I read Sheri ArbitalJacoby’s humorous-yet-cogent description of the bar and bat mitzvah social calendar (“Brace Yourself for Bar Mitzvah Season,” Sept. 14), thankful that I am finally beyond that stage of family life! Having guided my four children through the bar and bat mitzvah experience (and in large part training them for the ritual), I can attest to the enormous amount of time parents devote to planning their lives around countless parties and receptions.
There were many 2 a.m. Saturday night pickups when my social calendar consisted exclusively of several cups of coffee in some random diner, eagerly awaiting the hour of pickup so that eventually I could go home.
It is certainly true that our adult social lives are severely curtailed as we enable our children to enjoy this segment of their lives.
As I am a congregation rabbi who devotes countless hours to comprehensive bar and bat mitzvah training, I hope that we bar/bat mitzvah families also guide our children to appreciate the spiritual dimensions of this rite of passage.
Our children not only attend parties, but they experience many varied ritual ceremonies as well. They have unique opportunities to celebrate the hard work of their friends who chant parts of the service and share personal reflections about their scriptural reading and its application to their lives.
Throughout the bar and bat mitzvah season, our students join with synagogue communities that represent people of all ages. In other words, they become a central part of an extended Jewish family.
During this remarkable period of their lives, our children become more aware of their social responsibilities to the community, as they engage in various projects to bring some needy repair to our world. Aside from the fun and frivolity, our students learn Jewish and universal values which they can apply to the rest of their lives.
Finally, when the bar and bat mitzvah “circuit” concludes, the experiences of our new teenagers will hopefully motivate them to remain “Jewishly” engaged—spiritually, culturally and socially—for the decades ahead. We parents may become hostages to the insanity of the bar and bat mitzvah circuit, but we also have a cherished opportunity (and yes, the responsibility) to step up and share the bar and bat mitzvah years as the first stage in a life which will ensure that we and our children always remain actively affiliated with the Jewish people.
—Rabbi Michael Klayman
Lake Success Jewish Center
President of the GN Clergy Association