January 12, 2006
Advice From an Insider
Flashing lights blind me. I am deafened by the pounding music. I feel lost among the moving bodies. Where am I? At the scene of yet another sensory-overloaded bar mitzvah party.
I am disturbed by the dancing girls dressed in tube tops and thigh-length skirts and people drinking at the "mocktail" bar. What is this supposed to teach a young person about becoming a member of the Jewish community? Why have we adopted this perverse and flashy sense of culture into our religious celebration?
I thought Judaism wasn't supposed to succumb to the worst in popular culture.
For myself, I decided to opt out of the American b'nai mitzvah scene in favor of a small service in Israel. And while I am not against having a party, if the theme has no correlation with entering the world as a Jewish adult, bar mitzvahs end up making a mockery of our values.
To help ensure that b'nai mitzvah culture reflects Jewish culture, I'm offering the following suggestions:
• Rabbis should ensure that the entertainment and decorations will be appropriate. They should be on-hand at the party to keep track of what is happening.
• Set the bar mitzvah budget, then cut it back by 10 percent and give that amount to charity.
• Consider the message the party is sending. How will people view you afterward? Did you do something to enhance respect for Judaism, or did you create a larger divide between modesty and extravagance? And as the parent of a bar or bat mitzvah, how did you influence them and open their eyes to what's important?
• Take the emphasis off of the party. Focusing too much attention on the celebration renders the service meaningless. Instead, parents and kids should take the time they would invest in the planning of a lavish party and do something meaningful for the community.
Kayla Greenberg is an eighth-grader at Colina Middle School in Thousand Oaks.