Last weekend, we had a family affair to attend, my nephew Evan’s Bar Mitzvah. For those of you who have no idea about a Bar Mitzvah, I’ll give a quick explanation. It’s the religious ceremony where a 13-year-old Jewish boy becomes a man, including the sprouting of body hair, sort of like a werewolf.
The ceremony started at 10 am and would last around 2 hours. The last time I went to temple was when my niece Rachel had her Bat Mitzvah, at the same temple, so you can tell I’m not a very religious person. In fact, I refer to myself as Jewish Lite.
In our religion, there are different sects, such as Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Hassidic and Lubovitch. The last two are the folks who wear all black and white, have long hair and beards, get married young and have many kids. I am quite the opposite of them.
The temple we went to is Reform; the Rabbi and Cantor are very good. Think of the Rabbi as the priest or MC and the Cantor as the entertainment. The Rabbi reads and leads the congregation during the reading of the Bible, and the Cantor leads the singing.
Evan was sharing the day with a girl who was having her Bat Mitzvah; she looked confident and poised. That’s the big difference between the boys and girls: the boys always look as if they want to hide in the corner, whereas the girls want to stand out.
When Evan was on the bema, the podium or stage for you non-religious types, I had a flash back to my own Bar Mitzvah on 19 May 1971 at Temple Beth-El in Poughkeepsie, NY. I just got out the album and, holy cow, were the suits I wore ugly. I remember shopping, with my parents, for my suit and hating every minute of it. Evan’s suit was much nicer than was mine. I’m sure he enjoyed shopping a lot more than I did.
As I’m looking through those pictures now, the first thought that runs through my mind is, “Oh my god, most of the people in them are dead.” My grandparents, aunts and uncles, and probably a good portion of my parents friends. That’s one reason I hate looking at old albums; it’s too depressing.
As I’m watching Evan on the bema reading from the Torah, all these thoughts start rushing through my head. He sounds like I did, speaking quickly and never looking up at the congregation. I’m sure all he wants is to get through it without messing up. That’s all I wanted when I did it and, quite honestly, I don’t remember a thing I did.
In looking at all the pictures, I hardly remember anyone from them, especially my parent’s friends. I remember one couple, Harvey and Libby Lederstein, only because we got together with them quite often. That, and Libby would today be considered a MILF. Getting to see her in a bathing suit got all the 13-year-old boys excited.
Anyway, back to Evan. He really did a great job, and eventually that “deer in the headlights” look went away. I think he was looking forward to the party that was going to happen later that night at The Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, NY.
After the ceremony, we had time to kill, so we went to my in-laws house for lunch. It was fun, because many of the cousins from out of town were going to be there, and then go to the party. My daughter Michelle loves her cousin, Jeremy, and his wife Linda; she couldn’t wait to spend time with them.
Back in 1971, big parties didn’t happen. After the ceremony, we went into the temple’s big party room qua gym and had bad temple food. Today, a Bar Mitzvah is almost like a wedding. I say almost because the big difference is the lack of a bride.
We arrive at The Crest Hollow around 5:30 pm to take pictures. Now it’s hurry up to wait. We didn’t get to the photographer until 6:15 pm or so, and by this time the kids are getting antsy and hungry. The cocktail hour was supposed to start at 7 pm, with the party starting at 8 pm.
Luckily, we got into the cocktail hour at 6:45 pm and the food was great. It’s easy to fall into love with all the passed Hors d'oeuvres and cutting stations, forgetting about the real dinner. I dug into the Hors d’oeuvres and certainly felt it later. These parties are not for anyone on a diet.
What I got a kick out of is watching Evan and his friends attack all the food stations as if it was going to be their last meal. Thirteen year old boys only have two things are their minds, food and sports. Girls come a little later.
The party started at 8 pm. The first thing I notice are the two hot girls working with the DJ. One was short and blonde; the other was a tall brown-haired woman. I knew, at that point, what all those 13-year-old boys were thinking. They forgot about food and sports for a moment and focused on this brunette goddess jumping up and down to the music.
I think most of the men in the room had their eyes glued to her as well. Anyone that says they weren’t watching is lying. Everyone had a good time. The girls had a good time with all their cousins.
Ah, the memories that came rushing back. Fun to think about, but I’m happy they’re just memories. It’s time for all the young cousins to start making their own.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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