ceremonies, rituals, journeys, and subjects to study following the women’s lives and personalities.

“The women described in the book are part of a long list that I chose from after many deliberations. I selected them because of their actions, but also because of the way they touched my heart. Inspired by them, you can return to ancient traditions or create new ones, you can adopt practices from different communities, you can select old prayers or integrate literary or poetic works that speak to you. It’s your turn!”

Maybe you’d like to learn more about the history of crypto-Judaism and women’s role in preserving Jewish tradition after reading about Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi. Or visit a district courthouse or the Supreme Court in the spirit of Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Miriam Ben-Porat. Maybe you’d like to walk a path that Naomi Shemer walked on the day of her bat mitzvah or plan a spy game following in the footsteps of Yehudit Nisayho, a Mossad agent who took part in capturing Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann. Or you may want to adopt an Italian custom that celebrates Deborah the prophetess. The options are endless, and you have the opportunity, during this exciting year, to craft the celebration that connects you to the Jewish community, to sources, and to yourself. In the spirit of these exemplary women, you can chart your own course.

A few months before I turned twelve, my parents and I discussed how to celebrate the special occasion. In advance of my bat mitzvah, my father built a bigger Sukkah than usual to hold all of our guests. Working with my parents, I prepared a challenging “treasure hunt” with tasks and riddles. My extended family—grandmothers Hannah and Rosa and relatives from around the country—came for the occasion and we ran from station to station in the fields around our home. Afterwards, we all gathered, happy and hungry, under the aromatic roof of our decorated Sukkah, and enjoyed the delicious treats that had been prepared by my mother and aunts. I was the eldest daughter, and with this event my parents, Miriam and Menashe Mashiach, both educators who had never seen bat mitzvah celebrations in their own families, created a ritual framework that has followed the family until today.

The event left me with happy memories, which always arose before my daughters’, family members’, and community’s bat mitzvahs. I discovered that I have a special place in my heart for bat mitzvah girls, and the subject stirs curiosity, excitement, and a desire to help in me. 

The book The Women Who Came Before has already been published in Hebrew and is currently being translated into English.

Makor Rishon, December 13, 2021 (Hebrew):

“In contrast with boys, who have a ceremony that revolves around the synagogue and being called to the Torah, the ceremony for growing up for girls has nothing structured…. [The] book…suggests a variety of ways to make the bat mitzvah year into a significant process and unforgettable experience.” See the article here


Haaretz, December 30, 2021 (Hebrew):

“What makes this book unique is that alongside presenting 71 inspirational women who are tied to Jewish heritage and culture in the present and past, the author encourages the reader to find a connection between herself and the figure…and ties it to a period that is meaningful in the formation of identity—the age of mitzvot…. Unfortunately, the stories of many inspirational and groundbreaking women have not entered the collective consciousness and are not taught in history books.” See the article here


News1, December 8, 2021 (Hebrew):

“Lavie chose well, having decided to give space to many women, 71 in all, inspirational women who serve as models not only for the bat mitzvah but for her mother and father.” See the article here 


This is a book with tremendous value for those at the bat mitzvah juncture, but also generally for anyone who is on a journey and wants to infuse content and meaning into life’s journey. Aliza Lavie weaves stories of inspirational women with skill, talent, and love. This book is a beautiful and important gift.

–Hili Tropper, Minister of Culture and Sport


An interesting and colorful book, written in flowing language, allowing mothers and bat mitzvah-aged daughters to enjoy a rich, shared experience and learn about inspirational women in a variety of fields.

–Nurit Dabush, Former Chair of the Council of the Second Authority for Television and Radio


Well done! A wonderful gift for a bat mitzvah. Indeed it is a journey in the footsteps of a variety of women in our tradition; you have given them a voice. Highly recommended for reading in advance of a bat mitzvah and beyond.

–Oshra Koren, Head of Matan HaSharon Women’s Institute for Torah Studies


Congratulations on the interesting and lovely book. You have found another important channel for presenting the heroines of the Jewish nation to young girls. I am confident that the book will be welcomed by the young girls and certainly by their mothers.

Prof. Margalit Shilo


A few months before the bat mitzvah of my daughter Noa I felt that I could not move toward the event…. By chance (or not), I happened to sit with the wonderful Anat Zwebner at the bat mitzvah of a neighbor, and she asked me how I had celebrated my bat mitzvah.

