the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Passing the Bar Mitzvah


I really liked this Slate article (written by Emily Bazelon) about the modern day bar mitzvah.   One of her best suggestions is that modern Jews might want to do away with the bar/bas mitzvah age requirement.  In the distant past, a Jew might have been considered an adult at thirteen.    Who feels like an adult at 13 anymore?  Or at 18?  Or even 25?

If the bar mitzvah weren’t set in stone at age 13, teenagers and adults could choose to read from the Torah for the first time when they were moved to—and they would get a real (rather than symbolic) taste of adulthood. So what if it takes some Jews decades to come around?

Wasn’t that the experience of that modern day Jewish sage, Krusty the Clown, who had his bar mitzvah as an adult?

Jewish tradition doesn’t change very easily, so it is doubtful that the “age 13” rule is going to change very soon, even though most kids don’t understand the whole experience.

I have a better idea.  Maybe Jews should have to get a new bar mitzvah every thirteen years (13, 26, 39, 52, etc.), something akin to renewing his driving license.   This way, every thirteen years, a Jew can think about what “adulthood” means to him during a new stage in his life.

It would also get him a whole new assortment of fountain pens, because after thirteen years, he’s surely lost all the pens from his last bar mitzvah.


  1. Hilary

    Fountain pens? I had a collection of Swatch Watches from my bat mitzvah. Yeah, it was the 80s.

  2. Neil

    Yeah, but I got to wear a cool purple velour suit with a big tie. It was the 70’s.

  3. sarah

    Love this idea. I *think* I felt very grown up on the morning of my bat mitzvah, but 26 years later? I really just remember that I wore hairspray with glitter in it for my party. Again, the 80’s.

    It would be nice to have that reason to re-establish a connection to faith (or at least culture and tradition) every decade as we grow older.

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