Updating his 1984 book, Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah: How Jewish Boys and Girls Come of Age, Metter again traces the history and changing customs of this important ritual. Eric Kimmel’s Bar Mitzvah: A Jewish Boy’s Coming of Age (1997) and Barbara Goldin Diamond’s Bat Mitzvah: A Jewish Girl’s Coming of Age (1997) are more detailed and deal with religious meaning more directly, but Metter’s work is concise, readable and enlightening, especially for those not already familiar with these observances. This new version reflects changes in our world over the past 23 years. Metter includes a stronger egalitarian voice and a new section on Judith Kaplan, the first modern bat mitzvah. He has eliminated using the male pronoun and bar mitzvah ceremony as the norm. Some borderline pedantic background information has been removed or made far more concise. He expanded prior mention of the trend toward adults becoming bar and bat mitzvah to a whole chapter and included more material on customs in other countries. Metter’s revised chapter on celebrity memories of their own ceremonies has left politicians and Nobel prize winners out, focusing instead on younger film and TV actors, comics, and Olympic medal athletes. A brief discussion of sumptuary excess appears less judgmental than in his original earlier work. Both changes reflect an acceptance of today’s realities. The final chapter is unchanged, however, emphasizing that the timeless significance of this ritual remains undiminished. Appended bibliography, B/W illustrations and, source notes, and websites.
Rita Berman Frischer was director of Sinai Temple Blumenthal Library for twenty years. She has served as a judge for children’s books awards, written chapters on children’s book for various bibliographic works and is a frequent reviewer for Jewish periodicals and newspapers.