You may have noticed we’ve had a few B’nai Mitzvah-related posts lately. We are at the start of celebrating our 13th year and in that spirit we’re launching an occasional series of B’nai Mitzvah reflections.
Explaining the idea behind a bar/bat mitzvah isn’t terribly difficult. When talking to someone about this Jewish life cycle moment, most people can relate to a coming of age ceremony, whether it’s a Quinceañera, debutante ball, or in this neck of the woods, the time you killed your first deer. They understand that, at a certain age, a young person comes to be seen as an adult in his or her community, and begins to take on adult responsibilities.
People don’t immediately understand, however, what David Duchovny has to do with it.
At thirteen I was devoted to Special Agents Mulder and Scully, dedicated to searching for the truth and committed to trusting no one. So much so that I knew these ideals had to be included in this important life event. And that’s how, while I was stuck studying Haftorah, my totally cool mother ended up planning my elaborate X-Files themed Bat Mitzvah party.
My favorite elements of the theme, to this day, are probably the life size cardboard cutouts of Special Agents Mulder and Scully that stood beside me as I sang a medley of show tunes to family and friends. They lived in my room for about three years after the party.
Explaining this circus of a bat mitzvah to non-Jewish friends, I often encounter a cultural divide. I have to backtrack and explain that, even though having a thoroughly themed party is pretty common where I grew up, it’s certainly not the rule. These celebrations come in all shapes and sizes, much like Jews themselves! While a lot about this Jewish rite of passage is mysterious to to the general public, I know my thirteen year old self is awfully glad that after this post, the truth is finally out there.
2013 marks the ISJL’s thirteenth year of existence.
Our B’nai Mitzvah Year.*
We will go through many of the same things any b’nai mitzvah student goes through: we will study, we will learn, we will hope for meaningful gifts, we will try to be better than we were. We will stand proudly in front of our supporters and say “Today, we are an organization!”
Throughout this year, we will be marking this milestone. This month, as we celebrate the “secular” new year, our mind is on resolutions. As a thirteen-year-old organization, what should our focus be? What do we want to continue to do, and what do we want to change?
With that in mind, we start our reflective process of The ISJL at 13 with some institutional New Year resolutions:
1) Stay in shape. No spandex required – this resolution has less to do with lifting weights, and more to do with constantly lifting expectations. We want to be responsive, reflective, and ready to go, when we’re on the road, and when we’re in the office. We know we’ve had some good workouts in the past, but we have to stay active if we want to stay in shape to keep seeing results!
2) Share with others. We love having our blog, our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, our CIRCA magazine. We want to continue to share stories and strategies, not only to inform but also to inspire. We are proud to be a transformational, trans-denominational organization with a collaborative, regional approach to programming. We want to share how we do what we do, so other areas that could benefit from our approach can see what’s working here. We also love the communities and organizations we’re privileged to partner with, and want to be good partners by sharing their stories and successes, too!
3) Celebrate Southern Jewish life. We believe in the universality of the Jewish experience, and we also value the uniqueness of the Southern Jewish experience. Through histories and contemporary reflections, we want to renew our commitment to celebrate, preserve and promote the people and practices of Southern Jewish life.
4) Travel. Okay, so we already travel a lot. But with our new education partners in Missouri, and trying to share stories of the Southern Jewish experience with a wider audience … we’re expecting to rack up a lot of miles this year!
5) Eat better. Well … this is the resolution we’re most likely to break … there’s still a lot of sweets around this office, y’all. So one way we’ll honor this resolution is by sharing some of our favorite Southern-and-Jewish recipes throughout the year, which will also be included in our upcoming Taste of Torah book. Hey, those recipes will also count toward fulfilling resolution #3 – and look, resolution #2, too! This might be the best resolution of all!! (Food always wins.)
Those are our resolutions as we begin our thirteenth year. From all of us to all of y’all, Happy New Year, Shabbat Shalom – and we hope you’re resolved and looking forward to celebrating with us all year long!
* We couldn’t decide on Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and we have a lot of staff, so we went with B’Nai Mitzvah. It seemed like the mensch move!