Bar Mitzvah is a bigger deal than Bat Mitzvah. Discuss.

Bar mitzvahs are usually a bigger deal than than bat mitzvahs. Boys' ceremonies often seem more religiously significant and their parties are often more elaborate than girls'.


This sentiment often manifests in the interminable explanation,
"Obviously our daughter's simcha is going to be smaller than our son's."

Why "obviously"?

Here are 4 discussion points inspired by the International Women's Day #PledgeForParity.

1. Challenge actual and imagined bias

Some people feel a bat mitzvah has a lesser religious significance than a bar mitzvah. Parents often tell me that a bar mitzvah is an actual thing, but a bat mitzvah is just a made up thing. (Although halachic citations aren't as forthcoming.)

Whenever you hear anyone claim that a bat mitzvah has a lesser religious significance than a bar mitzvah, ask them for a source to back up their claim. And decide for yourselves how meaningful that source is to you.

2. Value girls' and boys' contributions equally

Some people feel a bat mitzvah ceremony involves less effort than a bar mitzvah. Parents often tell me there's more work involved for a boy preparing for a bar mitzvah ceremony than for a girl preparing for a bat mitzvah. So the reward should be greater. (Although that seems mainly to do with different expectations.)

Whenever you find yourself believing that bar mitzvahs involve more effort than bat mitzvahs, think whether you really do have different expectations for sons and daughters in life in general. If you actually believe in encouraging all children to achieve their potential, then ignore any pressure to put on a bigger party for a boy than for a girl.

3. Help children achieve their ambitions irrespective of their gender

Some people feel a bat mitzvah is supposed to be lower key than a bar mitzvah. Parents often tell me that girls actually want to be more modest and discreet than boys. (Although I've never heard a girl or a boy express that view about themselves.)

Whenever you experience feelings that girls and boys have different ambitions because of their gender, decide whether that's something you want to accept. If you want to challenge the status quo, download this practical Bat Mitzvah Guide from JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance).

4. Call for gender-balanced leadership

Some people feel a bat mitzvah doesn't call for the same level of responsibility as does a bar mitzvah. Parents often tell me a bar mitzvah should prepare a boy for leadership roles in Jewish life whereas a bat mitzvah should prepare a girl more for nurturing roles.

Whenever you sense a division along gender lines for leadership and nurturing roles, ask yourself if you believe such a division makes the world - or your family - a better place. As well as encouraging daughters to lead more of the ceremony, it would be nice to see more women coming forward to do things like the welcome speech and the ceremony itself, and to see more dads taking part in bat mitzvah classes.

Your thoughts?

Whatever you do, be deliberate. Most people throwing a party say they want it to be different and to reflect their own personalities. Extend that individuality to how you'll express your feelings on gender parity. Nobody has to accept the status quo.

Please do share your own thoughts for discussion. And contact us if you're after special ideas for making your simcha as fulfilling as it can be.


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