Bar Mitz­vah, Bat Mitz­vah: The Cer­e­mo­ny, the Par­ty, and How the Day Came to Be

Bert Met­ter; Joan Reil­ly, illus.
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012
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.

Discussion Questions