Secular bar mitzvah - second one!

<p>My 14-year-old son just received an invitation to a "secular bar mitzvah." Can someone enlighten me? The invitation was issued from a school, and there is a list of about 10 kids, one of whom is a friend of my son's. </p>

<p>One year ago, this boy's parents gave him a "bar mitzvah" with no ceremony. It was just a party in a restaurant. At the time I wondered, because I had never been to a bar mitzvah that didn't include a ceremony. We gave him a gift then, and I know that he received quite a bit of money. Are we supposed to give another gift now?</p>

<p>CC is certainly etiquette central today!</p>

<p>Your posting was interesting; so I did a bit of research. Apparently, a secular bar mitzvah is one celebrated with in a congregation of Secular Humanistic Jews. This seems to be a bit like Unitarian Universalism. Here is a quote: "Humanistic Judaism embraces a philosophy that combines rational thinking with a celebration of Judaic culture and identity. Humanistic Jews value their Jewish identity and the aspects of Jewish culture that offer a genuine expression of their contemporary way of life. Kahal B'raira welcomes members to our congregation who come from Interfaith families. Our community is enriched by the contributions of our diverse membership. We celebrate Jewish holidays and life cycle events (such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvah) with inspirational ceremonies that draw upon but seek to go beyond traditional literature."</p>

<p>Thank you, unsoccer-mom. It should be interesting.</p>

<p>I'm still curious why he's having another. What would happen if you called his mom and asked?</p>

<p>The term "secular bar mitzvah" is an oxymoron, as it would be if it were "secular first communion" or "secular confirmation". If someone wants to throw their child a big birthday party, by all means do so, but don't co-opt a religious term for it. Bar mitzvah means "son of the commandment", and strictly speaking you don't <em>have</em> a bar mitzvah: you <em>become</em> a bar mitzvah. You don't need a ceremony or a party, either: a Jewish boy automatically becomes one at age 13 (and a girl a bat mitzvah at age 12).</p>

I agree with Booklady on this one. If these acquaintances "gave" their son a Bar Mitzvah with no ceremony a year ago, what they "gave" him was a birthday party at a restaurant. The young man became a Bar Mitzvah automatically as he reached the age of 13. I would think that you are not obligated to give a second gift. Perhaps a donation in his honor to a charity of your choice (or one of his choice if it's been specified) would be in order.</p>

<p>Now I've seen everything. This is one for Dear Abby!</p>

<p>I don't get the two ceremonies, either. I do have a friend who gave both her kids secular bar-mitzvahs. She said that it was about being a cultural Jew and preserving the culture with a party and a speech about something culturally jewish. We don't live nearby so weren't able to make it, but it did seem like if I were to give my kids a secular confirmation (we're Episcopalians) and not have it in a church, and serve tea and crumpets. (? to preserve their British heritage?) Anyway, I guess its better than nothing.</p>

<p>I guess I'd vote for a gift since it sounds like a 14th birthday party.</p>

<p>I thought a secular Bar Mitzvah is when they serve Chinese food at the reception.</p>

<p>I can see one secular Bar Mitzvah. You could still learn something about your heritage and do the good deed thing. But two? I'm baffled.</p>

<p>The secular Bar Mitzvah itself was what baffled me. A second one, not nearly as baffling when you translate secular Bar Mitzah to 14th birthday party.</p>

<p>Whats next secular prayers to G-d?</p>

<p>The idea seems to be that the family has joined a nontraditional secular humanist congregation. To give you an idea of how atypical your question is, between my kids and ourselves we have been invited to hundreds of bar and bat mitzvahs - never once to a secular bar mitzvah. </p>

<p>That said, what you seem to have here is that the reception (party) was done last year but it seems that you are (finally) being invited to the the actual ceremony or service at the school or congregation. I am basing that on the fact that the invitation was issued by the school and had ten names on it (of the students being honored). If I had to guess it's this "service" (nonreligious in basis, cultural and historical in its emphasis) that you are being asked to attend. I imagine that there will probably be a group Oneg after the service which typically consists of some light refreshments or possibly a full luncheon. Are you also being invited to anything back at the house or at another venue such as a restaurant afterwards?</p>

