When Skylar Podvey of Upper Montclair celebrated becoming a bat mitzva on June 2, she imagined her mother standing in the same place decades ago.
Marcia Podvey, Skylar’s mother, also became a bat mitzva at Temple Sholom of West Essex in Cedar Grove, in May 1981.
But Skylar didn’t stop her imagining there. Marcia’s mother, Sybil Podvey, and grandmother, Hazel Enfeld, also became b’not mitzva at Temple Sholom, marking the milestone as adults in the 1980s after a period of study under the guidance of Rabbi Norman Patz, now rabbi emeritus at the synagogue.
“It made me happy to be carrying on a tradition,” said Skylar just over a week after the big event. “It gave the service even more meaning.”
Skylar and her brother Lucas are now the fourth generation of their family active in the synagogue. Marcia’s parents joined when they moved to the area in the 1960s. Soon after, Sybil’s parents, Hazel and Luis Enfeld, followed, and also became active. Marcia’s grandparents dedicated one of the synagogue’s stained-glass windows, and today their names are on the yahrtzeit plaque. “There’s so much history here,” said Marcia. “I’m always pointing out to the kids, ‘We used to sit here; we used to do this or that.’”
Marcia’s father, Bob Podvey, was chair of the board of the Reform temple 27 years ago and is on the board of directors again today. “It’s nice that this is happening when I’m active again,” said Bob Podvey of Skylar’s bat mitzva. “It feels great! I’m very proud of Skylar. She’s quite a girl. Temple Sholom is a special place, and I was happy Marcia and Sherri decided to join.”
Marcia and her partner, Dr. Sherri Glassman, have been members since 2007. Glassman, who grew up at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, said the couple enjoys the diversity and small size of the congregation — it has a membership of 350 families — the relaxed approach of religious leader Rabbi Laurence Groffman, and the synagogue’s “family-oriented” programs and services.
Thinking about the upcoming event about a week before Skylar’s bat mitzva, Marcia told NJJN, “As it gets closer I’m getting more emotional. I sit down and realize, ‘Wow. I was here in May of ’81.’”
Because they grew up in Conservative synagogues before girls could become b’not mitzva, her mother and grandmother both undertook their studies together as adults. They participated in a joint ceremony in the mid-1980s, a few years after Marcia’s bat mitzva. Like Marcia and Skylar, both read from the Torah scroll rescued from the Holocaust and brought to their synagogue from Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic by Rabbi Patz and his wife Naomi.
Marcia remembers the day her mother and grandmother became b’not mitzva. “It was neat to watch them up there together, reading out of the same Torah,” she said. The Holocaust scroll, she added, “has special meaning, even though we had no family lost in the Holocaust. It’s also a connection for Skylar to my mother, and there are not too many physical connections left.” (Skylar was named for Sybil, who died before Skylar was born.)
For Skylar, even with all the connections, June 2 — the service and kiddush and the kids’ party held that night at Powerhouse Studios — was still her day, and she reveled in it. “It was a lot of fun,” she said. “Definitely worth all the studying and prayers!”