What My Bar Mitzvah Means to Me: Leo T. (2019)

Over the course of my Bar Mitzvah preparation, I have learned a great deal. I learned about subjects such as my family heritage, Jewish history and tradition, civil rights, and the values of my family, culture, and most importantly, myself.  It has not been easy, but I have to admit, I have found that it has been worth it.  At first, I really did not want to go through the trouble of having a Bar Mitzvah, because I thought it was just purely an old fashioned and meaningless ritual.  However, I appreciate the way City Congregation’s Mitzvah program was created to focus on heritage, values, and meaningful traditions.  I have also realized that being Jewish doesn’t mean you have to pray all the time or strictly follow all the rules of the Torah.  You don’t even have to believe in all the rules and laws in the Torah if you don’t want to.  Simply being a good person and understanding who you are and where you came from is an essential part of this identity.  Completing the project has made me realize how much I have learned about myself and the people around me.

As I mentioned, one part of this process has been to examine what I and my family find important.  I have learned about some of the key values my family admires and that I also want to acquire, such as perseverance, justice, and empathy.  I have learned about my own ancestors and my background, both Jewish and Chinese, through this process. I have also realized how keeping Jewish tradition matters because it honors many previous generations who have completed Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.  I have gained insight and have come to appreciate certain aspects of becoming a Bar Mitzvah.

I received help from a number of people throughout my project, and I could not have done this without them. I would like to thank my Mom and Dad for pushing me to complete my Bar Mitzvah, and for helping me see the importance of this tradition. Whenever I did not feel like working, researching, or writing, they encouraged me to continue, and when I was out of ideas, they inspired me. Without them, I definitely would not have completed the project.  I also want to thank my grandpa Pop, aka Gershin, and my grandma Mima Thérèse, who have taught me about ethics, respect for the earth and other peoples, and the importance of family.  My sister Sasha was there by my side throughout this as she always is, and deserves a big thanks as well.  Another person I would like to thank is my Aunt Xoche who is always my ally, knows when to tell me I am out of line, and who would often give me suggestions to improve my writing style for my Bar Mitzvah essays.  My cousins Pearl, Lilah, and Suzannah are my biggest fans, and I look forward to being at their Bat Mitzvahs in the future.  (Also, Happy First Birthday, Suzannah!)  I would also like to thank my Uncle Joseph in Italy, who couldn’t be here today, but who lent me his Kiddush cup from when he had his Bar Mitzvah.

Next, I would like to thank Rabbi Tzemah, Rabbi Peter, Isabel, and my mentor, Andrea, who all took my hand and gently guided me (slash) nudged me through the process.  Thank you to Ivan for leading us all in the songs today, and to my violin teacher Abby for teaching me how to play klezmer.  Gail, thank you for creating this one-of-a-kind Chagall tie that I am wearing today.  I appreciate Wilson, Rose, and Lee, our videographers, and photographers Erica and Nathan for documenting today’s event. Finally, I want to thank all of you: all of my friends and family here today, from near and far, for coming to my Bar Mitzvah to help me celebrate this occasion. Without you, I’d be talking to a wall in the back of the room! So, thank you all!