A Christian Bar Mitzvah?

by Anna Marx

Jewish and Christian bloggers have been actively discussing the new show on TLC, “The Sisterhood,” where one family announced they are planning a “Christian bar mitzvah” for their son. While the Jewish world is wrestling with bringing the bar mitzvah ceremony into the 21st Century (some would say it takes a revolution!), the Lewis family is planning a “Christian bar mitzvah” for their son, Trevor. Pastor Brian, Trevor’s father, was raised Jewish and converted to Christianity. The Lewis family sees the bar mitzvah as an opportunity to embrace their Jewish heritage — at least with a big party, complete with a Torah-shaped cake (with Jesus in the middle) and a presidential theme. (Trevor’s mom, Tara, believes that the Holy Spirit revealed to her that Trevor would one day be the first black Jewish president of the United States. You can view a clip of the show on TLC’s website.)

The show sparked lots of conversation. Here are just a few of the responses:

  • Rabbi Jason Miller says, “Shouldn’t everyone have the right to determine which religious rituals they want to use from other faiths and have the ability to put their own spin on them without criticism? As uncomfortable as that may make some of us, I think the answer is yes.”
  • Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz writes about her conversation with her Confirmation students who were uncomfortable with the idea of a “Christian bar mitzvah” in her article “Leave My Bar Mitzvah Alone!
  • Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr participated in a panel discussion about the controversial decision to have a “Christian bar mitzvah.” She shares her thoughts on her blog.
In this screenshot from the TV show, a pastor presents his 13-year-old son with the tallit he'll wear at his "bar mitzvah."

In this screenshot from the TV show, a pastor presents his 13-year-old son with the tallit he’ll wear at his “bar mitzvah.”

Lots of comments are popping up all over the internet (just Google “Christian Bar Mitzvah”). While the Lewis family is busy figuring out how to have Jesus right in the center of a Torah-shaped cake, we’re still busy asking, What can we, the Jewish community, do to make the bar mitzvah ceremony a meaningful one for all of our youth?

Anna Marx is the program director for the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, a joint project of the Union for Reform Judaism and Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute for Religion. Learn more about the project at bnaimitzvahrevolution.org.

Originally published at The Revolution Blog

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5 Responses to “A Christian Bar Mitzvah?”

  1. Larry Kaufman

    Much ado about nothing! Obviously the young man is NOT about to start fulfilling the responsibilities of an adult Jew.

    I resonated to Rabbi Gurewitz’ article, but Rabbi Miller has it right. There is no copyright protection on the term bar mitzvah. Our best reaction is to be amused, even amidst our annoyance.

  2. avatar

    I am entirely offended by the concept. They are not a mixed religion family. If you want Jewish ritual, convert!
    BTW: I usually agree with my friend, R’ Jason Miller. Not this time.

  3. avatar

    Christianity took a lot from Judaism in its birth so why would this surprise me? It doesn’t.

  4. avatar

    It would seem to me that not all religious rituals make sense, when taken out of context, especially when some of the basic fundamental views are so different, but each family had the right to celebrate however they see fit, within their family, even if it doesn’t make sense to others.
    At least they’re doing things together as a family, and sharing their views openly with their children, which is something many families’ of all faiths are finding it harder to do these days.

  5. avatar

    That’s good that they had Jesus in the middle of the cake since he was a Jew – not a Christian. It was Paul who founded Christianity but most Jews remained Jews.

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