This morning, based on the recommendation of our Rabbi at a recent meeting for parents of soon-to-be-b’nai mitzvah students, we went to go see Keeping Up With The Steins. This is a movie that I predict will become part of the standard Bar/Bat Mitzvah Parent training.
What the story? Here’s how Moviefone describes it: After his best friend’s bar mitzvah complete with ice sculptures and a rap version of ‘Hava Nagila,’ Benjamin (Daryl Sabara) discovers his father (Jeremy Piven) is planning to out-bar mitzvah his friend’s father by throwing Benjamin’s rite of passage at Dodger Stadium. But all of this just spells stress for Benjamin, who secretly laments over his pending adulthood and Torah memorizations, all while nursing a preteen crush on the pretty blonde in his Hebrew school. So he hatches a plan to sabotage his own bar mitzvah by inviting his estranged, skinny-dipping hippie grandfather (Garry Marshall) to the event. What begins as chaotic staging for a hostile family reunion quickly turns into a touching family comedy that anyone can relate to.
What did I think? First, I thought that Garry Marshall stole the show. His character is the heart of the film, together with Daryl Sabara. He plays the croctcheyt old Jewish grandfather (now living on an Indian Reservation) who teaches the lesson of the real meaning of a Bar Mitzvah ceremony. [Hmmm, like Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles] The other characters were mostly innocuous: the over-the-top dad (Jeremy Piven); the classic Brentwood mom (Jami Gertz); the Jewish grandmother (Doris Roberts); the trophy-girlfriend of the grandfather (Darryl Hannah). Second, I though the movie had a great point.
So what was this point, and why did our Rabbi (who is the rabbi of a congregation of mostly upper-middle-class to upper-class Jews) recommend it. Simple. The point is that the point of the ceremony is not the party afterwards. It is believing in the ceremony, and making it the center of action, not the party afterwards. What makes the party is the people and the love between them there, not the spectacle. I think this is a good message, and one that is important to reiterate to parents. The party is not for them.
Luckily, this is a message we had already planned on. NSS&F’s Bat Mitzvah is at the end of 2007, and we know we’ll have the reception afterwards in the Temple social hall. We’re planning to keep it simple. Middle-eastern food. A simple DJ. The focus will be the people there.
If you will be facing a bar or bat mitzvah in the future, I recommend you see this film.