C’mon, a Bat Mitzvah Is, Like, So Uncool

Everything was going wrong. First, her best friend moved. Not just to another town, she moved to another state.

Also, she was starting a new school this year. Middle school was scary to think about, though she would never admit it out loud. She was too cool for that.

And now her parents were talking about moving to another town, with a better school district. She, of course, saw nothing wrong with this one. And what was worse, they would probably move after she had become used to the new middle school.

OK, now add to all of this: her bat mitzvah.

"I don’t want a bat mitzvah," she told her parents. "It’s just for you and your relatives. You don’t even need me there. So why don’t you just throw your own party?"

"Don’t be silly," they answered. "This is for you, it’s about you."

So how come no one would listen to her?

Lessons with the cantor were OK, but then the cantor is a cool guy. He never lies, never says you did a good job when you know you stank.

But what goes over well in the cantor’s study isn’t likely to go over well in front of a whole mess of people.

"I’ll be a bat mitzvah automatically at 12 anyway," she said. "Why do we need the fancy ceremony?"

"We’ll keep it simple."

"Why can’t we just go to Israel for my bat mitzvah?" she asked.

"Would you like that? We could have the ceremony on Masada."

"Oh," she responded. "I thought we would just go and, y’know, kinda sightsee."

"That’s not what this is about," they answered.

"Then what is it about?" she replied.

"If you don’t know that, you’ve wasted all your years in Hebrew school."

Well, no duh! She had slept through most of it.

She asked the cantor, "So what is it all about?"

"L’dor v’dor," he said.

From generation to generation?

"Tov me’od," he said. Very good.

From generation to generation. From your parents generation to yours. From your grandparents to your parents. From your great-grandparents to your grandparents. All the way back, and all the way forward.

Throughout history, as long as there are Jews on earth, we will all be connected through things like the bar or bat mitzvah, Shabbat, brit milah, lighting candles, fasting on Yom Kippur, eating matzah and retelling the Passover story.

Sharing the stories of our ancestors with our children, as you will do someday, God willing, with yours. That’s what it’s all about.

That’s why she liked the cantor. He answered her in words she could understand.

So she entered middle school, and did just fine. She studied her parshah and learned the prayers.

She thought about what the cantor had said, and pictured herself listening to her own son practice. She imagined her grandfather, now in his 70s, as he must have looked up on the bimah.

And then it was time.

She sat on the bimah, a demure young lady with ankles crossed and tissues in hand. She read her parshah, sang the blessings, led the service and gave a dvar Torah.

As she stood behind the pulpit, she looked into some of the faces in the sanctuary. And when she led the congregation in the prayer, "L’dor v’dor," she sang it with feeling.

She imagined the family members she had never met, going back generations. She thought about those who could not have a bar or bat mitzvah before they were sent to the concentration camps. She thought about those who would have one after her.

Then she looked at her younger brother sitting in the first row, with her parents.

"I wonder if he’ll feel the same way I did," she thought.

"Well, at least he’ll have me to help him."

Candles Shine From L.A. to Tel Aviv

The miracle of Chanukah took on a double meaning Dec. 4, when Los Angeles Holocaust survivors participated in a menorah-lighting ceremony with their counterparts in Tel Aviv via videoconferencing.

"We celebrate the miracle of Chanukah, and we also celebrate the miracle that we survived," said Eva David, a survivor originally from Romania-Hungary. "Who would have thought when we were weak and hopeless that we would reach old age"?

The event, which was staged by Cafe Europa, a Jewish Family Service program that serves as a social outlet and offers financial assistance and emotional support to Holocaust survivors, allowed those who shared a common experience to also share the joy of Chanukah with one another. Cafe Europa has served the Los Angeles survivor community for 15 years, but the candle-lighting celebration marked the Tel Aviv group’s first anniversary since its establishment.

"It’s inspiring for me to see how much your group has grown there. I’m kveling right now," Eleanor Marks Gordon, coordinator of Los Angeles Cafe Europa, told the nearly 50 participants in Tel Aviv.

Many Los Angeles residents at the event had friends or relatives in the Tel Aviv group. Lydia Bagdor saw her cousin’s daughter, who, when she last saw her, was 4 years old and is now a young adult. "You are my only cousins from my old family," Bagdor said.

