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Nov 13 2014

Should We Give My Son a Shotgun Bar Mitzvah?

By at 9:47 am

Should We Give My Son a Shotgun Bar Mitzvah?

Since the day our 11-year-old was born, we’ve poured on the love, hugs, and Legos. But we slacked big time on his Jewish education.

Although I was raised Reform and my husband Conservative (the nephew of a rabbi, no less), we’re both essentially agnostic and take our cultural Jewish identity for granted. We really get Jon Stewart. You say sheket bevakashah, and we’ll both say “hey.” My husband can read Hebrew (never mind its meaning). I really like salty fish slathered in mayo. We feel Jewish. Unfortunately, that sense of identity was formed at the knees of Yiddish-speaking grandparents—it’s not something that can be passed on. And while our son has his own quad of adoring grandparents, they’ve long since abandoned their parents’ more traditional ways (my side leans towards atheism, my husband’s towards guilty apathy). And so our son’s sense of being Jewish is surface, at best. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 11 2014

My Daughter, The Hebrew School Dropout

By at 11:57 am

Hebrew school dropout

“My daughter, the Hebrew School dropout.” Those weren’t exactly the words I had in mind when I enrolled Hannah in Hebrew school when she was in kindergarten. And all went well for a few years…until there were some rumblings in 5th grade. But I gamely ignored them, and we soldiered on.

And then middle school hit like a tsunami. Hannah was normally a fairly calm, methodical kid. Not anymore. Her anxiety levels spiked as her secular school workload increased. She placed high expectations on herself, expecting straight A’s every marking period. I remember begging her, “Get a B. Just get a B in something and you will see that the world won’t end.”

Add in a long drive to Hebrew school and an extra two hours of class once a week, and Hannah was on the verge of cracking. When she came home from Hebrew school she would sob in my arms. She didn’t connect socially with her peers and she wasn’t learning anything new. She would stay up late at night to finish her homework and then do cartwheels and handsprings in her bedroom to calm her nerves. It was wearing both of us out. Read the rest of this entry →

How Will We Navigate Orthodoxy As My Feisty Daughter Grows Up?

By at 9:42 am

nicki gilbert monkey in the middle

A boisterous game of “Monkey in the Middle” overtook our family room after Shabbat dinner last week. Astonishingly, nothing was broken and nobody got hurt. Laughter, happy yelling, and lots of good-natured teasing kept the blue-and-white beach ball airborne and away from the “monkey,” who in this game, was my daughter.

My only little girl is a feisty 8-year-old. She holds her own with big green-gray eyes, a smattering of freckles, a knowing smile, and a steely grip amid the three brothers who love nothing more than to give her a hard time about, well, everything: that she mispronounces “bird,” that she’s something of a busybody, that she prefers to keep her room testosterone-free, and yells “out” as soon as a male body, canine or human, places a smelly toe over the threshold. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 22 2014

Has the Bat Mitzvah Party Overtaken the Bat Mitzvah?

By at 3:57 pm

My Problem with the Booty Short Bat Mitzvah

I knew bat mitzvahs were a bad idea. I told my husband this in 2001, about 20 minutes after we returned from the hospital with our two new daughters and he said, “My parents want to know when the baby namings will be.”

I like to think of the baby naming as a “bris for girls,” a custom created by Reform Jews rather than God and therefore, in my mind, totally optional. So, over babies crying, I hollered as best I could—given the fresh incision across my abdomen—that there’d be no baby namings. Then, as I struggled to attach a newborn to each of my nipples, I added, “And there’ll be no bat mitzvahs either. So tell your parents not even to ask.”

But they did ask, and so did my husband, who typically asks for nothing. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2013

Kveller Makes its MSNBC Thanks to Jennifer’s Bat Mitzvah Tee

By at 1:31 pm

msnbc_kveller

In the concluding (we think) piece to the Jennifer’s bat mitzvah t-shirt saga, we are proud to say that Kveller was featured on MSNBC last night!

Earlier this week, NPR’s Planet Money alerted readers to be on the lookout for the owner of a bat mitzvah shirt from 1993 that ended up in a used-clothing market in Africa. We posted about it with hopes to help solve the mystery, which inspired JTA employee Adam Soclof to use his Facebook searching skills to find Jennifer, as well as the owner of the t-shirt.

Last night on MSNBC, Chris Hayes included the story in his “Click 3″ round up, which summarizes the three most awesome things on the internet that week. We make our debut at .56 seconds in!

Kveller: solving bat mitzvah mysteries, one tee at a time.

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Dec 11 2013

Jennifer’s 1993 Bat Mitzvah T-Shirt: Mystery Solved

By at 1:28 pm

toonies

Yesterday we helped NPR’s Planet Money on its search to find a cartoon-themed bat mitzvah t-shirt that turned up in a bin of donated clothes in Sub-Saharan Africa. Once he saw our post about it, Adam Soclof at the JTA went on a hunt for the namesake of this amazing shirt from 1993.

