Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Bat Mitzvah Idol

The reason I went east last weekend was to meet up with my family in New Jersey and head from there to the bat mitzvah of my cousin Mitchell's daughter Olivia, which was in Scarsdale on Saturday. It's the Year of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. (Would the plural be b'nai mitzvah? Of my friends list I think only slinkr would know.) Last fall I was invited to three, all in the NYC area and all for the second child of friends from my college band. But I couldn't make the trip three times in a month, so I had to miss Sophie's, Sophie being the daughter of my friend Joel. I saw Sophie at both the events I did attend, where I apologized profusely to her, and promised her that to make up for it I would take her (and her family, if she wanted) out to dinner the next time I was in NYC and we'd celebrate then. So last week I went east a couple of days early.

Sophie and her parents and her sister and my college friend Liz and I all had a nice festive sushi dinner. Over dinner, with bat mitzvahs on my mind, I got to musing about the notion of a television show called "Bat Mitzvah Idol". The girls would get up and chant their parsha on a stage setting of a bima. They would be judged by a panel consisting of a cantor, a rabbi, and a grandmother. The cantor would be very strict and critical about the trope. The rabbi would be kindly and wise and offer extensive advice about issues above and beyond the chanting. The grandmother, unable to help herself, would run up to the stage and pinch the girl's cheeks and generally kvell about how beautiful she is and how wonderfully she did.

I wound up writing about this idea in my note to my cousin's daughter. I think it has potential.

Olivia did very well on Saturday. Of course, they always do, but Olivia was amazingly poised and adult and gracious from beginning to end, which in some ways is the point of the ordeal -- to give a young man or woman the opportunity to be an adult. The ritual itself often does have a lasting affect on the teenager, a maturing one. I've seen this a little bit vaguely from a distance, but friends of mine have noted the change in either their children or others they are close to.

The bat mitzvah reception was held at the Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club, a sumptuous setting. There was much fine food. These days, in some circles, instead of a band there is often a DJ who is sort of a party cheerleader. This is not (and likely would never have been) my style, but the kids really do seem to enjoy themselves. The DJ, as in this case, is sometimes assisted by a crew of cheering dancers, who bring the kids out of their seats and encourage them to dance. Whatever I think about this (in comparison to how things were done when I was 13, or perhaps in comparison to my personal ideas of how one makes one's own fun), I did enjoy watching the kids have a good time.

My niece Jessie, entering her mid-twenties, hadn't been to an event of this sort before. I told her how much more fun they became for me when I grew old enough to take advantage of the open bar. She took my advice and had a fine time.

I've definitely been out of the world of these events for a couple of decades. It's coincidence that there is a sudden spate of them among people in my life. But it's been interesting -- and I've gotten some really good meals out of it.
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