Remember, short and sweet, colloquial and informal. It works every time.
Given the condition of Judaism in 2008, a bar mitzvah is an ecumenical stew. It's not only the non-Jews who wonder about the significance and meaning of the ceremony, but even some of our fellow Israelites stare with wonder and, sometimes, awe.That's why a booklet of origins, explanations and exegesis is useful.
The purpose of this speech is to prepare you for your bar mitzvah. And to let you know -- as Noah thought when he received the blueprints from the Master Shipbuilder -- this ain't gonna be easy.
Miss Smith, my third-grade teacher at Vollentine Grammar School, stood facing the class with her arm around my shoulders. She was a large woman the size of two or three of today's fashion models, with gray hair pulled back from a ruddy, round face. All I knew of her personal life was that she was unwed, but mothered 25 third-grade kids. She lived in a small, neighboring town famous for its horse farms.
She looked out to her students, her eyes focused above them. I looked down.
I had just finished reciting a poem to the class and before I could return to my desk, Miss Smith was at my side.
"Children, Teddy is Jewish. And I like Jewish kids. Teddy's people have made some major contributions to the South. How many of you know of Dr. Joseph Goldberger who cured pellagra? How many of you know about pellagra?"
It is a job that demands a great deal of patience with parents as well as kids. Everything depends on: a) the cranial size of the student, and b) the size of the bribes offered by the parents to the kid.