My son turned 13 earlier this year, and because we’re Jewish
and belong to a temple, he had a bar mitzvah. We live in West Los Angeles, an
area so dense with Jews that there are more than 20 Jewish congregations
within 10 miles of our home. And yet, in the weeks leading up to the event, I
received call after call from the non-Jewish parents of my son’s friends. What
should their child wear to the event? What kind of present was appropriate?
And, uh, what exactly was a bar mitzvah anyway?
I figured if people in my neighborhood wondered about these
things, there must be many, many more parents across the country opening up
thick rectangular envelopes, pulling out glossy invitations and thinking, “What
now?” Not content with my own explanations, I did some research and called up
experts on the subject.