As the token Jew here at the Couch Sessions, anything Jew-related is forwarded to me. So when Stone forwarded me an email from a mysterious Enrique Goldfarb, who was claiming to be Northern New Jersey's #3 in Bar Mitzvah Entertainment, I was immediately intrigued. The email in question was advertising the new book and website entitled Bar Mitzvah Disco. A book with a tagline like “The Music May Have Stopped, but the Party's Never Over”, is hard to resist.
Bar Mitzvah Disco is a collection of writings, musings and photographs–a sort of catalogue if you will–of, about and on the topic of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. For those of you who didn't grow up with a Jewish person in your class, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the point in every Jewish person's life when, at the age of 13, he or she becomes a man or woman. Back, back, back in the day, it meant you gained all the responsabilities of being an adult. For women, you could get married off the day after (at least that's what my mother threatened to do to me). Nowadays it more likely means you get a huge party where a celebrity impersonator gives you a lap dance. Or if you are of the Beverly Hills variety Jew, you might give all the guests tickets to movies premieres and have real celebrities giving lap dances. Or if you're really dedicated, you'll go to Israel and have your Bar Mitzvah at the Wailing Wall.
The book feels like you raided the keepsake box your Jewish grandmother kept for you: The photos of you wearing clothing we now define as “Retro”. Young teens slowdancing…arms length distance apart of course! Family portraits in which Mom is wearing the most hideous dress. The sign-in boards where all your friends can tell you how cool you are. The pic of you and the token black guy. The pic of you breakdancing…
Except these pictures aren't of you. They're of someone else. But there is something reminiscent, something about these personal photographs that speak to everyone, Jews and non-Jews alike. They speak to a time, not so long ago, when you could have a blast doing the Chicken Dance in your Pretty In Pink styled dress or your powder blue tux. Unlike now where Bar/Bat Mitzvahs (like weddings) have to be over the top.
The book divides itself into song-titled chapters, each describing a different aspects of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Each song is a song from the 80's or 90's that you would also most likely hear being played on the dance floor: “It's a Family Affair,” “Losing My Religion”, “Man in the Mirror,” “99 Red Balloons”, “Ebony and Ivory,” “Red Red Wine”…the list goes on. The forward is even written by The Village People, who's song “Y.M.C.A” is quintessential to any and every Bar/Bat Mitzvah party, even though none of the actual Village People are Jewish (and the YMCA is a Christian organization). There is the topic of party themes, whether it is “Safari” or “Madonna”. There are stories of heartbreak, first kisses and DJ playlists. The written sections boast names of well known writers, comedians, pop culture commentators (Sarah Silverman, Jonathan Safron Foer, Gideon Yago, Mark Ronson) as well as people who aren't so well known. Their writing connects through the experience of this shared Bar/Bat Mitzvah event and with the snapshot photographs as illustration, the book creates a personal yet general narrative. Anyone can enjoy this book. Just make sure you remember to shine up your dancing shoes and be ready to get down.