Somehow he ended up finding Rachel Aaronson (maiden name Williams, whose name was sewn into the tee thanks to Jewish summer camp) on Facebook, which led him to interview Rachel and identify Jennifer Slaim–the bat mitzvah girl–who he also interviewed on this bat mitzvah tee fiasco. Check out the interview to learn more about Jennifer’s Betty Boop obsession, her thoughts on her bat mitzvah tee winding up in Israel, and an amazing video of her daughter dancing to MC Hammer. Mmm-hmmm.

UPDATE: NPR got in touch with Jennifer and Rachel and posted this update, including an amazing picture of the two wearing the bat mitzvah t-shirt at the bat mitzvah. The story will be airing on All Things Considered tonight.

Well, folks, never underestimate the power of Facebook and Jewish geography. And keep donating your old tee’s to those in need–you never know when a story could unfold.

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Dec 10 2013

Let’s Help NPR Find The Owner of This Bat Mitzvah T-Shirt from 1993

By at 3:06 pm

toonies

Ah, the days of the bat mitzvah tee–before Drake started playing at parties and expensive hoodies became a gift giveaway norm. Well, we miss the classic bar mitzvah party t-shirt, and so do two NPR correspondents. Thus, they are on a hunt to find the owner/namesake of this “Dancing with the Toons” t-shirt.

Last week, Gregory Warner and David Kestenbaum reported on the after life of American clothes–namely how clothes we outgrow or get tired of end up in bins in sub-Saharan Africa. Through out their rummage, they found this gem from Jennifer’s bat mitzvah, dated November 20th, 1993.

The question they desperately want answered (as do we): WHO IS JENNIFER?

The shirt had a tag sewn inside (most likely from the clothes-labeling days of Jewish summer camp) that reads Rachel Williams.

Do you know Rachel? Do you know Jennifer? Help these two guys solve this bat mitzvah mystery! Email planetmoney@npr.org and put “that’s my shirt” in the subject line.

Let the Jewish geography conversations commence!

UPDATE: Jennifer (and Rachel Williams) have been found. Good job, internet. Read the update here.

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Oct 24 2013

The Bar Mitzvah Diary: How I Prepared for My Son’s Big Day

By at 9:43 am

sharon clark bar mitzvah diary

We recently held my older son’s bar mitzvah. I had heard many stories about all the pitfalls of these events–which are really supposed to be focused on the meaningfulness for the young people involved– but assumed I would get around them and plan an event that would be successful and well-organized, without much of the tsuris that other families seem to have to deal with. I am an executive in the government, after all, accustomed to dealing with a wide range of stakeholders, conflicting priorities, and tight timelines.

Boy, was I wrong. Events conspired to bring me to a near state of panic, and my only way of coping was to start keeping this blog. In the end, humor saved the day. So enjoy.

November 2012: T-9 months

– Established bar mitzvah budget. Figured we should have no problem staying on budget. I’m an auditor, after all.

– Called local Museum to book room for Saturday night party. Museum tells me for my budget, I can order pizza from their cafeteria. Called Delta Hotel.

December 2012: T-8 months

– Delta tells me (more politely than the Museum) that they can’t do it for my budget.

January 2013: T-7 months

– Booked party room at City Hall. Room is good price and we can bring in our own caterer and buy our own booze. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 10 2013

How to Throw a Bargain Bat Mitzvah

By at 5:00 pm

trapeze artists

My daughter studied Hebrew for four years, giving up free time after school and many weekend slumber parties in pursuit of Jewish knowledge. After all that effort, she wanted a fabulous party to mark the occasion of finally being called to the bimah as a bat mitzvah.

And I wanted to give her one. She’d worked hard for it. But I didn’t have a savings account marked “bat mitzvah” set aside, nor did I have tens of thousands of dollars open on credit cards. I’m sure that many parents must save for this from the moment they get a positive pregnancy test, but I was a very young parent, a single one until she was in elementary school, and for most of her life I had been struggling to finish college and pay the bills. I wanted my daughter to have a Jewish education. But I couldn’t take out a mortgage to do it.

I was supposed to be excited about this milestone, but as it drew ever closer, all I felt was dread. It became a chore, an obligation, a source of massive anxiety, not a joy. I wanted nothing to do with the words “bat mitzvah” anymore. And that broke my heart. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 9 2013

B’nai Mitzvahs Need a Revolution, But Not That Kind

By at 10:10 am

b'nai mitzvah revolutionOver here at Kveller we know a thing or two about outrageous bar and bat mitzvahs. (Just last month we posted a video of bar mitzvah boy Sam Horowitz shaking his groove thing alongside paid dancers shaking their [well formed] groove things all in celebration of little Sam becoming a man.)

Now, the Reform movement is recognizing that there’s a problem with the American b’nai mitzvah. But it’s not the elaborate parties they’re taking aim at–those have been going on for quite some time (I recall swan ice sculptures at the Harvard Club and my own cousin who imported Olympic athletes to his fete). Read the rest of this entry →

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