Two’s company, three’s not a crowd on special day

Camille and Zoe Moss were thrilled when they found out they could have their joint bat mitzvah on their birthday, Feb. 6. Having it on the day they turned 13 made it extra special.

Though meaningful,  the ceremony at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette was not an extraordinary act of sisterhood, their dad explained. “It was kind of natural,” said Randy Moss. The Lafayette twins are used to doing everything together.

The Lewis triplets, on the other hand, weren’t excited about sharing the stage at their Jan. 23 b’nai mitzvah at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael. But the day evolved as a special way for them to connect with each other and their family.

“They complain about being triplets, but at the end of the day they have each other,” said their mom, Jolie Lewis-Dabbah.

Ryland, Rachel and Jonathan Lewis

Multiples celebrating their b’nai mitzvah  together is no longer  uncommon. Multiple births in the United States are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some local synagogue leaders are noticing that uptick in their congregations.

At Rodef Sholom, Cantor David Margules said not only are there a good number of twin b’nai mitzvah, but families often have to double up on one day in order to serve all the kids.

“Some number of years ago, at least 10 years, we started to share the date,” he said. “There were a lot of doubts and concerns that families wouldn’t go for it, but now they are more popular than single dates.”

Traditionally, Margules said, Jews study Jewish text in groups; studying together for joint b’nai mitzvah mimics that process.

“That’s how it’s worked whether it’s twins or triplets or just doing it together. It’s a way of having a partner.”

Lewis-Dabbah said that as a congregant, she’d witnessed and was impressed by how Rodef Sholom handled these dual b’nai mitzvah. “They have it down,” she said. “Even carrying a Torah and walking around the congregation. It’s all logistics.”

While the congregation has trended toward doubling up, a triple b’nai mitzvah in the same family is rare.

The Lewis triplets were the first Margules could recall in his 24-year tenure at the Reform synagogue. Ryland, Rachel and Jonathan divided their duties into thirds, allowing them to study together and independently. They read their own Torah portions, delivered their own speeches and spoke about what they learned. They collaborated on prayers, shared the

rabbi’s blessing and threw a joint party afterward. And the three ultimately agreed that it was fine to share the day with each other.

“It was fun! We worked together and alone,” said Ryland, adding that the three — all seventh-graders at Miller Creek Middle School in San Rafael — worked well together.

The Moss twins,  seventh-graders at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek, are used to working together on school projects and in plays. So they found the process leading up to their b’nai mitzvah a natural and easy extension of their existing relationship.

“My sister is like my counterpart,” said Camille. “We do almost everything together. We’re very, very close.”

She said she was happy to have Zoe by her side. “I felt like someone was there supporting me, that all the pressure wasn’t really all on me.”

Likewise, Zoe said that although she was nervous on the big day, having Camille there made it “less scary.”

“It felt better knowing there was somebody there by my side supporting me,” Zoe said.

The twins received many compliments about their singing during the service — again, a natural extension of their relationship.

“We always sing together in the car, and when we did plays we did all the songs together,” said Zoe.

Cantor Leigh Korn said the girls are gifted singers. “Even though their speaking voices are quite different, when they sang together it was as if they were one voice.  It was truly remarkable.”

The twins’ mother, Nadia Pacrault, said they motivated each other as they studied and prepared for the b’nai mitzvah. Randy Moss said he was proud to see the girls go through the process together to create a “beautiful and moving ceremony.”

“This was one of our really, really important events,” said Camille. “We shared all of our life together, and this one was really special.”

Shoshana Hebshi
Shoshana Hebshi

Shoshana Hebshi is a freelance writer and former J. copy editor living in the North Bay.