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2017-08-25 digital edition

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August 25, 2017  RSS feed
Bar/Bat Mitzvahs

Text: T T T

ReBar asks adults to reminisce, reflect, reimagine their Bar/Bat Mitzvah


If you could do over it again, what would you like to rewind and play again from your Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Is the horror of chanting your Torah portion still haunting you? Do you wish you’d chosen a different theme? Would you rewrite your speech, mostly composed by your mom?”

This is what reBar, a branch of the Reboot creative network, has been asking since it founded the program in 2013.

The answers, when it is asked of Jews in their 20s and 30s, opens a dialogue for considering and sharing reflections about family, community, belonging and Jewish inheritance and practice, said Tanya Schevitz, national communications and San Francisco program manager for Reboot.

“Going back for a fresh take on the bar or bat mitzvah – that time of transition a decade or two earlier – translates to the creation of go-forward paths of Jewish discovery and meaning,” Schevitz said.

Online at there are stories and photos of Bar /Bat Mitzvahs past and even DIY kits, offering ideas on how to reBar solo, in a small group or as a community event.

ReBar has hosted several storytelling shows in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago where people performed their Bar/Bat Mitzvah stories in front of a live audience.

One performer was illustrator Lisa Brown, who performed with her husband, Daniel Handler, better known by his pen name, Lemony Snicket. The two went through her Bat Mitzvah album channeling how her grandmother would have perceived the event, with Handler acting as her grandmother.

ReBar has also set up booths, where people answered the questions on a poster, and they put up a rebar photo booth, that allowed people to reflect on what was important to them at 13 and what is important to them now, at events.

While the target audience for the Reboot project is for young adults, the project has engaged adults of all ages.

“We want our audience to reflect on their 13-year-old-selves and commit to engaging with their community now and in the future,” Schevitz said. “I feel that reBar is a powerful project.”

Daniel Schifrin, left, a novelist and short story writer, wrote on the reBar website that one of the things he obsessed over for his August 1981 Bar Mitzvah was his hair.

“I was 13, the girls in my class all loved Parker Stevenson’s blow-dried hair (the real star of the Hardy Boys TV show), and I was saddled with a helmet of impractical locks that defied gravity, the curls above my ears pointing sideways like the Steve Martin arrow-through-the-head posters gracing the bedrooms. As I sat in Hebrew school I shuddered to think about being up on the bima, my curls levitating and separating as I sat on the oversized chair next to the rabbi, imagining my friends imagining me being Steve Martinized. I wanted to take the yad and stick it through my ears, ending the horror.”

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