My kids’ (Jewish-Irish-Catholic-Open) Bar Mitzvah

I left the Catholic Church in my early twenties. I stopped pretending I understood the idea of a messiah. I stopped putting money in a basket that would later be used for legal funds to defend child-raping priests. I stopped ignoring sermons against birth control, abortion, and homosexuality.

I turned my back on Jesus and all the nonsense His Rock represented.

But I never turned my back on family. This collection of rosary-saying, novena-believing Irish Catholics were My Rock and they loved me despite my heretic ways. They loved me when I declared myself an agnostic. They loved me when I read The Book of Mormon, The Bhagavad Gita, and the Talmud. They loved me when I visited Baptist churches and ate lunch every day for a month with Hari Krishna’s.

They loved me when I discovered Judaism and converted. Even if that meant no shrimp barbecues for 10 years before I realized a kosher home and washing two sets of everything was its own brand of nonsense.

Marc never asked me to convert. We had a civil ceremony when we married and wrote the entire service ourselves. But when his sons were born, he couldn’t hide his joy in raising them Jewish.

We started out with an orthodox mohel, who performed the circumcision on our kitchen table while I looked out the window and tried to think happy thoughts. He did some magical shit over their heads “to make it official” he said, “because they don’t have an orthodox mother.”

Whatever makes you happy, Schlomo.

A few months later, my mom baptized them in the tub one night while she bathed them. She thought I didn’t notice. Again, whatever makes you happy, Sister Mother. I considered it extra love. If we knew some Muslims, I’d let them do their things, too.

Jacob and Zachary went to a Jewish preschool and elementary school, becoming fluent in Hebrew and Passive-Aggressiveness. Good times.

Then came their Bar Mitzvah.

We took them to Israel where the ceremony was performed on Masada during a beautiful spring day while locusts and tourists swarmed underneath the mountain.

No one came with us. Something about terrorism and danger and blah, blah, blah.

We threw a party in our hometown when we got back – inviting family and close friends to celebrate this milestone with our children. It was the first time since our wedding that we’d mix this rowdy bunch of Irish Catholics with Russian Jews. Each group has its own way of talking and relating to people. In order to help, I included this Cultural Guide with every welcome gift at the hotel.


 Irish Talk

“Be the hush” means be quiet, I can’t hear the happy hour specials.

“Oh my” means someone is wearing short sleeves and a tie.

“Nice she has it” means she lucked out, like when I married a non-drinker and got a designated driver for life.

 “Where’s the whiskey?” means “Where’s the whiskey?”

“Too bad about you” means this whole trip was your idea.

 “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” means “Who was the last one in the bathroom?”

“Well there ya go” means “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Gauche” means something is improper. Like, “Drinking beer out of the bottle is gauche.”

“Here comes His Nibs” means “Shit. Grandpa woke up.”

“Irish Recall” means remembering embarrassing shit from the night before. Never happens.

Jewish Talk

“I’ve forgotten what your voice sounds like” means you haven’t called in at least an hour.

“Oy.”  = “It was her idea to have an open bar.”

“You paid how much?” means “Convert.”

“I really shouldn’t” means I’d like seconds, please.

“You’re skin and bones!” is what they say when you can see your own feet.

“Meshugena” means “Shit. Grandpa woke up.”

“Hebe with a coupon” is a unit of measurement to describe ‘faster than the speed of light.’ Like when I head to the bar.

“Jewish Recall” is hitting redial when disconnected from your mother. Never happens.


Overall, the weekend went well. As we get older, Marc and I are becoming less religious. The boys were not required to go through confirmation and if their school schedule is rough, we no longer require them to miss school on the High Holy Days.

Judaism provided us with a foundation upon which to build our family and raise two great kids. Where they go from here is up to them.

They’re men, now, after all.