Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bar Mitzvah Attire

This past weekend was my cousin’s bar mitzvah outside of Cleveland, Ohio. It was wonderful to be with my family for such a joyous occasion, and it didn’t hurt that falafel was served at the reception. Truly my only qualm is that while the synagogue was conservative, the dress code was most definitely not.

To give you a little more background, the service was held outside in the synagogue’s courtyard and in the round, i.e. the makeshift bima was surrounded on three sides by the congregants and bar mitzvah guests. I sat on one side of the bima. I therefore had a clear view of the people sitting directly opposite me on the other side of the pulpit. I’m not exactly sure of the term for these people. To be technical, they were a group of fifteen girls who all attended Orange middle school, an affluent public school situated in a heavily Jewish area. At least two of them were probably named Jessica Greenberg. Anyway, I argue that they were “girls” in name alone. They looked more like twenty-somethings who were ready to head to a strip club, and not just to sit in the audience either.

Prepare yourselves for some truthful descriptions.

One girl wore a gray and white cocktail dress that exposed so much of her undeveloped chest that only her long, Chi-straightened locks protected her decency (à la portraits of Eve in the Garden of Eden).

Another girl waltzed in…err, rather strutted in…twenty minutes late and flanked by two grinning middle school boys. She was wearing something I swore Beyonce wore at the VMAs. A neon blue spandex dress (I call it an oversized blue sleeve), circumnavigated by a gold chain belt that accentuated her hips and butt. She also had on those strappy wedge heels that look like they came straight out of a dominatrix shopping catalog.

Another girl wore a fuchsia dress that barely hit below her butt cheeks. The only thing that gave away her true age was the mouthful of braces that shined every time she attempted to corral her fellow gal pals into the bathroom. Seriously these girls could not sit still or keep quiet for five minutes at a time. It was highly disrespectful, especially during the Torah portion.

I could continue with descriptions of the other girls’ outfits and behavior, but I think you got the point. I guess all of these observations lead to one pervasive question-- Where are these girls’ parents?

I’ll tell you where. Sitting in the car, dropping them off. And coming back five hours later to pick them up. I saw them with my own two eyes. These parents knew exactly what their daughters were wearing, and I’m certain that they even provided their little Jessicas with the money to purchase said outfits.

I am convinced that the whole synagogue spectacle was born out of too much money and not enough parenting. These were Jewish girls, after all. Their parents have taken them to synagogue numerous times, even before the deluge of their peers’ bar and bat mitzvahs began. Their parents should have taught them proper prayer attire and behavior. At the very least they should have learned to cover their chests and refrain from text messaging. Maybe they will figure it out someday, but I doubt it’ll happen before the next bar mitzvah this coming Saturday. They’ve surely picked out their dresses by now.


Yaz said...

I love the title! Cute introduction to the rest of the piece. Keep writing!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your spot-on comments. It should be required reading for every parent who has middle-school aged children, especially those in Jewish neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late coming to this blog but I agree one hundred percent. When my daughter was "on the circuit" we had many a discussion in the dressing rooms about what was and wasn't appropriate dress. Hardnose that I was I wouldn't let her wear black, either!
You might consider sending a version of this blog to Reform Judaism magazine. They have essays in the back of each month's issue. It's all about parenting and not abdicating the role.