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Moving Traditions Congratulates Ma’yan on the Release of “It’s Actually a Pretty Big ”Deal: Girls Narratives of Contemporary Bat Mitzvah [eJewishPhilanthropy]
by Rabbi Sara Brandes
Brin and Stephanie will both celebrate their Bat Mitzvah this year, but they could not be more different. Stephanie can’t wait. Brin would rather not. Stephanie sees the event as the culmination of her years of Hebrew school, which she has loved for the most part. Brin is doing this because her parents are making her. However, both Stephanie and Brin share their hopes and their fears about the big day in their Rosh Hodesh: It’s A Girl Thing!group.
Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!, the cornerstone program of Moving Traditions, brings ‘tween and teen girls into micro-communities, facilitated by a trained adult mentor, to engage in Jewish ritual and grow up together. As California Director of Moving Traditions, I observe first-hand a number of the key findings of Ma’yan’s study, “It’s Actually a Pretty Big Deal: Girls Narratives of Contemporary Bat Mitzvah,” as shared by Dr. Beth Copper Benjamin in her article “Standing Up for Girls.” Listening in on our groups, it’s clear that a Bat Mitzvah ceremony, regardless of denomination, are equal parts religious ritual and cultural phenomenon. Its meaning, as Dr. Cooper Benjamin states, “is bound up with the ways girls are negotiating femininity in the crucible of puberty and at the edge of adolescence.”
Podcast on SoundCloud:
- Bar and bat mitzvahs are a rite of passage for Jewish adolescents, and in recent years the celebration has sometimes overshadowed the religious ritual. A new nationwide program is trying to re-shape these coming of age ceremonies and a Chicago-area synagogue is taking the lead.
- Listen to the report.
- Read the transcript. (North Shore portion)
WBEZ contributor Monique Parsons reports.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration, Judaism’s rite of passage, could be delayed until after the traditional age of 13 in an attempt to keep Jews active in the religion later in life.
That’s the most startling suggestion by Jewish leaders who are hoping to delay the Bar Mitzvah in order to halt the departure of young Jews from the religion, according to an article in The New York Times today. “Everything is on the table: how or whether to teach Hebrew, whether to delay the ceremony until children are older, and even whether to require children to read from the Torah,” The Times explain.
The problem, as synagogue leaders see it, is that families view the Bar Mitzvah as a graduation from Judaism rather than an induction into the religion. “The drop-out phenomenon after Bar/Bat Mitzvah is dramatic,” American Jewish history professor Jack Wertheimer explained in a study of Hebrew School enrollment. “More than one-third of students drop out after grade 7,” generally the grade when students turn 13.
So how can Jewish leaders keep those Bar Mitzvah-ed students and their families from leaving right after their Bar Mitzvahs? Well, just delay the Bar Mitzvahs until later, some suggest.
But David Wolpe, the influential rabbi of the Los Angeles synagogue Temple Sinai and frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, doesn’t have high hopes for the proposal.
“I don’t think that just extending the age and urging people to have their Bar Mitzvah at 15 instead of 13 is the solution,” Wolpe said in an interview with The Atlantic Wire. He added that his fellow leaders at Temple Sinai hadn’t seriously considered delaying as a real option.
“I think that creative and interesting thinking about Jewish life is mandatory, so I welcome the fact that such suggestions are being made,” Wolpe added. “I’m just skeptical that this one will work the way its advocates think it will.”
Delaying the Bar Mitzvah would put it closer to other culture’s coming-of-age ceremonies: the Latin American Quinceañera at 15, the American Sweet 16 party, and the mid-teen Christian confirmation. But changing the Bar Mitzvah age would rid the world of those indelibly awkward photos of 13 year-olds still stuck to Jewish grandparents’ fridges. And who would want those removed?
The New York Times Writes: Bar Mitzvahs Get New Look to Build Faith
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN Published: September 3, 2013 71 Comments
Read the full story here. And share your comments with us.
What if the bar or bat mitzvah signaled a teen’s entry into an ongoing gathering of Jewish peers led by an inspiring mentor who helped them discuss the very real challenges they face in their everyday lives?
What if a teen’s bar or bat mitzvah signified the moment when he or she formed a Jewish community of his or her own, a place where confidences were held and members actually supported each other?
What if post bar or bat mitzvah education transitioned from a Hebrew school frontal learning model to a monthly experientially based forum? A unique space where Jewish texts, rituals and values had not just relevance, but also meaning and insight into teenage lives and the world around them? (more…)
Yes, but American Jews will have to do some serious thinking about the age of that rite of passage.
posted August 22, 2013 on eJewishPhilanthropy
Last week, you would have hardly known that there were peace talks happening in Jerusalem. That wasn’t the biggest Jewish news.
No, that prize goes to the viral Sam Horowitz bar mitzvah dance video. (more…)