Sur­viv­ing Your Bar/​Bat Mitz­vah: The Ulti­mate Insid­er’s Guide

  • Review
By – April 23, 2012

This is a com­pre­hen­sive look at what a fam­i­ly will expe­ri­ence when they go through the bar or bat mitz­vah process. A can­tor who has guid­ed and instruct­ed chil­dren for many years, the author writes with both author­i­ty and humor. 

There are sec­tions with­in chap­ters that are des­ig­nat­ed Insider’s Tip” and some that are Just For Par­ents” as well as sev­er­al clever car­toons. At the end of the book, there are two appen­dices, one with a check­list of the most impor­tant tips and the sec­ond, a glos­sary of Hebrew terms. 

The book is very detailed and par­ents should read it all. How­ev­er, I would high­light only cer­tain chap­ters and sec­tions for students. 

The intro­duc­tion sets the tone. It talks about the ori­gin of the bar and bat mitz­vah. Writ­ten tongue-in-cheek, it describes a meet­ing with God and his angels. They decide that they will take young peo­ple who are about thir­teen who are social­ly awk­ward and self-conscious…make them stand up in front of all their friends and fam­i­ly and sing for hours… Plus they’ll have to do it in anoth­er language.” 

Can­tor Axel­rod spends a lot of time send­ing the mes­sage that this process is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the whole fam­i­ly to become knowl­edge­able about the Shab­bat ser­vice, not just for the spe­cial day” but for a life­time. He also presents strate­gies for the par­ents and child to cope with the stress­es that accom­pa­ny these events. As an exam­ple, he talks about how con­ta­gious anx­i­ety is. He clear­ly dis­tin­guish­es between the roles of par­ents and those of chil­dren. Indeed, it is not the child’s issue to know that “…Aunt Rose won’t sit any­where near cousin Mar­vin because of the chopped liv­er inci­dent in 1975. (And we all know that Mar­vin was at fault, but he’ll nev­er admit it. That Aunt Rose is a saint.)” 

By giv­ing both par­ents and chil­dren a detailed roadmap, this book gives fam­i­lies guide­lines that will make their sim­cha eas­i­er and more mean­ing­ful. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 11 to adult. 

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

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