My hesitation in answering led her to understand that something was missing. I told her that I had not celebrated my bat mitzvah because I was born fourteen months after my brother and my bat mitzvah was close to his bar mitzvah; my parents had decided that it was too much. Anat answered that the situation must be rectified and thus I found myself celebrating my bat mitzvah at age 35 with a cake, friends, a dvar Torah, and a gift of hand cream.

This memory flooded me this week when I was privileged to sit at the launch of Aliza Mashiach Lavie’s new book at an event where I understood, again, how much my story was part of a historical tapestry of celebrations or the absence of celebrations of bat mitzvahs for Jewish girls, how the ceremony is not “built in” to the Jewish lifecycle, how hard we must work to create it as a significant event for our daughters.

It goes without saying that after I celebrated, I became unstuck, and Noa’s bat mitzvah was celebrated full-heartedly, further driving home that need for the significant milestone that this birthday makes possible.

Aliza, in her new book, has done this for us; she has collected stories, ceremonies, and sites through 71 significant Jewish women so that we can say: It’s our turn.

–Dr. Michal Prins, CEO, Yahel Center


Flipping through the book, it opened randomly on the page of Schwester Selma, the compassionate, mythological nurse who ran the Shaare Zedek hospital alongside Dr. Wallach.

This week marks 28 years since my grandmother Yaffa Brick, whom I was very close with, passed away. She was one of the first students of Selma Mayer, who founded the training and the field of nursing in pre-State Israel. Savta Yaffa was a diligent student in nursing school and a devoted and professional nurse with the patients and staff at Shaare Zedek. The stories of the high bar set by Schwester Selma that I grew up on were filled with warmth, love, unwavering professionalism, and rare humility. Schwester (nurse in German) was an influential role model in Savta Yaffa’s path of giving and her career. Near age 90, when she passed away, her granddaughter Hadar was born; today she is a nurse in the maternity ward at Hadassah Medical Center’s Ein Kerem campus. Sweet apples fall very, very close…

Schwester is one of 71 women who appear in the book Akhshav Torekh, which calls up an experiential journey between inspirational women who walked among us in the past and today serve as an opportunity for introspection and forming a personal path in Israel’s geographical and cultural space throughout the land.

Thank you, Aliza, for this important gift.

–Sharon Brick Deshen, Executive Director, Kolech


We began to read a chapter with our daughter every few days, and it just sticks, and also stirs her curiosity to know more of the figures. From the book, we move to Wikipedia and the internet, and the journey doesn’t end.

A wonderful book, not only for bat mitzvah girls.

In our family, it’s already been bought for the grandmothers…

Thank you, Aliza.

–Elyashiv Reichner, Journalist


My daughter (age 11) received it two days ago and can’t put it down…. She’s already debating which of the women whom she can’t stop reading about is the most impressive, who she should continue to research (right now, 70 percent of them cannot be given up; we may need to filter a little more).

Highly recommended!


I remember my bat mitzvah only vaguely.

I was born in the winter.

I received a green coat, a red umbrella, and brown boots (in truth, I was very happy with them).

I asked my sisters today whether they remember their bat mitzvahs, and they said no.

I wish there had been this type of preparation in my generation, and someone would have thought of me, when it was my turn.

My class went to visit Masada (which I missed, because my parents hadn’t paid).

And today I met Aliza and bought her book for the daughter of a beloved friend.

And the book was so moving that I found myself eagerly turning page after page.

It was difficult to pick one figure as a model.

I finally picked Dona Gracia, the “queen of the Jews.”

I am sitting here tearing up.

Aliza Mashiach Lavie, thank you.

“Sister, may you grow into thousands of myriads” (Gen. 24:60).

–Yaara Shilo, Expert in Early Childhood, Efrata College of Education

Your bat mitzvah year is an opportunity for strengthening family ties, deepening connections, and learning more about yourself. It is a year in which you can look inside you and around you, giving thought to who you are and what your place is within the Jewish community.

How do you picture your bat mitzvah? A party with dancing? A challenge or adventure? An event in a synagogue or with a community of women? Maybe you’d like to integrate a number of elements: an expedition, a speech given at a place that has meaning to you? Whom would you like to celebrate with? Your mother and sisters? Close friends? Women who are important in your life? All of your friends and relatives? Perhaps you’d like to celebrate with all of your friends and relatives? Is there a subject that you want to delve into to prepare for your bat mitzvah? Do you want to learn a Torah portion (parasha), a halakhic question, a religious text, or a philosophical idea? Do you want to share what you’ve learned with guests at an event?

