The role of the bar/bat mitzvah in contemporary Jewish life deserves all the attention Gary Rosenblatt gave it, and more (“Changing Up The Bar And Bat Mitzvah Experience,” April 20). It reminded me of the parent who sends the child to Hebrew school with the warning, “My parents made me go, and you have to go also.”
Not to take away from the many thousands who have positive experiences, and the educational progress being made in this area, but until we totally redefine this Jewish American idol, the education and the future identity of generations of youth will continue to be handicapped. The valuable time we have with children in Hebrew school needs to be focused more on experience and knowledge with relevant subjects and issues that will advance their understanding of the beauty of being a Jew. Rabbis need to have personal relationships with the students so that when they “graduate” with Jewish pride, they will want to continue their Jewish connection. Instead, most schools focus, as Rosenblatt explained, on long-term preparation to read the Haftorah — and valuable time is lost.
The sad truth is that in many congregations, over 40 percent of the membership is there for this hyped-up “rite of passage,” and shul economics makes it very difficult to ignore. The Jewish Week would do a great public service by keeping the spotlight on the need for a cultural shift.
If it were up to me, I would redo the curriculum to minimize the “big day event,” advise parents to take their children’s friends to a kosher restaurant for a small birthday party and spend the big-party money on a two-week trip to Israel for the whole family.
Director Chabad Lubavitch of Long Island