Dozens of orphans of fallen Israeli soldiers, and the son of an American serviceman who died in Afghanistan, celebrated their bar and bat mitzvahs in Jerusalem in a mass ceremony Thursday conducted by the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, on June 4 is releasing his new book VIRAL HATE: Containing Its Spread on the Internet, which covers how racists and anti-Semites are using the Internet to disseminate hateful information, and poses tough questions about the impact of U.S. laws that highly protect free speech. "We live in the United States, where the First Amendment and freedom of expression is of a high social, democratic and moral value. But now we’re finding a situation where this new freedom is destroying privacy, even destroying civility, so at what point does it cross the line?" Foxman says in an interview with JNS.org.
Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, North American Director of Youth Engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the co-director of URJ's B'nei Mitzvah Revolution project, in an oped advises the modern-day teen celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah to approach the rite of passage not as a sort of graduation ceremony, but as a meaningful transition towards Jewish adulthood.
While traditionally associated with years of Hebrew school, stressing over your d'var torah with your parents, or preteen awkwardness on the dance floor, today Jewish adults are increasingly reinventing the Jewish rite of passage typically reserved for teens. Whether they're for recent converts, those denied celebrations as children, or those rediscovering their Jewish identity, the phenomenon of adult bar/bat mitzvahs has become a regular feature at many Reform and Conservative synagogues throughout the country.
As young people, bar and bat mitzvah parties helped us build character: awkward social interactions, quiet slow-dances where you desperately try not to make eye contact, and condescending head-pats from adults and kids taller than us. Now that we’re older, and head-pats have taken on a sexier implication, how do we behave ourselves at our cousin’s/nephew’s celebration? JNS humor columnist Leo Margul explains how to act—and how not to act.
Your little tot is now not only a teenager, but also preparing for a critical Jewish rite of passage—and you’ve spent too much time feeling sentimental, or planning the party, to remember a gift for the bar or bat mitzvah. But don’t sweat the small stuff: JNS.org has plenty of gifts that are a little less kosher and a lot more fun than the typical envelope filled with multiples of 18.
In the 90 years since Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan’s oldest daughter, Judith, became the first American girl to mark her Jewish coming-of-age in a synagogue, the bat mitzvah celebration has become an accepted practice. A current museum exhibit showcases a collection of personal stories on this tradition, which progressed parallel to the American feminist movement.
Drawing from the personal experience of her synagogue’s granting a policy change request, Sally Gottesman works to be an agent of change for bar and bat mitzvah practices.