5 Bar Mitzvah Movies that Tells the Next Generation Jewish Story | MitzvahMarket | MitzvahMarket

5 Bar Mitzvah Movies that Tells the Next Generation Jewish Story

Bar Mitzvah Movies

By Drew Kramer

Across every major religion, participation in houses of worship is in decline. For Jews, this reality is no different. It is surprising that in a landscape where religious affiliation is shrinking, new films depicting Jewish life appear in today’s zeitgeist. In the last decade, numerous films featuring Jewish tradition, particularly the b’nei mitzvah, indicate a culture still conflicted about its roots and where it is going.

Below is a roundup of the top five modern bar mitzvah movie moments that ask American Jews to consider their relationship with their history, as well as a framework to explore the universal experience of growing up.

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Keeping the Faith (2000)

A Catholic priest, a Rabbi and a hot blonde walk into a bar. So the story goes in the new millennium’s religiously charged romantic comedy starring Ben Stiller, Ed Norton, and Jenna Elfman. Two childhood friends become religious leaders that seek to create a more modern, interfaith-friendly approach to worship. All is kumbaya until both the rabbi and the priest fall in love with the same girl that got away.

The Rabbi is conflicted about getting serious about someone who isn’t Jewish, while the Priest must consider giving up his vows to follow his heart. In the film’s bar mitzvah scene, the bar mitzvah boy’s voice cracks as he chants his haftorah. His awkwardness, while his parents look on with pride, provides comic relief, but also affirms the ritual’s significance to the Jewish people as a right of passage. Even as attitudes relax about interfaith relationships, parents will still kvell at their child’s b’nei mitzvah. 

A Serious Man (2009)

A Serious Man is The Coen Brother’s quirky tribute to growing up Jewish in a Minneapolis suburb in the 1960s. In this critical look at Jewish culture, the Coen Brothers explore how their Jewish heritage clashed with mainstream American life in the times. The movie includes the story of the protagonist’s son, Danny, half-heartedly preparing for his bar mitzvah. An American teenager of the times, he is more interested in listening to rock and roll and getting stoned. Choosing to get high before his long-anticipated bar mitzvah, Danny’s blurry view from the bimah indicates his disconnect with his parents’ pride and joy in the achievement of this moment. 

Cha Cha Real Smooth (2022)

Andrew, a lost 22-year old recent college graduate, begins working as a bar mitzvah party starter for families in his New Jersey hometown. At one party, he befriends the single mother to a teenager who has autism, Lola. Falling for the mother, Andrew explores his own transition to adulthood in the confusing time after college when you are supposed to be an adult, but still figuring it out. While Andrew is not a Jewish protagonist, his own struggle to adulthood juxtaposed with the Jewish milestone supports the thesis that the coming of age ritual has become a common backdrop to explore the challenge of growing up.

13, The Musical (2022)

This 2022 musical film based on the hit broadway show follows young Evan Goldman as he moves from New York City to Indiana with his mother after his parents’ divorce. Disrupted from his life in New York and his Bar Mitzvah preparation, Evan grapples with change as he learns the complicated social hierarchy of his new diverse school community. With its High School Musical-ish bubblegum charm, 13, The Musical sings and dances the themes of teenage angst.

You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah (2023)

Adam Sandler’s new Netflix feature film, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah is the latest cinematic exploration of the growing pains and party planning angst that can arise when a girl reaches Jewish womanhood. This hilarious and heart wrenching look at adolescence, covers friendship betrayals, body changes and first crushes through the lens of the Bat Mitzvah. The film highlights the struggle to understand oneself as she takes this first step towards womanhood with humor and love.

In an era of reduced interest in religion, Hollywood continues to honor the universal experience of crossing from childhood to adolescence through the lens of the B’nei Mitzvah. Whether these modern films depict the past or present, all demonstrate an ongoing consideration of what role religion plays in shaping our identities as we mature.

Drew Kramer is a writer, performer, and the founder of Lady and The Floofs.

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