By now, many people have caught the You Tube video of Sam Horowitz’s Bar Mitzvah party. This Dallas area young man really had an amazing blow-out to mark his covenantal journey to man-hood. (I’m not going to link to it-you can Google it). It is being denounced by prominent rabbis, etc. It has now come out that Sam’s parents have now donated 36k to Israel, which is supposed to make the denouncers feel badly (see-they are charitable!) but my guess is that the 36K is a drop in the bucket to this family.
My guess is that for every person who is denouncing this kid and his parents, there are plenty more who are defending him. I read this summer the blog of an affluent Jewish lady in Philly who defends her excess lavish spending on her children by saying ‘We just can’t love them enough”-and I am guessing that many folks would agree with her-and her spending on her kids.
No, to be honest, I don’t really have much to say about Sam. I actually wish him well. His parents are clearly in that strata of society (Jewish and non-Jewish) where money is never going to be an issue and I say good luck to this kid-I hope he achieves all his dreams-whatever they might be (apparently he is an aspiring actor).
No, my issue is that were it not for the Bar-or Bat Mitzvah, how successful would we be as rabbis and synagogues in continuing to attract the loyalty and dedication of many of our members? Frankly, when was the last time you heard of a family renting the Waldorf Astoria for a Shemini Atzeret Party? I suspect that if we got rid of the Bat\Bar Mitzvah, our synagogues would be facing the fate of many of the main line Protestant denominations-shrinking into irrelevance. More and more Americans, including Jews, are saying that “none” is their preferred religious denomination. Sure there would be a core of strongly connected members, but would a 3000 family congregation (or even an 1100 family like mine) even exist? Doubt it. No, the challenge is upon-me and my colleagues and dedicated lay persons, to teach always that Judaism is about creating joyful community and living in relationship to God. Living with honesty, righteousness, and hope. The threat to that is not Sam’s Bar Mitzvah-but our own abandonment of that sacred task.