Tuesday, March 04, 2008

An Agnostic Bar Mitzvah and the Fraud of Orthodox Judaism

I was moved by this:

I am so sad that I didn't have a community as nurturing as this boy's. I can't imagine the crowd I had at my bar mitzvah reacting with appreciative laughter if I'd been able to be as honest as this kid. What do you think would be the reaction in an Orthodox shul? Would he be booed and interrupted? Would the Rabbi have launched into a stinging condemnation afterwards? That'd be my guess, although I can't know for sure.

How can your religion be authentic if people can't be honest about their doubts and beliefs? The way every Orthodox bar mitzvah speech is wholly accepting of Orthodox dogma reminds me of when Saddam Hussein won 100% of the vote in his last "election." Total B.S., and for the same reason. They can't handle the truth.

Children should be encouraged to seek honestly for the truth, not pressured and censored into being the perfect little ditto-heads that Orthodox kids are, at least publicly. Can you imagine a bar-mitzvah boy getting up there and saying that he doesn't know if God exists or whether Moshe "really" split the sea? I can't see an Orthodox boy even saying "I couldn't really relate to this parsha." What does it say about your religion that there is so little room for honesty and openness?

(Via Random Good Stuff.)


BrooklynWolf said...

I've tried in Firefox and IE... I can't get the video to run.

Can you post a link to an external source?


The Wolf

Tigerboy said...


You were posting this at the exact time that I was leaving a comment on your previous post. My second comment left under "Orthodox Attrition" would have been even more appropriate here.

G said...

I disagree and in fact have seen otherwise.

Excluding an ultra far-right wing congregation, I do not think that the young man would be "booed and interrupted" or that the "Rabbi have launched into a stinging condemnation afterwards"...so long as the tone was not one of attack or derision.

I am sorry that your life experiences have led you to this conception.

--let it be said that yes, sometimes the time and the place DO matter.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but your statement that Orthodox Judaism is a "fraud" just betrays an astouding lack of knowledge about what it is. You think that Orthodox Jews are just sheep. I can (as a member of a Modern Orthodox shul) tell you that this is completely untrue. We talk all the time about change, etc., and it is not for you or anyone else to sit as Judge. This kid is right to question G-d or even his existence. But the issues do not stop there. They are not easy. And being Jewish is NOT easy especially in this world. If you want easy, try another faith. Or are you so biased toward the empirically observable that the word "faith" has no meaning? I am sure that this kid, "ballsy" as he might be, is being misdirected toward a like without it and will miss the essence of what it is to be truly Jewish, for without Torah, Talmud, etc., etc., so-called "Jewish Atheists" or secular Jews would not have the opportunity to exist, for ultimately, it is our relgion that binds us and when the next Hitler rolls around, there will be no distinctions made between who believes and who doesn't. We are all in the same boat.

Jewish Atheist said...


I don't know if this'll work any better, but give it a try: http://www.glumbert.com/media/barmitzvah


Can you give more details on what you have seen? What do you think would happen if this exact speech were given at an Orthodox shul?


So all kids who are doubters, agnostics, or atheists are being misled? Yeah, that sounds like an Orthodox person speaking to me.

Baal Habos said...

>What do you think would be the reaction in an Orthodox shul? Would he be booed and interrupted? Would the Rabbi have launched into a stinging condemnation afterwards?

I can't imagine a boy in my circle even entertaining such doubts, let alone expressing them But if it would happen, he'd be silenced, drawn & quartered.

G said...

Can you give more details on what you have seen?

--No I will not. I cannot w/o it being obvious who and where I am referring to. I apologize if this comes across as a cop-out (which is how I would take it if sitting at your keyboard), such is life.

What do you think would happen if this exact speech were given at an Orthodox shul?

--Unfair question.
For someone so wrapped up in the wish for Orthodoxy to be more understanding of different peoples and their viewpoints you are awfully quick to put forth a scenario where Orthodoxy as a whole would have one reaction.
I am quite certain that the various types of Orthodox shuls would have various types of reactions. No doubt some would make you ashamed, angry and disappointed but I also have no doubt that some would surprise you and, dare I say it, make you proud.

Ezzie said...

What G said.

Orthoprax said...

I'm not sure a bar mitzvah speech is the best platform at which to announce one's problems with Judaism. It's kinda like getting politically critical at a party celebrating your recent citizenship.

Jewish Atheist said...


But he was so honest, and he spoke about what Judaism meant to him. Better an honest speech than a polite one, no?

Orthoprax said...

Maybe. I'm ambivalent, but like I said, it doesn't seem like the best occassion. I guess it depends on the audience.

jewish philosopher said...

Tolerance depends a lot on the particular community and family. When I refused to participate in church services I got a lot of flak and I was, and still am, basically disowned by my adopted parents.

G said...

Better an honest speech than a polite one, no?

--So you dream of a world were honesty is the only value and all sense of pretense, politeness and etiquette (regardless of time, place or people) be damned?

Jewish Atheist said...


I think honesty is a prerequisite for authentic religion or philosophy. If you're going to lie or shy away from major questions because you don't want to offend anybody, then the whole thing is just a charade.

G said...

Not my question, sorry if I was unclear.

You said "Better an honest speech than a polite one, no?"

I'm asking how far you want to take that.

Jewish Atheist said...

Well, "polite" is probably the wrong word. How about: better an honest speech than a pandering one?

G said...

Fair enough, although I still contend that there is a time and a place for everything and not that everything is for every time and place.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Would the Rabbi have launched into a stinging condemnation afterwards?

It all depends right? If he went up there and insulted everyone as being sheep and morons and its all fake, then he would be condemned. But if he spoke about his real doubts honostly and politely, I see no reason why he would be condemned by the rabbi, at least in a modern orthodox community.

Anonymous said...

They are laughing because it's just some brat kid who was probably dared to do it by his brat friends.

They are also laughing because they know he will conform in the end.