First, I would like to request a moment of silence for my Grandpa Harvey, who died earlier this year, and my Grandma Dot, who died two and a half years ago. I miss them every day and I am sorry they were not able to be here today. I know they were looking forward to attending my Bar Mitzvah.
Before I started working on my Bar Mitzvah, if someone had told me I didn’t have to have a Bar Mitzvah, I would not have had one. If someone had asked me what I would rather be doing at any moment during my Bar Mitzvah process, I would have said, “Almost anything else.” But looking back on what I did, I understand why it is a tradition that has been carried on over the years.
A Bar Mitzvah is a coming of age ritual, and with age comes responsibility. Having a Bar Mitzvah is a responsibility that I didn’t really want to take on, but did anyway. When I first started my Bar Mitzvah I didn’t know why I had to do all of the things that City Congregation required, but now I do. This process gave me the tools and motivation to gain knowledge for when I am an adult.
What my Bar Mitzvah means to me is maturing into adulthood and having both more responsibilities and freedom. My dad had a Bar Mitzvah when he was my age and hated it. He hated it because he was told what to say and had minimal freedom, which didn’t make it feel like a transition into adulthood. As a Humanistic Jew, my Bar Mitzvah meant that I had freedom to do almost anything.
One of the first steps in my Bar Mitzvah was interviewing relatives for my family values paper. Through these interviews I learned about my relatives’ history. One relative who stood out was my grandma Beverly, who died before I was born. I didn’t know a lot about her, but after learning about her I realized she seemed like someone I would look up to. She stood up for her beliefs and wasn’t afraid to show them. Many people tell me I’m like that because I express my beliefs even if the majority disagrees. This is a legacy I am proud to have inherited and will continue to pass it on to further generations.
Learning about the suffering of the Jews in the 1930’s and 40’s in Europe, I wondered why more people didn’t stand up for them. Americans and Europeans were bystanders to what Hitler was doing. Now people are unable to imagine a world like that. But today we have our own struggles, and I think we need more activists like Pete Seeger who are determined to speak out against injustice. His efforts helped lay the groundwork for many of the current protest movements such as Black Lives Matter, and those who advocate for Syrian refugees, undocumented aliens and gay and transgender rights. History has shown that people will often not help others in need until an activist arises and changes the public’s mind.
Now I would like to thank the following people because without them I wouldn’t be standing here today.
First of all, my parents, for helping me to prepare for my Bar Mitzvah, and putting up with my lack of enthusiasm for the process.
I would like to thank all of the family members I interviewed for my family history project, especially my Grandpa Jack, who couldn’t be here today, but gave me a lot of information about his time in China while he was in the Army during World War II.
I want to thank my sister, Lily, for having her Bat Mitzvah before me and inspiring me.
I would like to thank Nicole Miller, who helped me organize things and get through the papers I had to write.
I would like to thank my mentor Middy Streeter for always being there to help me.
I want to thank Rabbi Peter for writing the Bar Mitzvah service, Aram Rubenstein-Gillis for his singing, and Isabel Kaplan for coordinating the Bar Mitzvah process.
And, finally, I would like to thank everyone for being here today to help me celebrate.