Barmitzvah girl is big news in Ballina

By Cathy Forman, July 9, 2009

mma Guihen celebrated what is believed to be the first batmitzvah on Ireland’s West Coast in the company of 130 mostly non-Jewish guests.

The batmitzvah girl lives with her mother Leah and three siblings in Ballina, a County Mayo town over 150 miles from the Dublin Jewish community. She said the ceremony was a “chance to do something connected to my Judaism”. But the family’s isolation from Jewish life meant they had to make their own preparations.

Mum Leah, an Open University student who moved to Ballina from the States 12 years ago, wrote the service from a template she found on the internet. She also produced a book to explain aspects of the service to the guests from the wider community.

Mrs Guihen had help from her father Sherman Cohn, a professor of Jewish law at Georgetown University, who brought with him an ItalianTorah scroll that survived the Second World War. Regina Carmel, a member of Washington-based Save the Torah, also travelled from America to conduct the service.

Emma said her friends had enjoyed “a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see what happens at a batmitzvah.

Last updated: 4:21pm, July 9 2009