Saturday, January 6, 2007

A Bar Mitzvah Needs a Theme?

Watched "Keeping Up With the Steins" on DVD last night. Funny movie, but I'm glad we didn't pay for it in the theater. It lost very little by playing on a smaller screen.

Jeremy Piven plays basically the same character he plays on Entourage, but he's more central to this tale and the movie's longer than a half-hour, so he's got more to work with. If you like him on Entourage, you should love him here. If you don't, rent another flick.

Garry Marshall plays a variation of the same character he plays in every movie or TV show he's on. But it's a shtick I don't tire of. Again, if you liked him on Murphy Brown or in "A League of Their Own" you should love him here.

Child actress Miranda Cosgrove steals the couple of scenes she's in, as she does on every episode of "Drake & Josh" on Nick. She got pretty remarkable comic timing for a munchkin actress. I'd love to see a flick where she's a central character.

The movie itself mines comedy out of a trend I've grown thoroughly disgusted with, the transformation of the Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah into an extravaganza to rival the the nuptials of Chuck and Di.

I was with a group of my parental peers tonight. Monkeyboy's Sunday school class had a movie night at the teacher's house. I led a brief Havdallah service with my guitar and beat a hasty retreat with my wife (or as she prefers to be called, my Reason for Being --- RFB, for short) for a rare grown-up date.

After gorging on Chinese food and taking a walk, we returned to the teacher's house. Thankfully, it was still standing.

The grown-ups stayed upstairs sipping coffee and tea, noshing and kibitzing while the kids wreaked havoc in the playroom in the basement.

(There were screams and squeals coming from down there, but no one came running upstairs in search of a tourniquet or a splint, so we figured they were ok.)

After talking generally about the movie, which everyone seemed to have seen, I ventured my opinion that the kid in the movie had his head screwed on straight, asking his parents to cancel the mega-event they'd scheduled for a Bar Mitzvah party (at Dodger Stadium) and to simply entertain their friends and family with a brunch at their home.

I didn't get much support. We're all the parents of 9 and 10 year-olds, with Bar/Bat Mitzvah about 3 or 4 years off on the horizon. Apparently, they've already been giving a fair amount of thought to this topic. Because you could have heard a pin drop after I asked "Since when does a Bar Mitzvah need a theme? Isn't the Bar Mitzvah itself enough of a theme?"

Conversation eventually resumed. I filed away my question for a future date, in a different setting.

At least the last time I stopped conversation like that in a room full of parents, I had meant to do so. Conversation had turned to the obligatory laments about the cost of a college education by the time our kids hit 18. At the time, Monkeyboy in DC was about four.

If you ever want to shock such a conversation into dead silence, I recommend the following ten words:

"We're just hoping he'll grow up to be really stupid."

RFB is a very tolerant woman.

1 comment:

Migdalor Guy said...

Every bar/bat mitzvah celebration does need a theme. It's called Judaism.

Ok, there, I've said my obligatory comment as a professional Jewish educator.

I was privileged to see "Keeping Up with the Steins" at a pre-release screening for Jewish educators in the DC Metro region, and I think most of us would agree that the final outcome of the story expressed exactly the sentiment we had hoped for.

I think the silence you experienced when you asked your question is related to the general feelings among American Jews about money-which I think is "they hated us for so long, now we have to show the world how well we're doing" which is slowly evolving into "we all have lots of it, so we might as well spend it."

(Now I will show my bias. All Jews are not rich, and frankly, I hate Jews who go around acting as if we were. "Judaism's not too expensive, they say." I grew up in low-income city housing in NYC. My parents scrimped and saved to get by. I used to bring carrot and mayonnaise sandwiches in my school lunchbox. In NYC, while I also knew lots of Jewish families far more well off than we were, I also knew lots of Jewish families who weren't. When I left NYC, I discovered that, outside of a few places like NYC and Chicago, almost all the Jews were, at the very least, middle class, and most at the higher end of that. I work for a synagogue in Bethesda. Want to know the chances that I will ever be able to afford to live in Bethesda, even though I am far better off financially than my parents ever were? Zero. Or the chances that, on a Jewish educator's salary, I could actually afford to join a synagogue? There's a reason we all get free membership in our employment packages. Worked great in the days when everyone lived in the same neighborhood. Nowadays, what good to me is membership in the shul where I work, especially when its on the other side of the Potomac ocean, and those yokels I can see any day?

You know what really ticks me are all the Board members who sit and complain about how much they must pay Educators like me, when all of them make at least twice as much!

But I digress.)

Haven't we Jews now been successful enough in the Goldene Medina that we don't need to flaunt it anymore? It looks bad enough to the goyim (although now they have their faux bar/bat mitzvah celebrations.)

You don't need fancy celebrations. Just meaningful ones.

Migdalor Guy