A birthday party, only a little bigger: A historical anthropology of the Israeli bat mitzvah

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Abstract

The article looks at the evolution of the bat mitzvah in the Yishuv (the pre-state Jewish community in Palestine) and Israel during the 1940s and after. It traces the event’s grassroots development as an expanded birthday party to mark a girl’s 12th birthday, copied from the bar mitzvah festivities for a boy of 13, but without the religious ritual. My argument is that the bat mitzvah is a classic product of the festive culture of the Industrial Age - a birthday party that combines the family rituals of the bourgeoisie with the cult of childhood. As such it developed independently of the world of the synagogue or Zionist ideology. Thus the story of the creation of the bat mitzvah and its naturalization by the festive culture of the Yishuv highlights the middle-class nature of the consumer society in Palestine in the mid-twentieth century and illuminates the influence of modern consumer culture on Jewish culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-292
Number of pages18
JournalJewish Culture and History
Volume16
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2 Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Taylor & Francis.

Keywords

  • Birthdays
  • Consumer culture
  • Historical anthropology
  • Israeli culture
  • Mandatory palestine
  • Rites of passage

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