‘Tis the Season for Atheism and Fights

The saying goes: If you put a dozen Rabbis in a room and asked them to study Torah they will return with thirteen opinions.

Although we are the least observant (and arguably the least religious) of all households Mr. G and I keep Jewish tradition alive by completely disagreeing on how we should observe and what the laws are.

Hanukkah with Mr. G is a kippa-less experience. This is fine, just put your hand over your head, but sadly Mr. G likes to recite the blessings completely wrong (this is a fact as he has the words wrong) and with the same “melody” as a cantor would. I say it’s blasphemy, he says it’s the spirit moving him. The children will have fond memories of Mommy kicking Daddy in the shins eight nights in a row. Just as Rockwell would have painted it if he wasn’t a goy.

Mr. G and I have taken to walking together in the afternoons whenever there is time. I have a few little loops that I enjoy and he’s begun to join me. Walks are wonderful and we talk in ways that we otherwise might not. We’ve begun to talk about Alexander’s Bar Mitzvah. I don’t think it’s necessary, Mr. G, who never misses an opportunity to tell the children that the Torah is a Jewish Fairy Tale, is certain that a Bar Mitzvah is a must.

A Bar Mitzvah seems like a monumental parental burden. In addition to thousands of dollars spent either on Hebrew School or private tutoring it’s a money suck. It’s also a time suck. When is Alexander supposed to have a little fun? My girlfriend just sent me an email explaining how her daughter is studying for her Bat Miztvah and it’s great preparation for studying for the bar exam. ACK.

So I’m walking and asking my husband why we have to do this. Why do we have to spend ten to twenty thousand dollars and two years of our son’s life on a Bar Mitzvah that will tell stories that we all know aren’t true? His answer was simple.

We’re Jews. This is what Jews do. It’s a cultural thing. When I was born I had my dick cut, I knew when my son was born he’d have his dick cut. I had to suffer through a Bar Mitzvah, and my son will too.

The next few years will be interesting.

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  1. DodiM

    Let’s face it, you live in America.  That circumcision was probably going to happen regardless of your cultural background. It’s hard when you don’t follow family religious tradition, though. Neither one of my kids have had any sacrements except Baptism – when both passed through second grade without reconciliation and first communion there were eyebrows raised and things whispered behind our backs.  My father accusing me of “breaking your mother’s heart”… very pretty.

  2. Christina

    I think your husband will get his was on this one!

    • Christina

      Oops. Meant to say, I think your husband will get his way on this one!

  3. My kids go to a Jewish Day School but we have our version of these debates and discussions, but let’s skip to the Bar Mitzvah.

    My son’s date is set and I know what synagogue the religious portion will be at but what I don’t know is what sort of celebration will take place afterwards.

    There is a lot of talking taking place among the parents of the fifth graders about the expense and reason for having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and there is almost universal agreement that there is no reason to spend to $20k on them.

    I’ll guarantee that some of these families are just talking and will still spend a ton of money on them and that is ok with me. Not my money and not my child.

    But if I have my way we are going to take a family trip to Israel. Close relatives will be invited but they will pay their own way. We’ll still throw some sort of kid’s party but it won’t be 200 people and all the mishegoss that comes with it.

    • Joseph

      That seems like a far better way of spending money to get in touch with one’s Jewish roots. I’ll be going on Birthright Israel next month; I expect to get far more out of it than I did from my bar mitzvah.

  4. DrLori71

    I’m on Team Jessica regarding this subject. I totally agree with you – time suck, money suck. We are not joining a synagogue and my sons are not having bar mitzvahs. Just because I suffered through Hebrew school doesn’t mean my kids have to suffer as well.

    • Why do you automatically assume that your kids would suffer through Hebrew school?

      • Because it sucked 30 years ago and it looks awful now?

        • Joseph

          It sucked 10 years ago, too.

        • I bet that you could come up with a half dozen different foods that look awful but taste great. 

          I went to Hebrew school and then I went on to Hebrew High school. It all took place after public school and was often the reason why I had to stay up later to finish homework.

          I remember the conflicts with after school sports and what have you, so I get it. I am not totally sold on it across the board now, but I have a different approach than many.

          I don’t think that you need religion to be a good person. I don’t believe that Jews are better than other people, but I am damn proud/glad to be one.

          I am not giving my kids a Jewish education solely because I hope that they remain Jewish all their lives. I am doing it because I think that it is important that they get it now so that later on they can make an educated decision about whether to stick with it or not.

          To me it is important that they know why we do what we do. Some of it makes no more sense to me today than 30 years ago and some of it makes much more.

          But I can tell you that not all Hebrew schools are like they were when we were kids. And I can definitely tell you that you don’t have to spend a bundle of money on a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. They aren’t all either/or decisions.

          My son wasn’t real interested in having a Bar Mitzvah until he found out about all the gifts. Right now we’re engaged in a conversation about gratitude and why gifts aren’t a reason to have one.

          Anyhoo, you guys will figure out whatever works best for you.

  5. Good discussion…I think the ceremony is a tradition…the party and celebration afterwards has gotten way out of hand…a new twist on the celebration aspect would be a great idea…I like the suggestion of a trip to Israel but if that is not possible something much less extravagant than a gala would be nice…more thought to this dilemma for me.

  6. I’m so with you on this one-and thankfully my husband is on board too. The interesting piece is my 11 year old son is now asking for a bar mitzvah. Not a clue where this is coming from. Our kids haven’t gone to hebrew school, although we both did (it did suck). We made a decision to honor Jewish traditions, but not send out kids to torture hebrew school or join a temple. As an alternative to the expense of a traditional bar mitzvah we are now thinking about having some sort of ceremony at a place that we love (ski resort is my vote). Interested to hear how yours turns out. Not an easy one.

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