Turn of the Century Bar Mitzvah

The American bar mitzvah has been through many transformations; from simple bar mitzvah speeches in early 20th century tenements to the lavish celebrations of the present. Using photographs, videos, and vintage bar mitzvah speeches, Annie Polland of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum explores what the past might offer the contemporary b’nei mitzvah; from simpler rituals, to re-imagined divrei Torah, as well as a richer connection to immigrant history and an earnest grappling with American Jewish identity.

Dr. Annie Polland is the Vice President for Programs & Education at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where she oversees exhibits and interpretation. She is the co-author, with Daniel Soyer, of Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award. She received her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, and also served as Vice President of Education at the Museum at Eldridge Street, where she wrote Landmark of the Spirit (Yale University). She also teaches at New York University.

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