Rites of Passage

Images  On Saturday, we will be celebrating Josh's bar mitzvah.  Becoming a bar/bat mitzvah in the Jewish religion is a rite of passage.  Of course, not all Jews go down that path.  Neither my brother, my sister or I did. 

I did go to Sunday school and my parents actually started 2 temples, one in California and one in Maryland ( the DC area ).  Both of these congregations have grown to be 2 of the largest reform congregations in the US.  Perhaps it was the times, perhaps it was my parents, but if it took any effort to push us to do anything, they were happy to take a back seat.  After all, who really wants to attend Hebrew school and go through the strenuous time consuming ritual if you don't have to. 

Yet, there was something inside me that told me that when I had kids, I wanted them to go through that rite of passage.  It was not negotiable. 

I have watched Jessica, then Emily and now Josh go through the process.  Perhaps it is the age ( which might be why the Jews chose it ) but there is something transformative about becoming a bar/bat mitzvah.  You have to work hard, think about your relationship to Judaism ( not your parents but yours ), and in essence, become an adult. 

My Jewish upbringing, although I am certainly part of the tribe, was abysmal.  My knowledge of the religion is limited at best.  I am more connected to it because it is part of who I am.  The kids Jewish education is far superior, thank god. 

Fred embraced my desire for this early on.  He is as much as Jew as I am.  I don't think either of us are big believers but are glad we gave our kids some type of religion upbringing and a connection to something spiritual.

Funny enough, my brother has embraced the desire to have his kids go through the same rituals.  I am really proud of all 3 of them.  Watching Josh be the last of 3 to complete his rite of passage will be tremendously rewarding for me and Fred.  As much as the kids all complained about the whole thing, I know that it will be just as gratifying for Jessica and Emily to watch their brother go through what they went through and get to the other side.

 What they do all do with that Jewish part of them will be interesting in the years to come.  Regardless, I am glad they have their own Jewish rite of passage.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Jonathan

    Mazel Tov!

  2. David

    Well Said! Do not know how I stumbled on this post, but I am happy I did. Myself, my Wife and Twin Girls Live in NYC, and while our children are quite younger than yours, I can appreciate how proud you are.Mazel Tov!@davehonig

  3. Yule Heibel

    I’ll tell you what, as a heathen (and basically atheist) outsider looking in, impresses me about the kids I’ve known who went through the work to become a bar / bat mitzvah: it’s how much they learn about speaking in their own voice. And doing so in front of a whole bunch of people. And how strengthened they are when they’re done, not least because they’ve got the support of the whole congregation. Mazel tov, indeed. I still get terrified about speaking in front of people, and if religion could help me get past that, …hey, I’d *almost* be willing to become a believer! :-)It’s also interesting to think about this “learning to speak” issue in view of John Taylor Gatto’s writings on education, particularly his book, Dumbing Us Down. He noted that education used to mean learning to speak, but that somehow in the course of 20th century industrialization-influenced education, it meant sitting passively to absorb knowledge (the worker as container, to be “filled” with instructions…). But that’s an aside, and off-topic to your post. Congratulations again – hope the day goes splendidly!

    1. fredwilson

      learning to speak in public is such an important skill and so under taughti am mostly self taught in this regard, largely because i taught my way through graduate schoolbut i did take a class in grad school that forced everyone to do improv speaking (i can’t remember what it was called)it was fantastic

      1. aarondelcohen

        At PS 3, the Kindergarten Teachers held an assembly for all parents and kids every friday am. Every kid had the option to do something. Some kids sat out at the beginning. One year later everybody did something. They counted to 20, recited a poem, sang a song, told a story. No matter what happened, everybody clapped. I think this hosuld be mandatory.

        1. fredwilson

          Great program. Its all about developing the comfort factor

        2. Yule Heibel

          Have to jump in once more…! (Sorry Joanne if it’s off-topic!)I like the example of the Kindergarten teachers enabling the kids to voice their stories and accomplishments, and I know from my own kids’ pre- and K experience (back in the mid- to late-90s) that it’s not uncommon for teachers to really invest in their kids like that.There is a risk *if* schools do too “good” a job at praising kids, especially once they’re past the wee stage. If praise comes without genuine responsibility, maybe it breeds narcissism and too strong a sense of entitlement.What I find intriguing with bar/ bat mitzvahs is that there is the support (and praise) of the congregation or community shoring up the young person, but that person is embarking on something with a lot of responsibility on his/her shoulders. When the task is done, the celebration is really genuine, a reward for lots of work and preparation. But in addition, there’s another aspect, enforced by the community, that henceforth you partake in fixing the world, in whatever way you define it. I.e., you’ve got even more work to do, and ain’t it grand? ;-)(Of course, this is my idealized interpretation of things. I’m sure there are plenty of people for whom it’s strictly ceremonial, but good a congregation seems to give even the cynics pause.)(And now I’ll shut up, because like I said, I’m not a member of any religion, so I’m out on a limb, past *my* comfort factor!)

          1. Gotham Gal

            I agree. There is something about the community supporting kids toadulthood. Praise is good but certainly a little disappointment isn’t sobad either.

  4. marshal sandler

    Josh welcome to best of all possible worlds-Mazel Tov!

  5. judy

    I am very moved by this. I am a jew from NYC now in CA. I observe every one of our special times and now is Pesach. I cant not do it cause being a jew is who I am . Yet my sister avoids it all – has easter sunday married someone I know is somewhat prejudiced against judaism. It has been a challenge for me to accept what she has done with her jewishness. I believe we can not get away from who we are… Wishing Josh a good bar mitzvah and be proud to be his parent Judy

  6. ellen

    Have a wonderful day celebrating.

  7. marshal sandler

    We all develop different reference points for living our lives as we grow older many people sadly deny their roots I have learned to accept their denials since it really does not change my beliefs, which I choose to own-