Guta Schulman was able to spend Chanukah with her Auschwitz bunkmate, Chaya Rabinowitz, who had settled in Tel Aviv after the Holocaust. Schulman said that she owes her life to her friend, because Rabinowitz convinced her to leave Auschwitz, although her sister-in-law was not allowed to leave. "I have goose bumps," Schulman said after their emotional conversation.

As the Los Angeles group watched, a survivor lit the candles on the menorah in Tel Aviv. Then all the survivors — in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles — joined in singing "Hatikvah."

A Nation Says ‘Kaddish’

Flags flew at half-staff. People on the street made a stronger-than-usual effort to meet each others’ eyes, acknowledging the sadness of the day. Parents lingered on schoolyards well after drop-off, watching their children, perhaps thinking of the hundreds of other parents who were brutally deprived of this opportunity on that dreadful day one year ago.

In Jewish tradition, the one-year anniversary of a loved one’s death marks the unveiling of their gravestone. This year, Sept. 11 marked the mourning of a nation, and the unveiling of numerous memorials for those who suffered and died in last year’s tragic attacks on our country.

At the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Wednesday morning, a moving ceremony was held, starting with the blowing of the shofar. Among those attending were consuls-general from 20 countries, including Israel. Others who attended included Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss, County Fire Department Battalion Chief Juan Gonzalez and LAPD Deputy Chief David Kalish. Also present were Cmdr. Robert Anderson, director of the Navy’s information office, along with other military personnel.

"One year ago, America changed forever," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, center founder and dean. "Americans of all creeds stared down the ugly face of evil.

"In the year that has passed, we still don’t know what to say to the families of the victims," Hier said. "It is not only the victims who must never be forgotten, but we must never forget their murderers as well."

The rabbi quoted from a speech Winston Churchill gave in 1937: "For those who say that the case is fraught with danger, the greater danger is to do nothing."

"If we don’t defeat the terrorists today," Hier said. "America will have to pay, and make greater sacrifices to defeat them tomorrow. We owe it to the victims that there will never be another Sept. 11."

The ceremony included a display of artwork inspired by Sept. 11 that was created by Los Angeles schoolchildren. In addition, the lighting of memorial candles was conducted, each candle inscribed with the name of one of the more than 3,000 victims.

One of the biggest ceremonies took place at the newly opened Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. More than 3,000 people attended the interfaith remembrance service, whose sponsors included the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, the Interreligious Council of Southern California and the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council.

Prayers were offered by a diverse group, including representatives of the Sangha Council of Southern California, Vedanta Society of Southern California, Los Angeles Baha’i Center, First African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Islamic Center of Southern California.

"Though we may be people of different tribes, of different religions, and individual convictions … we are all one under God," said actress Anjelica Huston, who hosted the service.

Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, called people to prayer with the blowing of the shofar.

"May the sharp, piercing blasts of the shofar shatter our complacency and arouse us to redeem our broken world…. May the loud clarion of the shofar herald the day when all people, all of God’s children, live in peace and harmony," Diamond said.

A number of Los Angeles-area synagogues also held memorial services, some in cooperation with nearby churches. Mayor James Hahn, who attended the ecumenical service at the cathedral, said such gatherings serve two purposes.

"One is to remember and honor the memory of those who lost their lives, to remember the heroes: the police, the firefighters, the paramedics and the ordinary citizens like those on Flight 93, who made sure more lives were not lost," Hahn told The Journal. "[They are also] to remember that America is united, stronger today than we were before, and to understand the only way this country works is for all of us to be united."

On that same theme, congregants of Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills joined with members of next-door neighbor St. Bernardine of Sienna Catholic Church for a joint service called, "One Community, One Humanity."

"It really reflects the Sept. 11 mentality of trying to respond as Americans, as one people, and to show a sense of unity," said Aliyah’s Rabbi Stewart Vogel. "When someone attacks your family, no matter what differences divide you, you put those aside to respond as one."

Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice held a similar service with its Catholic neighbors at St. Clements Church, with shared prayers and a rendition of 19th century composer Louis Lewandowski’s "Halleluyoh," a cantorial version of Psalm 150.

