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Wilbur celebrates his Bar Mitzvah

By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 10, 2004
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Hillel event to teach students about Jewish ritual using mock ceremony

Jewish and non-Jewish students alike are invited to learn about Bar and Bat Mitzvahs by participating in the Wilbur Wildcat Bar Mitzvah, a mock ceremony Friday at the Hillel Center at 6 p.m.

While Wilbur won't actually attend Friday night, he is expected to party with students and dance the Horah Monday at Gentle Ben's as the Wilbur Wildcat Bar Mitzvah party gets underway at 9 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Hillel Center and KOACH, an international organization for conservative Jewish students.

"Wilbur is having a Bar Mitzvah because it's a great way to educate people about becoming a Bar Mitzvah and it's a great all-around social opportunity for students here at Hillel," said Orly Shafir, a family studies and human development senior, and co-chair of Hillel's chapter of KOACH.

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are the Jewish ceremonies in which young men and women, respectively, are welcomed into the religious community as adults at the age of 13.

Shafir said the event is meant to educate both Jewish and non-Jewish students about becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, which means a Son or Daughter of the Commandment.

"We're trying to find out if there are people who haven't had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah to see if they're interested (in having one)," Shafir said. "It's a fabulous way to educate people, to show a Jewish ritual and to get people together for a really fun and social event."

During a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the celebrant performs his or her first act as an adult by reading from the Torah and leading the service in front of the congregation.

Jewish students who've had Bar or Bat Mitzvahs said having one was and still is important to them today.

"A Bar Mitzvah was important to me at 13 and it is now because I realize that a Bar Mitzvah is a transition for a Jewish individual from childhood to adulthood taking on greater responsibilities," said Eric Werner, a political science junior.

I didn't know Wilbur was Jewish.

- Talia Nosrati, communication senior


Other students shared the same sentiments as Werner.

"Back then (at 13) I was brought up in a conservative family, so it was a sort of rite of passage," said Joe Robbins, a creative writing freshman. "Being part of a select group, going into that rite of passage is something amazing."

But Robbins said that having a Bar Mitzvah was not always serious. It could also be fun.

Robbins said that Bar Mitzvahs were something fun and exciting to look forward to at age 13 because it seemed like all of his friends were having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah party every weekend.

Stephanie Levitt, a psychology sophomore, agreed with Robbins.

"At that age, the party was the most important part," she said. "I was more concerned with getting the coolest DJ, making sure that all my friends came and getting carloads full of presents."

"For me, reading the Torah was more of a path to getting a party as opposed to a meaningful ritual which confirmed my faith and declared me a Jewish woman," Levitt said.

Danny Ezraty, a pre-business freshman, found the Bar Mitzvah experience more inspiring because he had the opportunity to do it in the Jewish homeland of Israel.

"I was happy I had it in Israel because here it would've been a big party, but in Israel it had more of a religious meaning and significance," he said. "Having a Bar Mitzvah means you're growing up and becoming a man."

Students who've already had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah said they would definitely recommend it to others who haven't had the opportunity to have one.

"I encourage those who are willing to take the time to have a Bar Mitzvah to do so," Werner said. "I feel like I would've lost or missed the opportunity of participating in a long-lasting Jewish tradition that dates back to my ancestors had I not had mine.

"It's such a spiritual, emotional, wonderful and terrifying experience that culminates Jewish learning and identity," Levitt said. "It also opens a path to continue learning, and creates a sense of responsibility to keep the Jewish culture alive."

Shafir said other college campuses have had success with events similar to Wilbur's Bar Mitzvah.

"(Having the Wilbur theme) is a way for people to connect and connect to something that they would understand and have fun with," she said. "This idea has been in the works for a while now, but now we finally have the funding for the opportunity to do this."

Students can party at the Bar Mitzvah celebration Monday at Gentle Ben's at 9 p.m. There, students can enjoy food and refreshments while reliving memories of past Bar and Bat Mitzvah experiences, Shafir said.

"We're hoping to get as many people as we can to come out," Shafir said. "We'll have some fun music from the good old days of people's Bar and Bat Mitzvahs like 'The Electric Slide' and 'The Macarena.'"

Students said they're looking forward to the festivities and partying with Wilbur.

"I didn't know Wilbur was Jewish," joked Talia Nosrati, a communication senior. "If Jewish and non-Jewish students attend the party they'll see it's a really joyous occasion."

"The Wilbur Bar Mitzvah is a really cute idea," Levitt said. "It's a great way to remember all those feelings and emotions that ran rampant at that age and it's also a great excuse to throw a party."

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