13 going on 40? Ready to party but still living under your parents roof? Wondering what it means to be a real grown up? These reBar reflections analyze the transition from teenager to adult. Who said becoming an official member of the community was easy?
By Koca Wen
September 1, 2015
became an adult girl when I was 12.
Not a woman. An adult girl.
I didn’t have a bat mitzvah. I wasn’t a Jew at that point. I am Chinese, and it was when I began living wholly by the Confucian philosophy and the essential Chinese value of filial piety that I came of age as a Chinese adult. Filial piety, or xiao shun, according to the Chinese, delineates the correct way to behave towards one’s parents. Love them. Be respectful. Polite. Loyal. Helpful. Dutiful. Obedient. Read More.
By Matt Baram
August 1, 2015
At my service of Bar Mitzvah, I suffered the indignity of having my voice crack 19 times during my Haftorah alone. Yes, my friends counted. And yes, I led the whole three and a half hour service, where I valiantly squeaked my way through prayer after prayer in front of 300 friends and family members. Read More.
By Kinga Dobos
July 1, 2015
Hi. My story begins in Transylvania, in a city built around a mountain, surrounded by tall trees and crisp air. My family was part of a large Hungarian minority in Romania. I spent my childhood in a simple, hardworking home during the chilly days of the Communist regime. All of my relatives were Hungarians, all Christians, and ingenious people who were forced to adapt to living under a dictatorship. During the 1980s, poor living conditions, political persecution and discrimination were part of our everyday lives. There was, however, one safe place where we could meet without harassment: church. Read More.
By Lauren Maddahai
July 1, 2015
I had a very traditional upbringing. I grew up in a Persian-Jewish household with two amazing parents and two wonderful siblings. We celebrated Shabbat together every Friday night with both sides of my parents’ family – 40 people easily! I would sit in my grandmothers’ kitchen trying to learn their amazing recipes in a wonderful mix of broken English and Persian. My connection to Judaism was always evolving, but at its core was very strong. I have been attending Sinai since Mommy and Me classes. So my story for tonight is a different one, but nonetheless important. Read More.
By Anna David
While several reasons have been given over the years for why I never had a Bat Mitzvah, there’s really only one: my mom was not into being Jewish. You could, in fact, say that my mom did/does not realize that she’s Jewish. She is, 100%, but these are some of the things I’ve heard her say...Read More.
By Adam Klein
June 1, 2015
I went through great changes when I was 13 and they had nothing to do with my Bat Mitzvah. In fact, I didn’t have a Bat Mitzvah. Nobody I knew was having Bat Mitzvahs. The only Bar Mitzvah I ever attended was my cousin Jeffrey’s when I was 4 years old. I remember it being very special and very important that we attend. Even as my own family was unraveling. Read More.
By Dan Wolf
May 4, 2015
It’s July 23, 1988. I’m one part Michael Jackson, two parts The Coreys, and all about the jacket I chose as the centerpiece of my Bar Mitzvah outfit. My hydrogen peroxide bangs have faded from brownish red back to dark brown. My mothers’ comedic classic fumble of her speech is still fresh in our minds. My great grandma has been prepping me for years that she might not live to see this day, but she’s here. My best friends, my family, and every cute girl I could possibly invite is here as well. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for – shake with the right, take with the left – and yet despite the maturity I’ve been promised, my Bar Mitzvah did not make me a man. Read More.
By Irwin Keller
April 9, 2015
Am I the only person on the planet to have loved his Bar Mitzvah?
I loved it. I loved preparing for it. Learning my Torah portion. Spending extra time at Hebrew School. Buying my first tallit. Even choosing this classic 1973 sports jacket – tasteful plaid, which came with both blue pants and cranberry colored pants.
For me the hard part wasn’t the ceremony. It was having a public celebration of becoming a man. Because on the question of manhood I was decidedly unresolved. Read More.
By Jessica Minnen
April 9, 2015
When I was 12, the tallest boy in my class barely reached my shoulders. My glasses were the size of my face. My hair was even bigger.
That summer, my aunt and uncle sent me to Space Camp.
Space Camp was a Bat Mitzvah present, a nod to my obsession with a galaxy far, far away. We arrived at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center on Monday and on Friday we simulated a full space mission. The most coveted roles were in Mission Control. Everyone wanted to be the Flight Director. Somehow, the nerdy girl from Paducah, Kentucky got it. The success or failure of our mission was in my hands. Read More.
By Aimee Suzara
March 18, 2015
Between the ages of 13-18, I wanted to look like Robert Smith. In case you’re too young, or not melancholy enough to know who this is, Smith is the lead singer for the Cure – the band that provided the soundtrack to many a shoe-gazing loner of the late 80s and 90s.
For this little get-up, I remember searching through my Dad’s closet – finding his outgrown velour jacket from the early 80s, I paired it with my own ruffle shirt. I tousled my short angled bob-cut that hung over the left side of my face, using lots of Dep gel and aerosol hairspray. Then I drew on thick eyeliner and smeared on some grey eye shadow to add some deathly charm. It was a costume, but a part of me wished I could wear it all of the time. Read More.
By Jacob Kornbluth
March 18, 2015
Firstly, I was raised by communists, I don't believe in God, and I didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah.
Second, I can’t really remember who I was at 13. I remember vaguely, but not specifically. I’m terrible with dates and specifics. I’m more of an emotional memory guy.
You might say “thank you very much for that wonderful and evocative reBar story”, but hang on. I’m a documentary filmmaker. There are questions here. Questions I’d like to investigate. Read More.