"For Jews and for all people of faith, death and life go together in many subtle ways," said Rabbi Dan Shevitz, leader of Mishkon Tephilo. "At the same time we share our sadness and our grief over loss, we also come from a religious tradition that death is not final.

"The heroism and values articulated in a good life are ultimately more lasting than death," he said. "Mourning the dead and celebrating the lives given in heroism are not two distinct things, but part of the same tradition."

Earlier in the week, Museum of Tolerance officials gave high school students from Los Angeles, St. Louis and Garrettsville, Ohio, an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about Sept. 11 via a video conference. Most of the discussion centered on how the students felt as Americans, their views on the U.S. response to terrorism and the lasting implications of the terrorist attacks.

"Sept. 11 was an awakening of what is going on in the rest of the world, and what happens in Israel every day," said Nadav Geft, a student at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles. Some students objected to the media’s coverage of the attacks, and to the sometimes excessive displays of patriotism in the wake of the attacks. Chris Membribes, an 11th-grade student at North High School in Torrance, said that with the sale of patriot-themed T-shirts and keychains, "we gave the terrorists the publicity they wanted."

The discussion included a lecture by terrorism expert Sabi Shabti, author of "Five Minutes to Midnight." "Things are not going to be the same. I don’t think they will ever be the same," Shabti told the students. "Ultimately, terrorism is a war against democracy, because in the aftermath, people are willing to give up civil liberties and freedom for safety, security and order," he said. "We must not allow that [to happen]. It will take everyone in our society to protect our democracy, our rights, our way of life."

On Tuesday evening, Rabbi Allen Freehling spoke to more than 1,000 members at the Gathering for Civil Liberties and Peaceful Tomorrows, which was sponsored by the Interfaith Communities United for Peace and Justice, which was held at the First Baptist Church in Mid-Wilshire.

"Let us not make our Constitution the ultimate victim of what happened a year ago," Freehling declared. His remarks echoed similar sentiments of speakers throughout the night, which centered on First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the importance of dissent in a democracy.

Bringing the principle home, syndicated columnist Robert Scheer questioned the Bush administration’s pressure for a war with Iraq. "Even his own people are asking, ‘What proof, why now?’" Scheer said. "It just doesn’t fit."

The Interfaith Communities gathering, with its emphasis on politics, was an exception. Most memorials emphasized faith over politics and focused on the victims.

"At this hour of sacred memory, we cry with their families, friends and colleagues," Diamond said. "We cry with our fellow Americans for the loss of our innocence, our way of life as we knew it. We cry with all people of good will that a monstrous evil has struck God’s creation, and dealt a heavy blow to God’s creatures."

It was a long, heart-wrenching day. At the end, the flags remained at half-staff. But we, as a people, as a nation, stood tall.

Michael Aushenker, Rachel Brand, Charlotte Hildebrand and Gaby Wenig contributed to this story.

Calendar & Singles



B’nai Tikvah Congregation: 9 a.m. Shabbat service. 5820 Manchester Ave., Westchester. For more information, call (310) 645-6262.

Temple Beth Torah: 10 a.m. Shabbat Learner’s Minyan, with discussion, “Focus On the Family.” 16651 Rinaldi St., Granada Hills. For more information, call (310) 336-8228.

Fairfax Senior Citizens Center (50+): 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Dance to a live orchestra and enjoy refreshments every Saturday. 7929 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 653-1824.


Valley Cultural Center: 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Tribute to Steve Allen performance as part of the Free Concerts in the Park series. Warner Park, 5800 Topanga Canyon, Woodland Hills. For more information, call (818) 704-1358.

Project Chicken Soup: 8 a.m. Meet to prepare hot kosher meals for the homebound and ill. Also: 11:30 a.m. Meet to deliver hot kosher meals. Hirsh Kosher Kitchen, 338 N. Fairfax Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 655-5330.

Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center: 10 a.m.-noon. Open house with tour of the temple and information about its various programs. Refreshments served. 1434 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 798-1161.

Temple Beth Emet: 10 a.m.-noon. Open house and introduction of the temple’s staff and programs. Also: Fri., 6:30 p.m. Under the Stars Shabbat dinner and service. 1770 W. Cerritos Ave., Anaheim. For more information, call (714) 772-4720.

