November 18, 2012

Cornellians Celebrate Jewish Culture at Big Red Bar Mitzvah

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Four Cornell students achieved their B’nai Mitzvah –– a Bar Mitzvah celebration involving multiple people –– Saturday amid a crowd of about 400 students who packed Duffield Hall to celebrate that evening.

Many Jewish students celebrated their Bar or Bat mitzvahs, ceremonies that mark a Jewish child’s coming of age, when they were 12 or 13 years old. But for those who did not have a Bar Mitzvah as a child, Saturday night’s event offered them a chance to take part in a traditional rite of passage.

“I had never been Bat Mitzvah-ed before. It seemed like a really great opportunity,” said Rachel Saltzmann ’15, who achieved her bat mitzvah before the crowd on Saturday.

“Getting lifted in the chair was the most memorable experience,” she added.

At the event — organized by Cornell Hillel — people danced, drank mocktails made by the Beverage Club and took pictures in a photo booth. Earlier that day, Saltzmann –– along with Julian Montijo ’15, Kaylin Greene ’15 and Alanna Grossman ’16 –– received her Bat Mitzvah.

Event organizers said the night gave some students a chance to reminisce about their own Bar or Bat Mitzvahs.

“After the party, people [were coming] up to me and saying how much fun they had, and saying it’s like their childhood,” said Becky Haft ’13, president of Cornell Hillel. “We [played] old hits like ‘YMCA’ and the ‘Cha Cha Slide.’”

Emma Brofsky ’13, chair of engagement for Hillel, agreed.

“I think it was great — I saw people having fun dancing, remembering what their Bat Mitvahs were like,” Brofsky said.

In addition to attending the party Saturday night, the four students achieving their bar mitzvahs attended a Shabbat dinner Friday night and services throughout the weekend.

“It’s a weekend of participating in services. It’s mostly focused on friends and family of the individual,” Haft said. “A lot of our participants have their families come in.”

Haft said that the idea for a Big Red Bar Mitzvah came from the realization that “a lot of Jewish students have not had Bar or Bat mitzvahs.”

“Someone was joking around with the former president [of Hillel], saying, ‘Will someone host a bat mitzvah for me?”’ she said.

Those comments led Hillel to host the Big Red Bar Mitzvah for the first time last year. Samantha Weisman ’15, chair of public relations for Hillel, said that the Big Red Bar Mitzvah is the organization’s “biggest event” of the fall.

Looking back on the excitement that built up before the event, Weisman said that students were able to celebrate Jewish culture through the Big Red Bar Mitzvah.

“On the [event’s] Facebook page, we had people posting pictures from their Bar and Bat Mitvahs. I thought it was really cute,” Weisman said.

Original Author: Erica Augenstein