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The few studies on the Jewish affiliation patterns of children of interfaith families have consistently shown that children of intermarriage have stronger Jewish identities as adults if they are bar or bat mitzvahed.
This article and video from The Charlotte Observer tells the story of Paloma Wiener, 16, and her brother, Brandon, 15, who are studying for their bat and bar mitzvah together. Their mother is Mexican and their father is Jewish, and they moved to Charlotte from California recently, so they got a late start on studying to become b’nai mitzvah. The fact that they are going through the process at a later age reaffirms their commitment to Judaism, and makes it highly likely their religious identity will remain with them throughout their lives.
A bar or bat mitzvah can also serve to tie the non-Jewish member of an interfaith family closer to the Jewish community. In this wonderful column for the (Danbury) News Times, Brian Koonz relates how his son’s bar mitzvah filled him with pride but also left him feeling “disconnected”:
But when his temple asked for volunteers to teach third-grade Hebrew school, Koonz felt he couldn’t say no. It was his way of giving back to the temple.
It’s easy to bemoan how the modern bar mitzvah has mutated into a garish display of conspicuous consumption, but the ceremony still retains a powerful, if not immediately apparent, impact on a child’s future identity–and his family’s relationship to Judaism.
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