Too often Bar and Bat Mitzvah parents get their proverbial knickers in a knot over details like the hall, the catering, the DJ, the invitations, the theme and the fashion. There is certainly a time and place for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah party – but is this really what a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is all about? Do we want to give our children the message that being Bnei Mitzvah is about throwing an dazzling affair that will impress and outdo our neighbours?
We can all take inspiration from one of the most prominent Jews in the USA today – Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Immanuel. The following paragraphs are from Suntimes.com and is based on his recent speech to the Jewish Federation.
“The night before their Bar Mitzvahs, my brother, Ari, and I took our two sons to the [Wailing] Wall to recite the prayer, ‘Who are you, if you are not for yourself? What are you if you are only for yourself? And if not now, when?’ The same prayer my father said to me on my Bar Mitzvah,” Emanuel said.
“And that really is the spirit, the culture, the philosophical outlook of the [Jewish Federation]. Yes, you have to make sure that no Jew suffers either hunger, homelessness or any of the economic hardships of life. But, our work does not stop at the borders of our own community.”
The mayor’s daughter, Ilana, got a chance to walk that walk after celebrating her Bat Mitzvah recently. Emanuel said he and his wife, Amy, “don’t allow parties for Bat Mitzvah.” Instead, Ilana Emanuel worked with KaBoom — a national non-profit — to plan and build a playground for homeless children at A Safe Haven’s transitional living facility at 2750 W. Roosevelt.
“We’ve taught our kids that the most important thing they can do for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah is to give something back. And in an afternoon, an entire playground went up … 250 people. She organized 130 of ’em. That was her Bat Mitzvah party,” the mayor said. “It’s a time for celebration. But [also] a time to learn that first lesson in life: You have something special. Do something for those who are in a time of need. That is what it means to be Jewish.”
We all know the that if there are two Jews, there will be three opinions. Do you agree with Emanuel’s take on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah message? Do you think there is an even more important message to convey to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah child?