B’nai Mitzvah: Celebrate sunrise prayer with breakfast outdoors

If you were in Jerusalem at the crack of dawn on a Monday or Thursday, you would see dozens of bar mitzvah boys davening by the Western Wall, being taught to lay tefillin for the first time. In Persian families this practice includes a morning prayer service and a breakfast for close family and friends.

Since the b’nai mitzvah ceremony is rife with spiritual meaning, a lovely way to start the sacred day is an early morning gathering to greet the sunrise.

“In our morning service we recognize the glory of the sunrise and the announcement of it by the rooster, who was given the intelligence to distinguish between night and day,” said Matthew Simon, rabbi emeritus of Conservative B’nai Israel Congregation of Rockville, Md. “Even though we don’t always appreciate his ‘cock-a-doodle- doo’ at 5 in the morning.”

Simon suggests that scheduling an early morning celebration during the week (Monday, Tuesday or Friday) might be a little easier on the nerves of the bar mitzvah and his mother.

For Joel Rembaum, senior rabbi at Conservative Temple Beth Am, the idea of an outdoor early morning service seems perfect.

“I’m an old Jewish camping guy,” he said. “I’ve put on tefillin in front of Sequoia trees in Yosemite. It’s good for the bar mitzvah to learn to express himself in different settings.”

For the occasion, Rembaum suggests bringing prayer books and ritual garb to the location. If the honored child is up to it he can also conduct the prayers, Rembaum said.

To make it more personal the bar mitzvah could lead a recitation about the spirituality of nature or intersperse a meditation on renewal. He can recite a beautiful poem, or even play a piece of inspiring music.

Although it can be meaningful to combine prayer with music and creative writings, it’s important not to disturb the rhythm or flow that exists within the service, Rembaum said.

Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann of the Reconstructionist Congregation Kol Tzedek of West Philadelphia emphasizes the value of humor and compares the ritual to the tish, which is part of a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, where all the men gather around the bridegroom and kibitz with him, making jokes and offering support and advice to alleviate the tension he feels before the wedding.

“This translates perfectly to the bar mitzvah where the young man would be encircled by the love and community of his parents, siblings and friends of the family,” she said.

Because all celebrations deserve a little sustenance, a light repast in the morning will sweeten the experience. You can make these delicious recipes or supplement with store-bought goodies from your favorite bakery.

Assemble all the dishes in a few wicker picnic baskets, making sure to separate hot and cold foods. Include plates, coffee mugs, napkins, silverware, including extra serving pieces, tablecloth and butter.

Fruit Salad With Tangerine Juice and Fresh Mint

1 pint basket blackberries, blueberries or raspberries
2 kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced into circles
1 medium-size ripe honeydew melon, cut into balls with melon-baller
1 ripe mango or papaya, peeled and diced
1/2 cup fresh tangerine juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Handful of fresh mint leaves, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Gently mix together fruits and juices in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with mint and almonds. Chill.
Before you leave, transfer the Fruit Salad to in an insulated bowl with a tight cover and a cold pack.
Makes six servings.

Frittata Contadina

From “Little Italy Cookbook” by David Ruggerio (Artisan, 1997). Don’t worry if it’s not “piping hot” when you get to your destination. It’s just as delicious at room temperature.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
8 eggs
1/4 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
Salt to taste
Optional: 1/4 cup of spinach, potatoes or tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat olive oil in nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, mushrooms; cook until onions are translucent (about 3 minutes). While vegetables are cooking, place eggs and two tablespoons water in a bowl, beat with fork. Add salt; mix in cheese and basil.
Pour mixture on to vegetables in pan. Cook for about one minute; place in oven for five to 10 minutes or until firm in center. Carefully flip on to plate and serve.
To transport the frittata, keep it in the pan, wrap it in foil; then wrap in a heated dishtowel, tablecloth, or other insulated material. Anchor Hocking makes a thermal insulated zippered pouch, which comes with its own pan and lid.
Makes four servings.

Victorian Currant Scones

From “Monet’s Table” by Claire Joyes (Simon & Schuster, 1990).

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
About 5 ounces of milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup currants

Preheat oven to 400 F. Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Cut in butter; stir in currants and enough milk to make a soft dough. Roll out to 1/2-inch thick. Cut out two-inch circles with biscuit cutter or glass, place on a greased baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes or until they rise well and are lightly browned. Serve hot, slicing them crosswise with butter and jam.
Place in a napkin-lined small basket and cover loosely with foil.
Makes 12 scones.

Clementine Marmalade
Recipe by cooking teacher Jean Brady.
If clementines aren’t in season, use best quality seedless tangerines or oranges.

1 pound clementines, left whole
2 cups sugar

In a three-quart saucepan, cover tangerines with water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Drain off water. When tangerines are cool, cut into 1/4-inch crosswise slices. Place tangerines and sugar in heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, juice thickens and rind looks candied, about 15 minutes. Pour into sterilized jar. When cool, cover and store in refrigerator. Will keep for three months.
Spoon Clementine Marmalade into a jar to transport.

Festive Coffee

1 cup heavy cream