Sunday, May 22, 2005

Rock the Torah!

A story in the Boston Globe today caught my eye: "My big fat American bar mitzvah," written by Mark Oppenheimer, who has a book just published about bar and bat mitzvahs in America.

The Jewish celebration was on my mind. Yesterday I had a conversation with some friends about a bar mitzvah celebration they will be attending. The day will start seriously enough: the Torah recitation, "Today I am a man," speech, and tasteful reception. But the day will end with a dinner and dance cruise around the harbor, hosted by the parents.

So when I read Oppenheimer's piece, stating that bar and bat mitzvah celebrations are getting bigger and more expensive, I nodded knowingly, something I do often when reading the Sunday paper over coffee. However, I did manage to restrain myself from exclaiming "Oy!"

Other gentiles are not showing such restraint. With all the Mitzvah Envy going around (not surprising in our country's continuing theme of lavish spending), it appears that some gentiles are feeling the need to keep up with the Cohens. Non-Jewish teenagers are feeling left out of party and are getting their parents to host faux-mitzvahs.

Oppenheimer concludes that bigger is not necessarily better, but it is also not necessarily bad. Religious commitment is not inversely proportional to the cost of the party (I gather this does hold true for the faux-mitzvahs). Better to spend money on celebrations of youth and accomplishment than flat-screen TVs.

According to the Globe, Mark Oppenheimer edits the New Haven Advocate and wrote ''Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America," published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Also see "Bar Mitzvah Madness" in Slate magazine
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