Bar Mitzvah Monday

That’s right, a Bar Mitzvah on a Monday. I attended my first Monday Bar Mitzvah this week. I hate to say it, but when I first heard about the plans, my initial thoughts were not exactly positive. Really?! A Monday?! At a hotel?! It seemed very odd. Maybe on a Saturday in a hotel in a town where you don’t have a temple, makes sense. A Bar Mitzvah on a Monday at a hotel, in Southern California where you have temples in every direction? I had a very hard time wrapping my head around it. But the closer we got to the service and with Hanukkah fast approaching, it’s making more sense to me than ever.

My stepsisters son, Zachary, has turned 13. She, for whatever reasons, is not affiliated with a temple in her area. Yet she celebrates all of the Jewish holidays and her boys have a strong Jewish identity without the need of a temple community. For some background on my stepsister, she is one of the most outgoing, understanding and loving people I know. She has about 1 million friends not only online, but in person too. Nowadays, that’s pretty amazing. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that the event was going to be just our family. Even just family in our family is 50 people. This is a person who could easily have a party for 600. All this makes it even more surprising that she’s not affiliated with a temple. She is the epitome of a mover and a shaker and creates community everywhere shoe goes. She self-admittedly created an “atypical” event for Zach, but truly wanted the event to be as meaningful as possible.

So what does a “make-your-own” Bar Mitzvah look like? A custom siddur with quotes and photos of the Bar Mitzvah boy.  A parsha hand picked to allow Zach to choose what was important for him to read at this time in his life.  A “congregation” of family, everyone already knowing each other and catching up on what’s new, while reflecting on what was.  A beautiful, intimate service without an ark to host the Torah, but with more love than I’ve experienced at a Bar Mitzvah in a very long time.

Like I said, I was skeptical, but the service blew all my apprehensions away. I still had my 2 rugrats to chase around, which unfortunately, kept me from experiencing the entire service and entertainment afterwards. So the only thing that stood between me and a “perfect” service were my own 2 blessings, who will someday have to deal with toddlers running around at their Bar Mitzvah services (Maybe Zach can even repay that favor himself…). The night before this special day, I came to the following conclusion, the unique circumstances built around this day didn’t make it any less important, in fact, it made it more special.

My gift to Zachary was a check (like all good Jews give) and dreidel.  The note card read:

~Normally we would just send a card with a check, but today is a special day. Most people think of a dreidel as a gambling toy, but it was really a decoy so Jews could practice their religion in caves under the persecution of the Greeks. You have earned this dreidel, having chosen to practice your religion and complete your rite of passage despite facing challenges and obstacles other young Jewish men your age do not. Your “atypical” day reflects your originality, hard work, dedication to your religion and ingenuity. You’re a special young man. Judaism is lucky to have you.

Hanukkah is coming up in 2 weeks. Maccabees fought to worship in their temple in the way that was important to them, their family, their traditions. So I hope Zach continues to fight for what is important to him. Zachary the Maccabee, keep up the good work kiddo.

May the Schwartz be with you  


5776, My Year of Connection

September brings lots of new years for me. It’s a new year of work, school, a new year for the Junior League, and the new Jewish year, 5776. Jews spend the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the year ahead. They are called the Days of Awe, and I am definitely finding inspiration in them, without even intending to do so.

Since Monday, the first year of 5776, I have found that the universe has made me more connected than productive. On days that I would normally get a lot of computer or administrative work done, I have had one meaningful, deep, and insightful conversation after the other. Making my days not so productive, but very emotionally connected to the people around me.

I’ve been there for the colleague whose wife just called to tell him their marriage was over. I’ve had an extended chat with my girlfriend on how we make our marriages work with our busy lives.  I even connected with an old high school friend on what’s truly important, what we would change if we could and how much our friendship is valued by each other.

This might sound like a normal week for most, but not me.  I’m more of a “down to business” kind of gal, who’s not cold, per se, but definitely not the warmest coal on the heap.  Or at least I haven’t been, until now.  5776.  Oh, and did I mention my anniversary fell on New Year’s Eve? A coincidence I have tried not to overlook and even been more patient and attentive with my husband.

The other day, instead of worrying about how I was going to keep my boys busy for an hour I had alone with them, I just decided that cuddling and watching TV in the short hour that we had was enough. I want to relish these days when the boys are young and want to cuddle with me, instead of worrying about them getting too much screen time.

I plan on resolving this year to prioritize those meaningful conversations I have with people about the relationships in their lives over getting work done. I plan on taking the extra minutes I have to cuddle with my boys and just relax and recharge and let them know that I am physically there for them.

In 5776, I will let go of the need to plan every minute, to make every activity structured, to worry about what my fellow mommies and my husband would think. What matters is that I spend my time with my boys, my husband and my colleagues, connecting in ways that really matter.

5776, My Year of Connection.  May the Schwartz Be With You