Baroness Merron has her batmitzvah... 50 years late

The Labour peer was raised in a secular Jewish household and only became involved in Jewish life when she was the Lincoln MP


Former Labour MP and Board of Deputies chief executive Baroness Gillian Merron has celebrated a belated batmitzvah at the age of 63.

Raised in a secular Jewish family at a time when a batmitzvah was not a popular option, she found her home in Liberal Judaism after joining Lincolnshire Jewish Community during her time as Lincoln MP.

The service was at South London Liberal Synagogue, of which she is also a member, with a number of Lincolnshire congregants joining the family and friends in attendance.

She said that being batmitzvah as an adult was “my way of making a statement and saying that it is important to me to be Jewish.

“I’ve been excited as well as nervous and now I am mightily relieved that I’ve done my Hebrew reading and have lived to tell the tale.

“I have realised that it is the start, not the end.”

Baroness Merron confided that when beginning her focused preparations in the spring, “I couldn’t read a word. But I have been blessed to have Nathan [South London Liberal Synagogue’s Rabbi Nathan Godleman], who is a patient and extraordinary teacher.”

She recalled that in her maiden speech in the House of Lords, she had included something “uncharacteristically personal.

“I spoke about my grandparents, who I never knew, fleeing from the terror of Lithuania and Ukraine to seek refuge in this country. What would they — and indeed my late parents — have thought of my becoming a Peer of the Realm? What would they have thought of my batmitzvah? They’d be proud.

“And as they’re not here, I will be proud of myself, as I know that you are all proud of me.

“For most of my life, I have felt I didn’t fit in the Jewish community. I now believe that I do. So that’s settled. And it feels right.”

Rabbi Godleman told the JC: “Gillian’s adult batmitzvah is one of three such services at SLLS this year. It’s a trend we hope to see continue. If someone has missed out earlier in life, for whatever reason, it’s not too late to engage.

“There’s a real sense of achievement and joy in doing so, which we all share.”

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