By Todd Krieger
February 25, 2015
I hadn’t really thought too much about what I might do differently at my Bar Mitzvah before reBar. But there was a moment that day in January, 1981 on which I have reflected from time to time.
My temple in those days (as it is now) was on California Street in San Francisco. My home was, depending on what app you use, 23.7 miles away to the south on the Peninsula. The family had recently returned to the Bay Area from the North Shore of Chicago and I was to be a Bar Mitzvah at the temple where my parents had been congregants when they had previously been San Franciscans. Read More.
By Karla Vasquez
It was the first Saturday in October 2002, I was riding in a black limo wearing the enormous, poofy, light pink ball gown dress that I wanted- it was perfect. After all, it was custom-made so it fit like a glove. My hair was curled exactly how I had dreamed – soft wavy curls, just like the actress I had seen on the telenovela. My makeup was spot on - nothing about it was clownish or inappropriate, just flawless. I was about to arrive at my church, just 4 blocks away from where we are sitting right now. I was turning 15 and this was the day of my Fiesta Rosa. Read more.
By Gregor Ehrlich
Like (I suspect) most people, the significance of ritual consecration of my Bar Mitzvah was pretty much lost on me at 13. My recollection of my Bar Mitzvah primarily involves the material things: buying a three-piece Pierre wool Cardin suit, the novelty of drinking ginger ale, and later, sitting in my room watching a rotating fiber optic lamp while listening to Exile on Main Street and eating a tray of extra hors d’oeuvres while counting my savings bonds—all great fun, but I didn’t think too hard about why any of it was happening. Youth, obviously, is wasted on the young, and even though Jews decided on adulthood at 13, it’s a rare kid who has any sort of developed spiritual consciousness and isn’t focused on boners and toys. So it was mostly a big birthday party, and the only part I recall from being on the bimah was worrying about screwing up my haftorah portion. Read more.
By Mark Anthony Thomas
There are my Grandmother’s relics that I remember most. Her uniquely African-carved walking cane. Her worn, yet cherished bible. And her ring―which included all eight of her children’s birthstones.
She was crazy about me―but I played grandson really well. I was well behaved, quite inquisitive, and her sisters called me “thin man,” which I hated … but I did have these big curious brown eyes.
She was thankful for me and, she never failed to remind me that as a newborn child, I was fragile and sickly―but I was a fighter. Read more.
By Esther Chung
Janice Clark said that “Today’s everything-available-at-all-times culture encourages putting off adulthood and commitment as long as possible—not to allow time to develop mature judgment and self-knowledge, but to keep it light, to jitter from smartphone to tablet and back again, quickly bounce away from any unpleasant experience and cultivate distraction at any cost. We can maintain, if we choose, a safe distance between ourselves and the world, a glowing screen as our shield, avoiding ever knowing ourselves or each other.” Read more.
By Gayle Walde
I know B Mitzvah’s are supposed to be the stuff of becoming an adult in a spiritual way, but I will always associate my own ritual celebration with an earthier version of adulthood, one involving the open display of painted female toes. In a phrase, my Bat Mitzvah marked not merely the first time I recited Torah from the bimah, but also my inaugural experience of wearing (what I then called) “open-toe shoes.” Such shoes offered, to my mind, access to the exciting but also terrifying world of grown-up women, fully initiated into the rituals of adult sexuality, including rituals of male seduction. Read more.
By Christopher Noxon
I’ve got three Jewish kids, two of them teenagers, which means I've been to a ton of Bar Mitzvahs, 80 percent of which have been godawful horrible... and yet I know there’s tremendous worth in what they say when they’re done: You’re an adult and you’re a Jew. Officially, unambiguously, forevermore – Jewish adult. Read more.
I guess in the name of diversity, I’m exploring this Rite of Passage from a slightly different perspective. Of course coming of age rights exist in nearly every culture and religion, and they really are important. I’m not Jewish, though I did marry a Jew (it turns out). I came from a religious family, in fact my dad was a priest and my mom was a nun (and my uncle was a priest), so I grew up very much in the Catholic Church in the suburbs of Western Michigan. For us, Confirmation is the rite in which you take on a new name, light a candle, etc. The bulk of this revolves around 6 months of Wednesday night classes lead by a combination of priests and lay people. This whole thing was not optional for me, as you might guess, but I have to say I didn’t put much into it and cheated the system the best I could, choosing one of my friends as my adult sponsor because he had been confirmed a couple of years earlier and counted as an adult! Read more.
By A.J. Jacobs
The Bar Mitzvah season of 1982 was not a great time for me.
First of all, I had no Bar Mitzvah myself.
I came from a family of assimilators. Hardcore assimilators.
No seder. No shabbat. Yes to a Christmas tree. Yes, we ate bagels. But often they were blueberry bagels, which are barely Jewish. Presbyterian bagels.
Also, since I wasn’t what you call a ‘winner’ or a ‘socially presentable,’ I wasn’t invited to a lot of other people’s Bar Mitzvahs.
I especially wasn’t invited to Amy Silberstien’s. Read more.
By Tannaz Sassooni
I know I’m supposed to have angst about my Bat Mitzvah, but looking back on it, mainly what I see is a great party: a delicious Persian spread, flowing cocktails, and a buzzing dance floor. What I am angsty about is what was missing. Save for a few Hebrew School girlfriends, nearly everyone at the party was family or family friends, and nearly everyone was Iranian. Read more.