So the son and I returned to New York this weekend for the Bar Mitzvah of Aiden, a boy we know and love.
Before we moved to California, Aiden, his parents and his two brothers lived across the street. They were the best of the best of the best; people who came to feel more like family than mere neighbors. So, of course, we were determined to represent today, and did so gladly.
Yet … it became more than that.
If you read this blog with any regularity, you know the past five weeks have been incredibly challenging for me. To be blunt, I am terrified by our president and his evil band of merry oil spills, and every day I wake to another headline that makes me want to vomit. I’ve been on edge, on the brink of insanity, on the brink of tears. There’s a country I love, only I feel it quickly slipping away.
I presumed Aiden’s Bar Mitzvah would be a warm time with warm people. Yet earlier today, as I sat in the synagogue and watched this sincere-and-decent boy blossom into a sincere-and-decent young man, I felt … contentment. And happiness. And (gasp!) hope. If you’re Jewish and hail from the coasts, you’ve almost certainly attended Bar and Bat Mitzvahs that ooze a certain (what’s the word?) grossness. Young girls dressed like aspiring street walkers. Materialism at its opulent worst. Inappropriate music, inappropriate dance moves, cell phones ablaze, preposterously intoxicated adults. It’s become this unrecognizable thing—a holy day treated as an excuse to spend prohibitive wads of dough on a four-hour ode to a 13-year old.
This event had none of that. First, Aiden was terrific. He’s a well-learned Jewish kid who actually understands whereof he speaks, and his speech (about avoiding prejudice and respecting all people) was perfectly prescient. Second, the service was followed by a tasteful luncheon at the synagogue. Third, tonight from 7:30 until 10:30, there was a party at the nearby ice skating rink. Anyone who wanted to skate could skate. The food was pizza, ziti and salad. There were liters of soda and juice; a chocolate cake; a photo booth; a DJ who absolutely killed it (first time I’ve heard Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” at a Bar Mitzvah) and a touching video montage.
The whole day felt warm and embraceable; like we were taking Aiden’s accomplishment and cocooning it with the respect it deserved. This wasn’t just an excuse to have a party, or a bunch of drunk grownups standing in a corner as their kids grind to a Drake song.
Nope, it was a Bar Mitzvah.
And it gave me faith.