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.