Sharing a bar mitzvah date with another family

Be big about sharing

for The Brooklyn Paper
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What do you do when you have to share your child’s bar mitzvah date with another family?

There are only so many Shabbat mornings throughout the year, and some synagogues have a greater number of kids. It’s a nice problem for the temple to have, because it means that there’s a young and vibrant population. But where does that leave you?

Depending on the policies of your temple, you may not have a choice about doubling up. But you might have some say about which family is assigned with yours. In other words, it’s like filling out one of those “bunk request” forms for sleep-away camp. If both families request to be assigned the same date, and it’s practical from the perspective of the Jewish calendar (that is, both kids are 13 years old), then your temple might be thrilled to go along with that idea and make a couple of families happy.

On the other hand, if your synagogue has its own system for handing out b’nei mitzvah dates, you might find your child paired with some other member of the class, without any input from you.

Here are some strategies to help you navigate your way through the process when you and your child are paired with another family for the same bar mitzvah date:

1. Work together.

Reach out to this other family, even if they are complete strangers — and if this is the case, the sooner the better. Remember that they’re probably just as stressed out as you and unsure of how this whole thing will work out. You might want to compare notes on what size crowd each of you are expecting, how you both picture the service, and some other general details about your kids.

2. Understand that both your kids may be at different levels.

In a perfect world, the other family’s kid will possess the exact same skills as yours. Their Hebrew reading, Torah chanting, and singing abilities will be on a par. Real life doesn’t end up working out so neatly. Your son may stand next to someone on the bimah who has a glorious singing voice or stands six inches taller. Keep in mind that this says nothing about your own child. All of your guests will be there to support your child because they’re important to you. The same goes for the other family’s guests. No one will be wasting any time making comparisons.

3. Keep the big picture in mind.

You know this next part, but it’s nice to be reminded: the bar mitzvah is not a big performance. It’s a service that recognizes and celebrates the fact that your child is now considered old enough to start taking on some Jewish responsibilities and participate more in his religion. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who is present that morning, if the other kid sang an extra paragraph, or that the other family had more guests in attendance.

Have a little perspective and a lot of common sense and you’re sure to have a meaningful and sacred day that will begin a lifetime of Jewish participation.

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