Jewish teen shuns gendered coming-of-age ceremonies for a ‘super cool’ gender-neutral b’nai mitzvah

Jewish teen shuns gendered ceremonies for gender-neutral b'nai mitzvah

A gay Jewish 13-year-old opted to have a gender-neutral b’nai mitzvah – instead of the tradition bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah – complete with a blessing from her “super cool” rabbi.

Ruby Marx from Massachusetts told The Guardian there was no question that she would take part in the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony, but that a gendered bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah didn’t feel right.

Wanting to do “something in the middle”, Ruby opted instead for a gender-neutral ceremony known as a B mitzvah or b’nai mitzvah.

She said: “Judaism is a big part of my family – we keep kosher and my older sister had a bat mitzvah, so I knew I would have to have one too.

“But I didn’t want to be called a girl, which is a traditional part of the ceremony. And I didn’t want a bar mitzvah either. I wanted something in the middle.”

She said her mother had read about a b’nai mitzvah in an article, and when she told Ruby, she knew immediately that was what she wanted.

“I was three when I started dressing in a more masculine way,” she said.

“I don’t feel like a boy, but I don’t feel like a girl either. And the way I’ve expressed my gender has always been supported.

“My family knows I’m going to be masculine and still use female pronouns and just experiment. I talk to them about everything. All my grandparents know too.”

Ruby said that her rabbi is “the best”, and added: “She loves me, so she was super cool about it.”

Her synagogue requires a social action project as part of the coming-of-age ceremony, so the budding guitarist and rock music enthusiast decided to throw a benefit concert.

Ruby said: “I donated the money I raised to Girls Rock Campaign Boston, which runs a camp I went to last summer.

“It’s pretty open, so you can be trans and non-conforming, and there were lots of women there who were strong and powerful and also super musically talented, kind of like Joan Jett.”

Jewish teen shuns gendered ceremonies for gender-neutral b'nai mitzvah

Ruby Marx wore a rainbow tallit with Joan Jett on the back. (Pamela Joye)

On the day of her b’nai mitzvah, Ruby “wore a blue suit and a silver tie with black boots that were like rip-off Doc Martens, but fancier”.

She said: “I looked sharp. And I wore a tallit [prayer shawl] that had rainbows on the ends, with lots of rock’n’roll patches and Joan Jett on the back — we went to this sewing place and the guy printed out a picture of her on fabric that we sewed on.”

Asked by her father what she would have done if she’d had to wear a dress, Ruby said: “I don’t even want to go there. I would have cancelled the entire thing. I do not wear dresses.”

Ruby’s “super cool” rabbi said in her blessing during the ceremony: “Keep bringing your full self to the world. The world needs people that don’t shy away from their true self; we will always be there for you.”