A stroll through the Britzer Gardens in southern Berlin was the aesthetic highlight of a weekend filled with bar mitzvah tasks, household chores, and the usual mishaps and disputes between the kids. With over 200 types of dahlias in full bloom, we were treated to a spectacular show of color that soothed our jangled nerves. I think we can now handle the home stretch of bar mitzvah planning and clothes shopping without a full family meltdown.
Avery will become a bar mitzvah in less than three weeks and I feel a sense of pride and wonder that he is on the threshold of such a significant event. As a “son of the commandments” Avery will be well prepared to lead a Jewish life and to make responsible adult choices. By choosing to have his bar mitzvah in Berlin, Avery will help a new generation of our family take its place in Germany’s growing Jewish community (see Becoming a Bar Mitzvah in Berlin’s Jewish Orphanage). His bar mitzvah, on the anniversary of my father’s, will forge a link to the past and lead our family on a new path to the future. Coming at the same time as the approval of our German citizenship, I feel a greater sense of comfort as a resident of the country that my parents were forced to flee.
I’ve always been a little jealous of people who have had a bar or bat mitzvah, mostly because of their ability to read Hebrew and to accurately recite the prayers that sound so beautiful and that I still struggle with. I envy their participation in a rite of passage that I never went through. Maybe I am not religious because I just don’t know how to be religious, was never properly initiated into my own religion, and still feel somewhat like an outsider when I sit with my community in a synagogue. Getting older only increases my sense of discomfort (I should know this stuff by now!).
Perhaps I will be inspired by my son and decide to have my own bat miztvah. Perhaps not. At least I will feel comfortable choosing to have this rite of passage either in the U.S. or Germany. And I will admire my son for the courage he’s shown in making his own choices.