The book The Women Who Came Before helps you find your own way to celebrate your bat mitzvah. The book contains dozens of ideas for subjects to study, places to see, and activities that can connect you to your community. You may want to take ideas from different ceremonies and build an event that is tailor-made for you or you may choose an entire ritual described in the book. And each activity in the book revolves around one unique and inspirational Jewish woman from the distant or recent past.

The Women Who Came Before (“עכשיו תורך” in Hebrew) is a book designed for bat mitzvah girls. In it, you will meet dozens of Jewish role models and learn about the ways in which they realized their own dreams. Pick and choose from possibilities for ceremonies, rituals, journeys, and subjects to study following the women’s lives and personalities.

The women described in the book are part of a long list that I chose from after many deliberations. I selected them because of their actions, but also because of the way they touched my heart. Inspired by them, you can return to ancient traditions or create new ones, you can adopt practices from different communities, you can select old prayers or integrate literary or poetic works that speak to you. It’s your “turn!

Maybe you’d like to learn more about the history of crypto-Judaism and women’s role in preserving Jewish tradition after reading about Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi. Or visit a district courthouse or the Supreme Court in the spirit of Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Miriam Ben-Porat. Maybe you’d like to walk a path that Naomi Shemer walked on the day of her bat mitzvah or plan a spy game following in the footsteps of Yehudit Nisayho, a Mossad agent who took part in capturing Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann. Or you may want to adopt an Italian custom that celebrates Deborah the prophetess. The options are endless, and you have the opportunity, during this exciting year, to craft the celebration that connects you to the Jewish community, to sources, and to yourself. In the spirit of these exemplary women, you can chart your own course.

A few months before I turned twelve, my parents and I discussed how to celebrate the special occasion. In advance of my bat mitzvah, my father built a bigger Sukkah than usual to hold all of our guests. Working with my parents, I prepared a challenging “treasure hunt” with tasks and riddles. My extended family—grandmothers Hannah and Rosa and relatives from around the country—came for the occasion and we ran from station to station in the fields around our home. Afterwards, we all gathered, happy and hungry, under the aromatic roof of our decorated Sukkah, and enjoyed the delicious treats that had been prepared by my mother and aunts. I was the eldest daughter, and with this event my parents, Miriam and Menashe Mashiach, both educators who had never seen bat mitzvah celebrations in their own families, created a ritual framework that has followed the family until today.

The event left me with happy memories, which always arose before my daughters’, family members’, and community’s bat mitzvahs. I discovered that I have a special place in my heart for bat mitzvah girls, and the subject stirs curiosity, excitement, and a desire to help in me.
The book The Women Who Came Before has already been published in Hebrew and is currently being translated into English.

Makor Rishon, December 13, 2021 (Hebrew):

“In contrast with boys, who have a ceremony that revolves around the synagogue and being called to the Torah, the ceremony for growing up for girls has nothing structured…. [The] book…suggests a variety of ways to make the bat mitzvah year into a significant process and unforgettable experience.” See the article here


Haaretz, December 30, 2021 (Hebrew):

“What makes this book unique is that alongside presenting 71 inspirational women who are tied to Jewish heritage and culture in the present and past, the author encourages the reader to find a connection between herself and the figure…and ties it to a period that is meaningful in the formation of identity—the age of mitzvot…. Unfortunately, the stories of many inspirational and groundbreaking women have not entered the collective consciousness and are not taught in history books.” See the article here


News1, December 8, 2021 (Hebrew):

“Lavie chose well, having decided to give space to many women, 71 in all, inspirational women who serve as models not only for the bat mitzvah but for her mother and father.” See the article here 


This is a book with tremendous value for those at the bat mitzvah juncture, but also generally for anyone who is on a journey and wants to infuse content and meaning into life’s journey. Aliza Lavie weaves stories of inspirational women with skill, talent, and love. This book is a beautiful and important gift.

–Hili Tropper, Minister of Culture and Sport


An interesting and colorful book, written in flowing language, allowing mothers and bat mitzvah-aged daughters to enjoy a rich, shared experience and learn about inspirational women in a variety of fields.

–Nurit Dabush, Former Chair of the Council of the Second Authority for Television and Radio


Well done! A wonderful gift for a bat mitzvah. Indeed it is a journey in the footsteps of a variety of women in our tradition; you have given them a voice. Highly recommended for reading in advance of a bat mitzvah and beyond.

