For many Jewish kids, the bar and bat mitzvah has become more about the celebratory party and gifts than being accepted as an adult in the Jewish community.
In order to inspire children and their families to feel more connected to the bar/bat mitzvah experience, alternative services have been developed in recent years to make the service feel more personal. In fact, b’nai Mitzvah have become so personalized and niche- oriented, that some people have even begun to give their dogs bar/bat mitzvahs (or “Bark Mitzvahs”).
A New Tradition
But another new trend has been causing some controversy. Initiated by Rabbi Craig Rabinowitz of Congregation Kehillat Beth Torah Shalom v’Emunah, outside of Carmel, California, the “Nudist Bar Mitzvah,” for families with a free loving lifestyle, allows children to enter the adult Jewish world in their birthday suits.
The first nudist bar mitzvah was held in 2002 when, now 19-year-old, Jared Kashinsky was called to the Torah wearing only a tallit katan (he was just 13 after all). Jared’s parents, Nancy and Bill, have been nudists since the early 1970s and have raised their children the same way.
The Kashinskys live in “Garden of Eden Nudist Community,” one of the few Jewishly-oriented nudist communities in the world, offering kosher food and Friday night prayer services.
While Congregation Kehillat Beth Torah Shalom v’Emunah is not exclusively geared toward the Garden of Eden community, many of their residents are active in the synagogue. With that in mind, Rabbi Rabinowitz looked into the practicality of having a nudist bar mitzvah. After he realized all it took was to have the participants not wear any clothing, he approached the Kashinskys about having Jared be the first participant.
Of course, the nudist bar mitzvah has its critics. Rabbi Yankl Horowitz, of Temple Beth Mikveh Agudas Israel of nearby Sunnydale, California, staged a protest outside of the Kashinsky bar mitzvah. Calling it a public shame, Horowitz attempted to physically block anyone from entering the synagogue. However, upon seeing many of the guests arriving with no clothes on, he promptly stepped back.
But since Jared’s 2002 ceremony, nudist bar mitzvahs have been few and far between. Rabbi Rabinowitz estimates that he has performed between 5-10 ceremonies himself and is unaware of any other synagogues that offer such a ceremony.
Pronounced: bar MITZ-vuh, also bar meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, Jewish rite of passage for a 13-year-old boy.
Pronounced: KOH-sher, Origin: Hebrew, adhering to kashrut, the traditional Jewish dietary laws.
Pronounced: MITZ-vuh or meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, commandment, also used to mean good deed.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.