Posted by: Diane | June 3, 2014

B’nai Mitzvah

I’ve never attended a secular B’nai Mitzvah.

I did my homework. According to B’nai Mitzvah Guidelines, Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a Hebrew idiom meaning, “one responsible for the mitzvah.” The term, “B’nai” is a gender-neutral term for the plural of “Bar” and “Bat”. It refers to a person who has reached the age when he/she can be held responsible for observing and fulfilling the mitzvot, the commandments, that God expects Jewish people to observe and honour.

The afternoon presentation was hosted by the Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism and I learned so much about this totally different perspective on life.

What Humanistic Jews Believe

  • A Jew is someone who identifies with the history, values, and future of the Jewish people.
  • Our Jewish identity should be preserved.
  • A pluralistic Jewish community will ensure the survival of the Jewish people.
  • Judaism is the historic culture of the Jewish people.
  • Jewish culture is a creation of the Jewish people, molded by our experiences through the ages.
  • We have the power and responsibility to shape our own lives independent of supernatural authority.
  • Ethics and morality should serve human needs.
  • We stand in solidarity with the State of Israel and with Jewish communities in Toronto and around the world.
  • The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being.

Chris and I were very honoured to be invited to this special occasion, which turned out to be two hours of memorized song and speech distributed between eight, well-spoken and creative 13-year-olds.

The presentation was absolutely fascinating. Since last October, these seven boys and one girl have been meeting and preparing for this special day. Together, they presented an historical summary of Jewish history and culture, focusing on the importance of being true to yourself and helping others. Individual essays on a chosen Jewish role model (ie. Sandy Koufax, Art Spiegelman, Steven Spielberg, Levi Strauss) were also proudly presented.

What really stood out was the true compassion displayed by these young adults. Throughout the presentation, they encouraged, prompted and rescued each other with their lines. During his speech, one boy got weepy about his grandpa dying and immediately, his friend came to his rescue and put his arm around him as he finished his speech. This kind action was spontaneous, supportive and genuine — what a touching moment. For Chris and I, this was the highlight of the afternoon.

Although, my Christian beliefs strongly conflict with the humanistic worldview, I was impressed with these young adults’ perseverance to learn and demonstrate such a standard of excellence, as well as their commitment to respect and care for others.






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