HOT TOPIC: Can a Bar Mitzvah tutor teach about becoming a Jewish adult by example?

PJ Schwartz


Her Bat Mitzvah is ten months away, and Beth isn’t sure that Judaism is “her thing” because her friends are telling her that they feel sorry for her because she’s Jewish.  Michelle doesn’t want to have a Bat Mitzvah because she may embarrass herself.  Jeremy, who has been privately tutored in Hebrew for two years, wants to learn to read prayers, but the work that he would have to put into learning prevents him from “doing normal stuff.”  And there’s Becca, who is discouraged because of how overwhelming it has become to learn both Torah and Haftarah trope.

On paper, if I just spent my hour with my students correcting their reading mistakes, asking them to slow down when they are reading a prayer, and ending my sessions reminding them to practice and do their homework, I would be “doing my job.”  But if I were to simply do my job, I wouldn’t know that Beth had been attending youth group events with her friends and was constantly told she needed to be “saved” by her Christian friends.  If all I did was correct her reading mistakes, I wouldn’t know that Michelle was laughed at the one time she publically spoke in front of a group of people.  If all I did was tell Jeremy to slow down when reading, I wouldn’t know that he was on the lacrosse team and his friends were mad at him for not coming to practice because he was meeting with me.  If I just taught Becca trope, I wouldn’t know that she felt like she would be letting everyone down if she didn’t fulfill the optional requirements for having a Bat Mitzvah.

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