Getting it right – the bar/bat mitzvah party


you never see these

you never see these

I tutor seven or eight kids a year for their bar mitzvah ceremonies, and consequently I attend a lot of parties. In fact, it’s become my husband’s and my main source of dates, since both hiring a sitter and paying to go out is rare splurge for us. Attending these events, I’m often reminded of how grateful I am to be raising my daughters in a small, haimish, community. There are almost never themes or t-shirts (do they still do these in other cities, or am I showing signs of age?) and never, ever, the “sexy bar-mitzvah dancers” I’ve heard about from my friends in the city. The most popular venue in our town for the parties is the Elks club, the typical entertainment is our local klezmer band, and nothing about the food and drink is opulent. (Sometimes I wish it were a little more kosher, but that’s another post….) Last night we attended a celebration in the bat-mitzvah’s back yard under a tent. In the middle of havdalah the sky opened up and starting pouring rain in biblical proportions. The guests, young and old, shot into gear, moving tables, running food into the house, helping musicians shlep their gear, and generally laughing about our muddy feet and soggy hair, while we sang and danced into the night.
It’s quite a contrast to this piece, which I read last week on Facebook, courtesy of my friend Jess. Seriously, how has it come to this?

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Sarah Buttenwieser

posted June 28, 2009 at 8:45 am

Ezekiel had a grand time; we were sorry to miss the celebration (surprise party for a grown up friend…).
And I loved Ezekiel’s admiration for his formerly shy friend just shining on her day.

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posted June 28, 2009 at 9:23 am

Ezekiel also had his share of shining last night, sweeping several older women off their feet on the dance floor.

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Adrian Durlester

posted July 5, 2009 at 10:15 pm

The Conn Post article has expired. Can you post the article name and date so one can do an archive search for it? Thanks.

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posted July 5, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Adrian, I’ve updated the link and also cut and pasted the article below:
Norwalk police clear bat mitzvah gone awry
Witness reports sexual activity, broken fixtures at mansion
By John Nickerson, Staff Writer | Posted: 06/15/2009
NORWALK — Police had to clear an “out of control” bat mitzvah party Saturday night at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum.
Brian Fischer, rental coordinator for the museum, told police the younger guests at the Jewish ceremony, which celebrates a girl’s coming of age, tore out ceiling tiles and a light fixture in the 141-year-old, 62-room mansion. Fischer said he saw several boys and girls engaging in oral sex in the bathrooms, Officer Carleton Giles said.
A Wilton man, reportedly intoxicated, was charged with resisting arrest.
After Fischer could not bring the party to order, he called police shortly after 11 p.m., Giles said.
The first officer said he walked into the main room of the mansion, bought by the city of Norwalk in 1941 and saw about 150 guests.
“The party appeared to be out of control, with kids running up and down the stairs and through the rooms,” the report said.
Several barricades that prohibit entrance to some of the rooms were knocked down, Giles said.
Sheldon Gerarden, executive director of the mansion, built by banker and railroad tycoon LeGrand Lockwood in 1868, confirmed Monday that there was minor damage.
“It is a shame because we have worked so hard through the years to provide this facility to the public for different events, and it may mean that we have to review our policies,” Gerarden said.
Sheryl Finnie Baker, who rented the mansion for her daughter’s bat mitzvah, said the reports are “blown way out of proportion.” Fischer overreacted, she said, and to say the party was out of control is ridiculous.
“All I knew was that I was dancing, and then there were five police cars outside,” Baker said.
No one told her the kids were upstairs or that there were allegations involving oral sex, she said. She saw no inappropriate behavior in the bathrooms, she said.
“These kids are not the type to do oral sex,” Baker said.
Gerarden said the carpet was stained, but he declined to provide a damage estimate. He said he is confident that those responsible will pay for repairs.
Baker’s brother, Peter Finnie, 52, of 24 Duck Pond Road, Wilton, was charged with first-degree criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer, Giles said. No juveniles were arrested, Giles said.
According to Giles, Finnie was “terribly belligerent” to the officers, and challenged their authority to disperse the party. Officers detected alcohol on his breath, Giles said.
According to a police report, Finnie’s wife shook her head in disgust and told police, “My husband is an ass when he is drunk.” Finnie was released after his wife, Leslie Ann Finnie, posted $475 bond, his court file shows.
Finnie did not return a call to his home for comment. Baker said her brother was defending his son from an officer just before his arrest, and he may file a complaint.
The mansion has been available for parties for decades. In the past, the mansion has collected more than $100,000 per year in rental fees, said Christopher Cooke, museum board of trustees chairman.
Cooke said he did not talk to the museum employees who worked Saturday night and did not want to comment.
“We are trying to be fairly circumspect about this thing,” he said.
In the recession, the museum’s rental receipts are a third of what they were six years ago, he said.
Gerarden said that in 2 1/2 years working at the mansion, he has not seen a party get out of control as the one did Saturday night.
“Everyone has respected the mansion, and it is that kind of respect that allows us to do this,” he said. “I’m sorry the police had to be called.”
Staff Writer John Nickerson can be reached at or (203) 964-2320.

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Frume Sarah

posted August 20, 2009 at 1:06 am

I am seriously considering doing something really different for our son’s Bar Mitzvah. In FOUR years!!! I would really like to take the emphasis off of the kid/family and create more of a initiation ceremony. One that involves the community welcoming him as a ritually-responsible Jew. I hesitate because I don’t want him to feel different just because his meshugenah mom wants to shift the focus.
I love the vision of a big tented party in the backyard. Wonder how I can get my entire shul into our garden…

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