<p>If not, and keeping in mind you've already given a substantial gift to the boy, I'd give the same answer as many gave to the poster who was invited to three bridal showers for the same bride - give something meaningful to the occasion, not expensive, maybe an "encyclopedia" of Jewish history or culture, Jewish music, possibly a cultural symbol of the holidays (ie a menorah made for a teen or young adult) etc.</p>

<p>Editing to say that I realize it's your son invited and not yourselves. In that case, kids generally don't give a very large gift even when the ceremony and reception are together.</p>

<p>not just any menorah, it must be a secular menorah (whatever the hell that means)</p>

<p>I know some kids who had secular "Bar or Bat Mitvahs" because they were not Jewish, but had many Jewish friends, attended many of these ceremonies and wanted to have one for themselves. I think that they are mislabled as they are certainly not what they are called, but are just parties . But that was what they were called here. </p>

<p>As for kids having a second ceremony, I would think of it akin to a second wedding ceremony. My brother had two weddings. One a civil ceremony with very few invited. Then a year later, a huge wedding with everyone invited. I went to both ceremonies and celebrations--a dinner at a restaraunt the first time, and a huge bash at a club the second time (same spouse, I want to make clear). I gave a gift both times and enjoyed myself both times. The second time was not really a wedding as they were already married, but that's wht it was called.</p>

Thanks for that description of "Humanistic Judaism". Thats a new one on me too. I've heard of messianic Jews (sort of Jews for Jesus) and resconstructionist Jews, but this is news to me. However, after I read your post, I discovered that in our community (large metropolitan area) there is a small humanistic congregation. I've read their mission statement, but I am not sure I get it. In an nutshell, it sort of sounds to me like they want to hold onto the Jewish traditions, but don't want to learn Hebrew (my very rough interpretation). I still don't get how you can become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah without the religious component . They could do it in English. But it sounds like what others have said-- a party. The party is the celebration of having become a Bar Mitzvah. The Bar Mitzvah is the ceremony itself. Sounds kinda like having a wedding celebration without the wedding.</p>

<p>My understanding of a "secular Bar Mitzvah" and of "Humanistic Judaism" is that it maintains the traditions -- which are considerable -- but generally puts God in the back seat. Of a very large bus.</p>

<p>For Passover this year, a friend loaned me (and we used at our Seder) a hagaddah from a Humanistic Jewish congregation. It was lovely, all about Jews getting their freedom from Pharoah and all that, but God wasn't even mentioned. It was a bit too "Jew-lite" for my taste.</p>

<p>NYMomof2, this thread has inspired me to do some digging and as an example I found this particular organization located in a suburb of NYC. Never knew anything about this-so another new thing I learned today.
<a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I have attended a number of secular bar mitzvahs and some have been very moving and meaningful. There are programs that have the kids in Sunday school classes for years learning a tremendous amount. So while these ceremonies are nothing like real bar mitzvahs, they are valuable to some families and very interesting. </p>

<p>I can't imagine why someone would have a party one year and the ceremony the year after. I agree with whomever suggested a small gift -- a $10-15 gift certificate from your child would be perfectly appropriate.</p>

<p>For those who are making fun of the idea, do you also put down people who celebrate Christmas with a tree and singing carols (not to mention the gift-giving) but don't go to church? After all, Christmas is a religious holiday but many observe it without the spiritual component. In fact, many of the families who go the secular bar mitzvah route have one Jewish parent and one Christian parent and want to include some Jewish traditions and Christian traditions in their lives.</p>

<p>momof3sons, thanks for the link. Sounds like bar mitzvah to me, without the G-D part, so wonder what the position on "faith" is?</p>