How to Hora at your Child’s B’nei Mitzvah | MitzvahMarket | MitzvahMarket

How to Hora at your Child’s B’nei Mitzvah

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How to Hora at your Child’s B’nei Mitzvah

By Drew Kramer

“Let us rejoice” is the direct translation of Hava Nagila, the anthem for the traditional dance that celebrates the happiest occasions in Jewish life–the Hora. Descending from the Romanian circle dances of the 1800s, Romanian Jews fleeing anti-semitism brought their moves with them to then Palestine at the turn of the century. As the number of Jews in the region expanded in the early 1900s, this brand of music and dance permeated Jewish life. By the 1920s, Jewish immigrants brought Hava Nagila and the Hora to the United States, raising its profile to become a quintessential component of B’nei Mitzvahs and Jewish weddings throughout the world. 

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To the inexperienced Hora dancers among us, I empathize, the Hora can be intimidating. A spirited mob of animated alpha dancers bounds to the dance floor, stomping the shy or geriatric guests that trickle to the back of the dance floor in clumps of clapping onlookers. If you are hosting a B’nei Mitzvah or prepping to attend your first event, below is an overview of how to create a memorable moment that electrifies and unites your dance floor.


  • Set the Stage: When selecting a space to host a B’nei Mitzvah reception, consider the Hora. If you dream of a Hora that invites your entire guest list to lock arms in solidarity with your family, choose a venue with a dance floor that will allow your group to have the space it needs to circle left and right with abandon. Likewise, when selecting a DJ or band, confirm that they have experience with leading a hora. Experienced DJs and bands can help to keep order, calling out the movement of the circle from left to right and maintaining the moment beyond the Hava Ngila’s end, if the crowd’s energy calls for more.


  • Learn the moves: In the early days of Hora and at present day gatherings of advanced Hora dancers, participants interlocked arms behind their backs and performed an elaborate two step to the right and left. At today’s more mainstream events, the Hora begins simply by clasping hands and creating a wide circle of dancers that moves to the right and then left. Some participants use a grapevine step, but there is no need to complicate matters, if your coordination does not lend itself to fancy footwork. Within the larger circle, close family and friends will create smaller circles, clasping hands with their nearest and dearest, feeling connection and love at this monumental moment. Often, the party’s most ambitious and outgoing dancers will take to the center circle to show off more aggressive moves, swinging a partner with linked arms or showing off high kicks. Dive in with your wackiest moves, or enjoy the show with the clapping crowd. 


  • Champion the Chair Lift: In the climax of the dance, the celebrated youth and his or her parents will be hoisted in chairs and danced around in this chaotic, thrilling romp. To some, this moment symbolizes a rising to a more spiritual place, as well as always having the support of others. There are few occasions in life where one takes this throne, so when your turn comes, carpe diem. Whether you daringly raise your hands to swirl a handkerchief or hold tight for dear life, embrace the opportunity to feel the support of this community that lifts you up. For first time hora planners, pre-select your strongest family and friends to grab the chairs and participate in the lift. It’s a mitzvah! 


  • Nominate Hora Leaders: While you are considering your chair lifters, also consider nominating Hora Leaders. These individuals are charismatic and bold, able to inspire the shyest of wallflowers to clasp hands and join the circle of joy. Select those with passion for the dance and the creation of a magical moment that will remain with you and your family for a lifetime. Your Hora leaders will rally the troops, raise the bar with their dance moves and re-ignite the energy when the circle begins to fade into the clappers at the back of the dance floor. If you are blessed with a large number of cronies that fit this job description, anoint them all.


  • Timing is everything: While the Hora can happen at any point in the reception, it is typically done at the beginning of the reception to kick start the party or after dinner to open the floor for more high energy dancing. If introduced at the very beginning of your first dance set, it will draw your entire group to the dance floor and ignite your party with a unifying energy that will set the tone for the rest of the celebration. Generally, the hora is danced for five minutes, but its duration really depends on the demands of your guests. Tell your band or DJ to take its cures from the room. If the group is hot for more hora, keep going. 


The beauty of the Hora is in its power to bring people together, breaking down boundaries with a shared experience that energizes the room with joy and love. In the Hora, the stranger becomes family, creating an open circle and inviting all to join. When guests grab hands and engage in a physical expression of happiness and faith, the whole room is filled with the enchantment that comes from entering a new stage in the journey of life.

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