Still remember your entire Torah portion by heart? Wondering about the relevance of your portion to your life now and then? These stories grapple with the key text of the B-Mitzvah experience and attempt to find resolution, resonance and meaning.

From Bar Mitzvah to Bar Mitsve

By Anthony Mordechai-Tzvi Russell

March 18, 2015

A singer of Yiddish and cantorial music and creator of “Convergence,” a multi-media blend of Yiddish and Hebrew songs with African-American spirituals.

A singer of Yiddish and cantorial music and creator of “Convergence,” a multi-media blend of Yiddish and Hebrew songs with African-American spirituals.

The first time I heard of a Bar Mitzvah I was eleven. And I wasn't invited to it.

If you are a bespectacled, precocious goyishe nebbishe nudnik of eleven with no friendsJewish or otherwiseyou are not invited to the Bar Mitzvah, and, for many years you will have no idea as to what happens in its sacred confines. Read More.










What's in a Speech

By David Katznelson

October 7, 2014

A journey to find my Bar Mitzvah Speech

For the last few months I has desperately tried to find my Bar Mitzvah speech….

I have no idea where it is and I can’t remember it. That being said, I can’t remember my Torah or half Torah portion either, which makes a little more sense since I could only orate the Hebrew back in 1982, reading the letters, chanting along, but not knowing the language enough to be able to translate anything.

But I read my speech in English and I wrote it pretty much by myself.  Yet I cannot remember it, and I cannot find it.

By looking for it, I DID find other aspects of my year of becoming a man. Read More. 


I grew up Orthodox in Israel. By the time of my Bar Mitzvah—in April 1982—I was living in New York City, a sweet kid in a polyester suit. A little on the chubby side, perhaps. My dark blond mop of hair covered a pimpled forehead.

Being Orthodox had its advantages. Chanting my Bar Mitzvah portion was no problem. I rattled it off with ease. The problem was the speech. There was so much I wanted to say, but my English wasn’t good enough, and anyway, my speech had been written for me by my uncle, a renowned Rabbi, who gave me a tired presentation expounding on the laws of charity. Read More.


A Bar Mitzvah without Torah--Who's in?

By Steve Bodow

October 7, 2014

The liturgical center of a traditional Bar Mitzvah is the 13­-year­-old’s personal confrontation with a piece of Old Testament ­ the Torah portion. You learn it in Hebrew. You reflect on it. And you craft a speech explaining what the passage means to you, your family, your friends, and most importantly, to the handful of 13-­year­-old girls who, amazingly, agreed to come to your big day. Read More.

The Promise of Being A Man

By Joshua Wolf Shenk

October 7, 2014


I believe in the Bar Mitzvah. I believe in the idea that — you walk in the door a boy, you ascend this stage, you follow a progression—you risk humiliation, or actually enact humiliation—and you leave something else.

But everything attracts its shadow. We naturally seek safety and we are especially avid in moments of potential danger. There is nothing more dangerous than ritual, and so there is nothing so ossified, so caked over, so drained of feeling and authenticity as the traditional rituals. If there is a single unspoken conviction held by the people who lead them, who watch them, who participate in them, it is this: “You can’t hurt me because I’m not even here.” Read More.