Dixie Chicks and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs

Last Updated on Monday, 29 November 2010 07:56 Written by bryfy Monday, 29 November 2010 07:55

It’s been a while since I posted last so it must be something big that has brought me back into the blogosphere….

By now many of you may have already read the New York Times November 19, 2010, article: Bar Mitzvah Studies Take to the Web

You may in fact be one of the 61 people to have commented on that article. Or you may have already been drawn into another person’s blog on the topic including: The Fifth Child, Next Level Jewish Education, Cantor’s Canvas

It appears that this article has struck a nerve – people (that would be Jews, are really taking notice of this one)

Interesting given that in recent months similar themed articles have appeared in many Jewish Press Outlets and raised barely a tweet.

What is it about this New York Times article that appears to have raised such consternation?

I want to argue that this is what I refer to as the Dixie Chick syndrome. Without going into too much detail: In 2003, amidst the Iraq War,  the American country band got into a bit of trouble when singer Natalie Maines, a Texas native, declared during the introduction to their song “Travelin Soldier,”: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” What ensued was a brouhaha including boycotts, protests, fatwas etc etc.

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But I want to contend that the reason for such an outcry against the Dixie Chicks was as much about the location of where this concert too place – London – as it was about the actual content of her remarks. You see, it’s one thing to bitch, moan, decry, protest at home – but it’s another thing to do so in public. And now back to the New York Times…

The NY Times article, about an apparent phenomenon of young Jewish boys and girls preparing for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s on line raised such consternation because it was viewed by many as “airing our dirty laundry” in public.

It has been rumored that many rabbis are distressed. Not by the fact that people are choosing to learn their Torah portions online – but because there are rabbis out there who are actually providing the service.

This article definitely raises questions that we as a Jewish community, and especially those of us attached to Jewish communal institutions, including synagogues must confront – and do so immediately.

One question for now, to which I have been unable to get a direct answer from any of the core institutions training American rabbis today:  How are our rabbis being trained differently (if at all) given the role that technology is playing in the lives of Jews today?

But for now. Let us not fall into the trap of the Dixie Chicks controversy. This is not a case of our dirty laundry being aired in public. This is in fact something that we, as a Jewish community,  should be proud of. Not only has the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony made into the Fashion section of the New York Times – but here is a chance for the Jewish faith to be a real light unto the nations – and show others what enormous potential technology offers – not at the expense of Jewish community, but in order to enhance, develop and extend its boundaries, both inside and outside of our bricks and mortar.


  1. Ira Wise   |  Monday, 29 November 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Hey David!
    Thanks for the shout out.
    I am not sure I agree about the Dixie Chicks issue.
    I responded to the Times article because I saw it.

    And I am not concerned about dirty laundry. We wash it on the front lawn all the time. My issue is about letting technology substitute for community instead of augmenting and building it.

    I would hope that as time goes on, we will see more and more congregations using technology to enable members to connect in new and different ways. That will meet their needs and bring them in deeper relationship with our communities.

    My objection is when it is used as a tool for separating oneself from the community. Love the experiences Jamie Korngold offers. And I have been assured by friends that she helps her students stay connected to one another. That is good. I hope she and others are doing the work of helping those families they serve connect to ongoing communities.

    The problem is the “I only care for the party” crowd. And they were a problem before the technology got involved. My concern is the ability of the web to make that “value” go viral, rather than the value of coming together.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Tweets that mention Bryfy.net -- Topsy.com   |  Monday, 29 November 2010 at 11:23 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ira Wise, David Bryfman. David Bryfman said: Dixie Chicks and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs http://bit.ly/g8sgUz #jed21 #jewish […]

  3. Ami   |  Tuesday, 30 November 2010 at 12:08 am

    To answer your question, at least for one specific rabbinical training program, the sad answer is that we aren’t being trained for this changing technological word. Not a class, a lecture or even much discussion of the topic. Many of us are doing things on our own to make sure that we are prepared, but nothing coming from the school. Wish it wasn’t so and would be curious if any of the other schools are doing anything better.

  4. Larry Kaufman   |  Tuesday, 30 November 2010 at 10:59 am

    Ira said it all, which doesn’t mean I won’t say it again. The Times article got more attention because more people are exposed to the Times than to all the Jewblogs and Jewsites combined. And it had two threads, which aren’t really all that related:
    1. Technology is changing the way we learn — and teach. (Surprise!)
    2. Many Jews are more concerned with themselves and their own perceived needs than with supporting the community and its institutions. (Surprise!)

    This is not to say that the ensuing problems aren’t real — only that they are not new.

  5. Iris   |  Tuesday, 30 November 2010 at 10:10 pm


    The concern that the article created for me was not about how our pre-teens are preparing to lead a worship service as they become a bar/bat mitzvah but rather that they are not becoming one within a community.

    I think we need to embrace every technology available to us and explore its use as a tool for engagement and learning to help the user reach a defined goal. If the goal is to stand at the Torah one time, to have a party to celebrate that event and then cross “doing Jewish” off your list, then, according to the NY Times article, the tools are being used in ways that help reach the goal.

    IF the goal is to BECOME an adult WITHIN the Jewish community with the perks and obligations of community then we need to continue to explore how the tools might be used in different ways to reach these goals – for the goal of ongoing community participation is just not the outcome described and that, my friend, concerns me greatly.


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