Temple Akiba: 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Annual Open House and Ice Cream Social. 5249 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City. For more information, call (310) 398-5783.

West Valley JCC: 2 p.m. Banjo Band concert and ice cream social. $5 (members); $7.50 (nonmembers). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. For more information, call (818) 464-3300.

Congregation Shaarei Torah: 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Discussion of book “Melting Pot Memories,” by author Judy Bart Kaneigor. South Pasadena Public Library, 1115 El Cantro St., Pasadena. For reservations or more information, call (323) 254-9997.


Jewish Family Service of Orange County: 9 a.m.-10:15 a.m. Support group for those suffering from depression or anxiety, every Monday. 250 E. Baker St., Suite G, Costa Mesa. For registration or more information, call (714) 445-4950.


West Valley JCC: 10 a.m.-noon. Senior Shalom Club meeting with coffee, bagels and entertainer, every Tuesday. $2 (members); $6 (nonmembers). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. For more information, call (818) 464-3300.

Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim: 7 p.m. “Personal Preparation For the Days of Awe,” discussion led by Rabbi Lisa Edwards. 6000 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 931-7023.


West Valley JCC: 10 a.m. Mystery Bus Trip, a surprise destination via deluxe bus transportation and lunch. $20 (members); $26 (nonmembers). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. For reservations or more information, call (818) 464-3300.


The History Channel: 8 p.m. “Holocaust: The Untold Story,” documentary about the U.S. press’ downplaying of the violence during the Holocaust. For more information, visit www.newseum.org.

Museum of Tolerance: 3 p.m. Discussion of “The Jewish Cultural Tapestry,” a book about different Jewish traditions. 1399 Roxbury Drive, Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (310) 772-2526.


The Workmen’s Circle: 6:30 p.m. Dinner, short stories, poems, music and a film to honor the final day of the exhibit “Past and Present: From Poland to Pico” by Pavel Vogler. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 552-2007.

Temple Emanuel: 6 p.m. Erev Shabbat service. 300 N. Clark Drive, Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 274-6388.

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles: 7 p.m. The Jewish Single Parents Network meets for a potluck Shabbat dinner and services. 13164 Burbank Blvd., Van Nuys. For reservations or more information, call (323) 761-8800 ext. 1256.




Singles Helping Others: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Meet to tend and maintain trees planted in the spring and socialize at Malibu Creek State Park. For more information, call (818) 591-0772.

Jewish Singles Meeting Place (30s & 40s): 5 p.m. Dinner at The Brassiere in the Hilton Hotel in Woodland Hills, followed by a movie at the AMC 16 theaters. For reservations or more information, call (818) 780-4809. Also: Sun., Sept. 2, 2 p.m. Labor Day barbeque at a private home in Woodland Hills. For reservations or more information, call (818) 883-5325.

Palos Verdes Singles: 7 p.m.- 11 p.m. Dinner dance with a catered buffet dinner, bar and live music at a private home. $25. For reservations or more information, call (310) 372-6071.

Southern California Social Guide: 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Cocktail and dance party with live music by the band Night Life, appetizers, dessert and no-host bar. $20. Sportsmen’s Lodge, 12833 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Also: Fri., 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Cocktail and dance party featuring a live band Casa Blanca and DJ David Katz, appetizers, no host bar and dessert. $20. Pasion Dance Club- V.I.P. room, 12215 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. For more information, call (323) 656-7777.

Jewish Single Parents & Singles Association (30s-50s): Hollywood Bowl event featuring Ray Charles. For more information, call (714) 755-0340 ext. 115. Also: Sun., Aug. 26, 1 p.m. Pool party and barbeque at a private home in La Habra. $10 (includes food). For reservations or more information, call (562) 691-2609 after 10 a.m.


L.A.’s Best Connection: 1 p.m. Bagel brunch at Farmer’s Market on Third and Fairfax. $5. For reservations or more information, call (323) 782-0435.

J-Tennis (25-45): 1:15 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Tennis tournaments at Rancho Cheviot Park in West Los Angeles. $20. For more information, call (310) TENNIS-1.

