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LET'S HAVE SECOND, THIRD, AND LATER BAR/BAT MITZVAHS

By Zoltan Fischer

I am proposing to the Jewish community additional opportunities for individuals to reflect upon, and celebrate, their commitment to our values and people.  My idea is to have a bar or bat mitzvah every thirteen years, at 13, 26, 39, 52, 65, and so on.

Some might say that a person’s examination of his/her Jewish ties should go on all the time and certainly occur more often than every thirteen years.  Of course it should, but a recognized opportunity and special occasion would certainly help.  As adults, we get busy with relationships/marriage, children, and careers.  Jewish consciousness is crowded out by seemingly more urgent daily issues.  I feel it would be very appropriate for the rabbinical leadership to offer this new idea to the synagogue membership.

What would this special occasion, a person’s second, third, or other bar/bat mitzvah, consist of?  Here are some suggestions.  I want to make it thought-provoking, happy, and refreshing in a spiritual sense but not too material.

Most important is the personal thought that occurs around the anniversary but I would suggest these four specific components:

1.         A weekly or bi-weekly discussion group at the synagogue for members approaching one of these later bar/bat mitzvahs.  The group would deal with spirituality, the challenges of adult Jewishness, current events, etc.  It would be suggested that a person take part for six months.

2.         Preparation of a personal statement, an essay on the person’s Jewishness of the past thirteen years and the next thirteen years.  This would be both a critique and a plan.

3.         A private discussion with a rabbi or other community leader about adult expressions of Judaism.

4.         Participation in a bar-mitzvah anniversary synagogue service that might include:
a.         Presentation of a personal statement to the congregation
b.         Some liturgical activity including a call to the Torah reading
c.         A special prayer/blessing that has to do with renewal of the Jewish people’s and the individual’s Covenant.

5.         A modest celebration with family, friends, and congregation.

I am hoping that these renewal occasions celebrated at 13-year intervals by adults would bring about a greater consciousness of Jewish ethnic and religious identity and most importantly, a greater effort to incorporate Jewish values into all aspects of adult life (relationships, families, work places, and communal projects).

The addition of the bar/bat mitzvahs can be easily implemented at the synagogue level.  As rabbis, please consider taking the following steps:

1.         After getting the synagogue leadership’s approval, explain this new possibility to the congregation, using sermons, newsletter, and in-person contacts.

2.         Publicize the celebrations and the underlying ideas, using the city-wide papers or electronic media at your disposal.

3.         Spread the new “custom” to the national level by taking advantage of the major forums of American Jewry.

I believe we will be doing a good thing in the area of revitalization and taking another nice step toward thoughtful adult Judaism.  These are my motivations.

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