Bnei’ Mitzvah Season, which for the average Jewish kid is practically every weekend of the seventh grade and the beginning of eighth grade, is quite a time to be alive. Whether it was getting picked first for Snowball, dressing up, eating the to-die-for fried mac and cheese balls at the cocktail hour, or bruising and blistering from the so-called “mosh pits” with Kareem the DJ, these mitzvahs were a blast. They were all pretty much the same, which was essentially a Saturday night full of socializing, great food, and more dancing to cheesy songs than you could ever imagine.
However, when I attended a Bat Mitzvah this past weekend, the experience was quite different. As I started to think about what Bat Mitzvahs were like in past years, something occurred to me: the evolution of the experience one has at a Bnei’ mitzvah is a real occurrence. Going to the event as a seven-year-old to watch your cousin read her haftarah, a series of selections from the Jewish Bible (the Torah), versus going as a seventh grader with braces, and then going as a junior in high school are three completely different experiences.
I clearly remember my first Bat Mitzvah. It was a family friend’s, who was a seventh grader at Anshe Emet. Now, if you are having a hard time understanding what this was like for me, picture this: ten year old Ella in a colorful poofy dress with black flats and a sparkly barrette. Long story short, I had a great time. The best part of the night was, by far, playing the hugging game with all these cute seventh grade boys, and even snowballing with one of them. After the giveaways— a sweatshirt that was four sizes too big for me— were passed out, my parents told me it was time for us to go home. I couldn’t get over how much fun I’d had that night. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t to go to parties like that every weekend. But, little did I know, in less than two short years, these parties would define my entire weekend.
So it’s two years later: my legs are longer, the giveaway sweatshirts fit better, and the seventh grade boys no longer resemble Zac Efron and Dave Franco as much as they did two years ago. Regardless, it is finally the time in my life when I get to watch my friends read the Torah —basically a way for me practice for my own Bat Mitzvah in the coming year. In fact, the service was so repetitive that by the end of the Bnei’ Mitzvahs, every person in my grade, Jewish or not, knew many, if not all, of the prayers.
After the service was when all the fun started. I got to dance the night out to “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas, while simultaneously stuffing my face with pigs in blankets and those out-of-this-world mac n cheese balls—sorry to keep mentioning them, but I was obsessed. Not to mention the fact that the dancers passed out socks at the beginning of the party so that the girls could take off their uncomfortable heels! Well, now that I think about it, my mom didn’t let me wear heels to many of the parties in seventh grade— something I was, and still am, very salty about. So I guess for me, it was just taking off my black flats to fit in, but you get the point. What I’m saying is, what could be more fun than that?
This weekend, as I reflected on all the fun I had at these parties every weekend, I also started to remember some of the cons, like all of the unnecessary drama that came with them. Some of this drama included who got picked for snowball, what assigned table you were at for dinner, who you were getting ready with, and whether the party ended at 11, or 12— if it was 12, major brownie points for you and your family (Mazel Tov!). So while these seventh grade parties were fun and all, some aspects of them were very stressful. Seventh grade isn’t exactly an ideal social situation for anyone, which is why I am thankful that phase is over.
So add a couple more years: my legs are somehow even longer, my mom no longer has a say in the shoes I wear, and my friends’ definition of a great Saturday night isn’t exactly “moshing” in a ballroom surrounded by parents and the Bar Mitzvah Boy’s Bubbie— that’s Yiddish for grandma. Speaking from firsthand experience, going to Bnei’ Mitzvahs as a junior in high school can be just as fun as they used to be, but in a different way, of course. There is less of a buildup, the event is more casual, and doesn’t seem like the best thing that has ever happened to you. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that belting “Sweet Caroline” is no longer the best feeling ever— because it is and will always be. Junior Ian Cahr reflects on his experience attending Bnei’ Mitzvahs and how that experience has drastically changed. He tells The Forum, “I think the funniest part of going to them as an older kid is seeing what seventh graders do and how they interact with one another. It makes you think to yourself, ‘Did I really used to be like that?’”
So while we typically think of Bnei’ Mitzvah season as a short lived seventh grade episode, it is important to remember that attending one can and should still be fun regardless of your age, as long as you don’t attend with the mindset of a seventh grader. For our generation, it is a time that we can look back on our awkward middle school years, laugh at ourselves and think, what the heck were we thinking? So while it is a completely different experience, there are some things about the Mitzvahs that never change. As Junior Lily Block puts it, “some part of me still wants to get picked first for snowball.”]]>