Westside Singles Networking Club (30+): 2 p.m. Meet to hear a guest speaker and find business and social networks. $10. For more information, call (310) 828-7326.

Toastmasters: 6:30 p.m. Meet to improve public speaking skills, every Sunday. Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (818) 508-9211.

Aish Speed Dating (40-60): 6:40 p.m. Introductions in a round robin format, at a local coffee shop. $20. For location, reservations or more information, call (310) 278-8672 ext. 403.

Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 8 p.m. Coffee, Cake and Conversation discussion group on a variety of topics, every Sunday and Tuesday. $8. For more information, call (310) 444-8986.


Project Next Step (30s & 40s): 8 p.m. Coffee Talk, discussion group led by two rabbis covering political, economic and social issues. Coffee and pastries served. $5. Simon Wiesenthal Center, 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Suite 102, Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (310) 552-4595.


Bridge For Singles (59+): 7:30 p.m. Intermediate players meet to play bridge at a private home every Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday. $4. For more information, call (310) 398-9649.


Volleyball Singles: 6 p.m. Play volleyball at Redondo Beach, followed by a no-host dinner, every Wednesday. For more information, call (310) 783-0689.


Project Next Step (20s-40s): 8 p.m. Judaism 101, class on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. $10. Simon Wiesenthal Center, 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Suite 102, Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (310) 552-4595.


East Coast Connection (21-35): 6:15 p.m.-7:45 p.m. Shabbat service, followed by dinner. For reservations or more information, call (310) 358-9930.


Singles Helping Others: 7 p.m. General meeting to plan events and activities. For more information, call (323) 769-1307.

Israeli Folk Dancing: 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Dance session with Israel Yakovee. Also: Lessons every Thursday with Michelle. $6. 2244 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (800) 750-5432.


Singles Helping Others: 7:30 p.m. Fourth of July celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, with fireworks. $18. For reservations or more information, call (323) 851-9070.

Bridge for Singles (59+): 7:30 p.m. Intermediate players meet at a private West Los Angeles home. $4. For more information, call (310) 398-9649.

Jewish Association of Single Professionals (25-55): 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Independence dance party with appetizers, dessert and no-host bar. $20. Lush, 2020 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. For more information, call (323) 656-7777.

Social Circle (35-59): 8 p.m. Blue Jeans Bash with a live Oldies band, dancing, food and drinks. $20 (members); $25 (nonmembers). Stephen S. Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Dr., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 476-8561.

Stu & Lew Productions (21-39): 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Fourth annual Summer Blowout dance party. $20 House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets or more information, call (310) 364-2301.


L’Chaim Entertainment (21+): 9:30 p.m. Party with singers and a DJ playing international, salsa, Middle Eastern and hip-hop music. $10. Dinner available with reservations. Beverly Hills Cuisine, 9025 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 289-4435.

Nexus (21-39): 2 p.m. Independence Day potluck picnic, with volleyball, canoeing, barbeque and fireworks at North Lake, Woodbridge, Irvine. For more information, call (714) 974-2279.

Jewish Singles Meeting Place (30’s-40’s): 5 p.m. Barbeque party at a private home in celebration of the 4th of July. For reservations or more information, call (818) 780-4809.

New Age Singles (55+): 2 p.m. Fourth of July potluck pool party. $3 (if accompanied by food); $10 (without food). For members only. For reservations or more information, call (310) 473-1391.

Jewish Single Parents & Singles Association: 3 p.m. Picnic with games and fireworks. Yorba Linda Middle School, 4845 Casa Loma Ave., Yorba Linda. For more information, call (909) 262-1788.


Conversations!: 7:30 p.m. Guest speaker leads discussions with food and drinks, every Thursday. $15. For reservations or more information, call (310) 315-1078.


New Age Singles (55+): 6:30 p.m. No-host dinner, followed by Shabbat services at Adat Shalom Temple. For reservations or more information, call (310) 854-0358.


Palos Verdes Singles (35+): Sat., July 7, 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Dance party with dinner at a private home. $25. For reservations or more information, call (310) 372-6071.

New Start (30-75): Sun., Aug. 5. “A Romantic Evening With the Gatsbys,” event with food and drinks. For more information, call (310) 478-3137.