When I started the bar mitzvah program, I was 12 years old. Yes, I got a late start. My parents and I had just joined the congregation. We chose this non-traditional humanistic approach, one that emphasizes Jewish culture, because it fits well with who we are. Starting this project at 12 and finishing now has made me realize how much I have changed in the last three years.
My views of the world have changed and now, being almost 15, my bar mitzvah has taken on new meaning for me. I’m not a kid anymore – I am becoming a useful part of the world. I don’t plan to sit on the sidelines and watch things happen. I am taking responsibility for my own actions.
I learned some really interesting and surprising things about my family, about my Jewish side, coming from Eastern Europe and Turkey, and about the non-Jewish side, coming from Ireland and England by way of Arkansas. I have a family of entrepreneurs, self-starters, artists, speakers, jugglers, clowns, and activists. This eclectic group of people represents so many different kinds of experiences, and so many points of view. It’s the background for the broad picture of the world I’m becoming part of.
Today I have celebrated my family, my strengths and my values. Now that it is done, I can start something else. My bar mitzvah means that in a few years I’ll be in college, starting my adult life. On the way, my parents will continue to help me navigate. Where do I fit in as a Jew? I’ll keep paying attention to my values, pursuing my passions and taking a position that keeps me involved in the community.
There are advantages to being an older bar mitzvah – I am wiser now and have a different perspective on the world, and on myself. Of course, this meant a lot of editing of papers that I wrote when I was younger.
I couldn’t have completed this project without the help of my mentor Marge. She always pushed me to get everything done and put lots of thought into my papers. I also would like to thank Rabbi Peter for creating this non-traditional program, and Rabbi Peter and Isabel Kaplan for all their input into my projects. Thank you, Aram, for your musical contribution to the service. Thank you to my bandmates: Julian, Ethan and Gabe. It’s been a good run! And now to my parents: I know it’s been really rough, and there’s been a lot of resistance on my part, but I’d like to thank you both for putting up with me and making this all worthwhile.