–Oshra Koren, Head of Matan HaSharon Women’s Institute for Torah Studies


Congratulations on the interesting and lovely book. You have found another important channel for presenting the heroines of the Jewish nation to young girls. I am confident that the book will be welcomed by the young girls and certainly by their mothers.

Prof. Margalit Shilo


A few months before the bat mitzvah of my daughter Noa I felt that I could not move toward the event…. By chance (or not), I happened to sit with the wonderful Anat Zwebner at the bat mitzvah of a neighbor, and she asked me how I had celebrated my bat mitzvah.

My hesitation in answering led her to understand that something was missing. I told her that I had not celebrated my bat mitzvah because I was born fourteen months after my brother and my bat mitzvah was close to his bar mitzvah; my parents had decided that it was too much. Anat answered that the situation must be rectified and thus I found myself celebrating my bat mitzvah at age 35 with a cake, friends, a dvar Torah, and a gift of hand cream.

This memory flooded me this week when I was privileged to sit at the launch of Aliza Mashiach Lavie’s new book at an event where I understood, again, how much my story was part of a historical tapestry of celebrations or the absence of celebrations of bat mitzvahs for Jewish girls, how the ceremony is not “built in” to the Jewish lifecycle, how hard we must work to create it as a significant event for our daughters.

It goes without saying that after I celebrated, I became unstuck, and Noa’s bat mitzvah was celebrated full-heartedly, further driving home that need for the significant milestone that this birthday makes possible.

Aliza, in her new book, has done this for us; she has collected stories, ceremonies, and sites through 71 significant Jewish women so that we can say: It’s our turn.

–Dr. Michal Prins, CEO, Yahel Center


Flipping through the book, it opened randomly on the page of Schwester Selma, the compassionate, mythological nurse who ran the Shaare Zedek hospital alongside Dr. Wallach.

This week marks 28 years since my grandmother Yaffa Brick, whom I was very close with, passed away. She was one of the first students of Selma Mayer, who founded the training and the field of nursing in pre-State Israel. Savta Yaffa was a diligent student in nursing school and a devoted and professional nurse with the patients and staff at Shaare Zedek. The stories of the high bar set by Schwester Selma that I grew up on were filled with warmth, love, unwavering professionalism, and rare humility. Schwester (nurse in German) was an influential role model in Savta Yaffa’s path of giving and her career. Near age 90, when she passed away, her granddaughter Hadar was born; today she is a nurse in the maternity ward at Hadassah Medical Center’s Ein Kerem campus. Sweet apples fall very, very close…

Schwester is one of 71 women who appear in the book Akhshav Torekh, which calls up an experiential journey between inspirational women who walked among us in the past and today serve as an opportunity for introspection and forming a personal path in Israel’s geographical and cultural space throughout the land.

Thank you, Aliza, for this important gift.

–Sharon Brick Deshen, Executive Director, Kolech


We began to read a chapter with our daughter every few days, and it just sticks, and also stirs her curiosity to know more of the figures. From the book, we move to Wikipedia and the internet, and the journey doesn’t end.

A wonderful book, not only for bat mitzvah girls.

In our family, it’s already been bought for the grandmothers…

Thank you, Aliza.

–Elyashiv Reichner, Journalist


My daughter (age 11) received it two days ago and can’t put it down…. She’s already debating which of the women whom she can’t stop reading about is the most impressive, who she should continue to research (right now, 70 percent of them cannot be given up; we may need to filter a little more).

Highly recommended!


I remember my bat mitzvah only vaguely.

I was born in the winter.

I received a green coat, a red umbrella, and brown boots (in truth, I was very happy with them).

I asked my sisters today whether they remember their bat mitzvahs, and they said no.

I wish there had been this type of preparation in my generation, and someone would have thought of me, when it was my turn.

My class went to visit Masada (which I missed, because my parents hadn’t paid).

And today I met Aliza and bought her book for the daughter of a beloved friend.

And the book was so moving that I found myself eagerly turning page after page.

It was difficult to pick one figure as a model.

I finally picked Dona Gracia, the “queen of the Jews.”

I am sitting here tearing up.

Aliza Mashiach Lavie, thank you.

“Sister, may you grow into thousands of myriads” (Gen. 24:60).

–Yaara Shilo, Expert in Early Childhood, Efrata College of Education

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