Supreme Court nominee and Solicitor General Elena Kagan was the first girl in her Orthodox synagogue to request a bat mitzvah even though the rabbi, Shlomo Riskin, had never performed one. "Elena Kagan felt very strongly that there should be ritual bat mitzvah in the synagogue, no less important than the ritual bar mitzvah," Rabbi Riskin said, referring to the rite of passage for 13-year-old boys. "This was really the first formal bat mitzvah we had." Kagan's ceremony, however, was not held on Saturday (as she wanted, consistent with the service for the boys) but instead on Friday night. "We crafted a lovely service, but I don't think I satisfied her completely," said the rabbi.
According to Professor and Dean Shuly Rubin Schwartz, "In terms of timing, this was the period when young women coming of age, who had those kinds of expectations for equality and taking leadership positions in the secular world, began to question: Why can't I do this in the Jewish world?....What is unusual is that [Kagan] asked it in an Orthodox institution where that was an unheard-of question at that point."
As a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall, Kagan wrote a memo suggesting that government funding through the Adolescent Family Life Act for faith-based social service organizations to discourage teen pregnancy was improper because inevitably religious teaching would be injected into the organizations' social services. She denounced that memo as the dumbest thing I've ever read during her confirmation hearings as Solicitor General.
I hope it is the young Elena Kagan who takes a seat on the Supreme Court.