Shpilkes in the Genecktageesoink
July 31, 2003 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Bar Mitzvah Disco • When We Were Shtetl Fabulous
"If you are Jewish, there would have been a golden year when it seemed like you attended a bar mitzvah disco almost weekly. Each one was like a pee-wee Studio 54, a potent cocktail of ritual, acne, insecurity, and hormones run amok." Help the folks at Bar Mitzvah Disco gather photos, stories and details from Bar/Bat Mitzvahs from the 70s and 80s to publish in their forthcoming book on the subject.
posted by dhoyt (23 comments total)
No, no, NO! Some of us are still trying desperately to repress those days! So much social awkwardness and tackiness on display, each and every weekend for a whole year and a half of my life... [shudders, cries]

To be fair, though, my "golden year" was a bit later than the authors are asking about. 1991-1992, to be precise, which means Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, Dee-Lite, C&C Music Factory, Color Me Badd, Amy Grant, Boyz II Men...among other monstrosities that should never have been unleashed on poor impressionable 13-year-olds.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:44 AM on July 31, 2003

And it goes almost without saying that each and EVERY one of those Bar/Bat Mitzvahs would have at least 4 out of these 5 songs played at some point, perhaps twice:

- Feeling Hot Hot Hot
- Going Loco Down in Acapulco
- The Pina Colada Song
- The Electric Slide (replaced in 1994 by The Macarena)
posted by Asparagirl at 10:50 AM on July 31, 2003

And not to totally hog this thread or anything, but on checking the website, I realize that this photo is the best example of what that world was like for me. It was taken in 1991 (check), in White Plains (one town over from mine- check), and I actually owned one of the dresses that one of the girls in the photo is wearing (check).
posted by Asparagirl at 10:55 AM on July 31, 2003

Some memoires are better left repressed--Frigmund Sroid
posted by Postroad at 11:25 AM on July 31, 2003

Whoa, Asparagirl, I'm so with you. I'm still trying to block it out. I was a tomboy with braces and a layered haircut that still makes me shudder. I remember the ceremony itself -- I couldn't believe how heavy the scrolls were, my rabbi talked for forty-five minutes, my haftorah portion was about leprosy -- but I remember almost nothing of the reception. I consider this to be progress.

Don't get me wrong; I'm glad I did it. I'd just like to forget about it now.
posted by swerve at 11:31 AM on July 31, 2003

OK. What does a Barmitzvah celebrate? It's evidently not the circumcision ceremony. Enlighten this goy, please.
posted by Pericles at 12:18 PM on July 31, 2003

"Coming of Age" is the Bar (male) or Bat (female) Mitzvah. A "bris" is the circumcision ceremony and takes place a few days after birth.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 12:31 PM on July 31, 2003

Bar is son, bat is daughter, mitzvah is commandment. One doesn't have a bar/bat mitzvah (though that's the commonly accepted phrasing) as much as one becomes a bar/bat mitzvah. It is a recognition that one is now a son or daughter of the commandments, having reached an age of spiritual accountability. From that point, they are old enough to be held to the requirement of all Jews, to fulfill the 613 mitzvot (that's the plural form).
posted by Dreama at 12:54 PM on July 31, 2003

"From the Wailing Wall to all y'all" -- best line spoken by a Bar Mitzvah DJ in a movie (Safe Men)
posted by rollerball at 1:01 PM on July 31, 2003

" haftorah portion was about leprosy..."

Mine was Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 - 24:18 and haftorah from Jeremiah), which is all about...slavery.

Weirdly enough, my Dad had the same parsha (portion) 25 years earlier for his Bar Mitzvah.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:05 PM on July 31, 2003

Asparagirl, which dress?
posted by pjgulliver at 1:14 PM on July 31, 2003

I'm so jealous. I was to wear a white dress and eat cake. That looks like so much more fun.

(Hmm, and that black and white polka dot dress looks awfully familiar to me...)
posted by JoanArkham at 1:25 PM on July 31, 2003

Yeah, spill it, Asparagirl...
posted by widdershins at 1:32 PM on July 31, 2003

Joan--Reform Jews still have a confirmation, two years after their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. They study things like life events.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2003

The brown one with the fake fabric flower and the shiny metallic skirt. It's actually a two-piece, with a separate top and skirt. I also had a similiar dress in an off-white sort of quited version, too, which I wore to a bunch of morning services. (Bar Mitzvahs have two parts, the service in the morning at the synagogue, which is the "real" deal, and then the party, which is either immediately afterwards or, more likely, that night. So you sometimes needed two outfits, one a skirt-outfit or suit-like thing for the morning and then a party dress for that night. Evil.)

But you should have seen my actual Bat Mitzvah dress...hideous! White with poofy semi-sheer sleeves and gold ribbons and gold bows stuck on all over it! (Like most of my childhood, I had no say in it.) Oy.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:52 PM on July 31, 2003

JoanArkham, you're really not missing much. As with most things like this, it's much more about the parents than the kids.
posted by mkultra at 2:08 PM on July 31, 2003

That's a hell of a dress.

Anyone see "Deconstructing Harry"? Not one of Woody Allen's best films, but I think the Star Wars themed Bar-Mitzvah in it has to be one of the funniest things I've ever seen on film.
posted by pjgulliver at 2:20 PM on July 31, 2003

uh, Asparagirl, how could you forget Celebration by Kool & the Gang? My mate was so sick of it by the time her Bat Mitzvah rolled around she insisted that it not be played.

Last year we went to a Bat Mitzvah where they had those cookies with photos of the lucky girl laser-printed onto the frosting. Isn't that fabulous?
posted by skryche at 3:25 PM on July 31, 2003

it was me! December of 1977! : >

I wore a gray 3-piece suit and we did the hustle, and the bus stop, and the continental and the bump...

(the viennese dessert table was the best thing about it tho)
posted by amberglow at 5:03 PM on July 31, 2003

I worked weekends as a waiter at a Kosher catering facility from 1975-77 in Yonkers. We did about 5 Bar Mitzvahs a month. The owner doubled as the singer in the band. He looked like a diminutive Lorne Greene with a huge poofy white toupe. His rendition of "Le Freak" was to die for and his BeeGees medley wasn't bad either: Oy, Oy, Oy, Oy, Stayin Aloive, Stayin Aloive.
posted by TimeFactor at 5:09 PM on July 31, 2003

Oy, Oy, Oy, Oy, Stayin Aloive, Stayin Aloive.

*dies laughing*

I was raised a Unitarian. In the Sixties. We got nothing, except perhaps an extra singalong of "We Shall Overcome"...
posted by jokeefe at 11:06 PM on July 31, 2003

It's not "all about the parents" for some of us, though it might take something dramatic to realize it.
posted by fraying at 12:17 AM on August 1, 2003

Woo-hoo! My Bat Mitzvah was on November 8, 1986, in the Chicago area. I live in a town without a lot of other Jews, so there wasn't the pressure for me to do any of the over-the-top stuff. My party didn't even have a theme (horrors!) although I did have a magician walking around doing tricks.

You should have seen my was pink satiny material. Truly 80s.

My portion was Noah. It was, well, the story of Noah. I have no idea what my haftorah was about.

My cousin is having his Bar Mitzvah on November 8 of this year. I am sure it will be very different. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 9:57 PM on August 1, 2003

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