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Soon to be Valencia Reserve resident studying Hebrew for her bat mitzvah

Friday, November 26, 2010

Estelle Schoenfeld is studying hard, preparing for her bat mitzvah in April - a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony that is considered a big occasion for anyone. But it's extra special for Schoenfeld because it's 53 years overdue.

The 66-year-old suburban Boynton Beach resident said that when she was younger, most girls weren't bat mitzvahed. It was a right-of-passage strictly for boys. But she was tired of feeling left out when she went to temple with her family.

"My husband and sons read Hebrew beautifully," she said. "But I couldn't read a word."

So Schoenfeld joined her local Hadassah chapter last year and began studying with a group of four other women who meet every Monday morning and will all be bat mizvahed in a joint ceremony with Schoenfeld in April. They range in age from 66 (Schoenfeld is the youngest in the group) to 80.

Her husband, Ronald, has been helping her prepare for the big day, and her two grown sons will be coming in from Colorado and Georgia with their families for the occasion.

"My family has been incredibly supportive of my decision," she said.

Her goal is to attend her grandson's bar mitzvah in August and read, along with her husband, a prayer traditionally read by grandparents.

Schoenfeld, who is originally from the Bronx borough of New York City, worked as a middle school science teacher and later as a social worker. She and her husband moved to Boynton Beach 14 years ago to retire. They live in the Lakeridge Falls community, but they plan to move to Valencia Reserve early next year.

Getting bat mitzvahed is just the beginning for Schoenfeld, who put together a "bucket list" after seeing the movie The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

Next on her list is learning to swim - another one of those milestones she missed.

"My mother was very overprotective," she said. "One thing at a time."

What is your favorite book?
'Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

What's the best advice you've been given?
'Listen to what people say before you give them advice. Sometimes they just want someone to vent to, and if they want advice, they'll ask for it. Also, don't sweat the small stuff.'

What is your most prized possession?
'A tiny bracelet my uncle bought me when I was 5. My uncle lived in Paris and would always bring us little trinkets when he would visit. I've been wearing that bracelet for 60 years, although I've had to make it larger. Every time I look at it, I think of him. He was a very good and caring man.'

What are your hobbies?
'I'm a very advanced Canasta player and I also play mahjong. I like to paint and I'm a member of the book club at both Lakeridge Falls and Valencia Reserve.'

Who is your hero or someone who has inspired you
'My mother-in-law. She was a very giving, helpful and patient person.'