“Bar Mitzvah Madness”

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Perhaps it is the time of year but it seems like there is a bevy of articles about the bar and bat mitzvah hitting the press. And while most of them either note the sensational and some applaud those that are grounded in social action, few provide the balance that reflects the majority of bnai mitzvah ceremonies as this recent article in Slate. While it is true that more and more bar and bat mitzvah parties are over the top, such extravagance does not always eclipse the important emotional changes that take place in the bar or bat mitzvah candidate and his/her family as a result of the process. Moreover, if it is to be a rite of passage into adulthood, then we have to find ways of affirming that adulthood within the context of the post modern world where adulthood has been delayed significantly since the time in which such a passage made sense.

In JOI’s recent study about children of the intermarried, which is about to be released, we discovered that the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony was extremely important in the affirmation of their Jewish identity although many of them reported little contact with the organized Jewish community over a sustained period of time. If that is the case, then we will have to develop innovative ways of providing access to the bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies for these children if we want to help them affirm their Jewish identity.

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