The American bar mitzvah, 1887

“And during the time when the Hungarian or Polish Jewish youngster was brought to a level where he could understand the Prophets, and listen to rigorous biblical and legal studies, the American youngster is merely brought to the magnificent level of being able to stammer a few words of English-style Hebrew, to pronounce the blessing over the Torah, and to chant half the maftir from a text with vowels and notes on the day he turns thirteen — a day that is celebrated here as the greatest of holidays among our Jewish brethren. From that day onward a youngster considers his teacher to be an unwanted article.”

Moses Weinberger, Jews and Judaism in New York, 1887 (Jonathan D. Sarna, trans.)
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3 thoughts on “The American bar mitzvah, 1887

  1. KCd says:

    Is that 1887 or 1987?

  2. JSE says:

    Sounds like it’s both.

  3. NDE says:

    The American part sounds like it’s both. The European part — I doubt that the few Jewish 13-year-olds left in Poland and Hungary in 1987 were any closer than their American brethren to the ability to “understand the Prophets, and listen to rigorous biblical and legal studies”.

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