Our Two Cents: Is bar mitzvah at 40 a cause for concern, or for celebration

Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to ourtwocents@jweekly.com.

My husband just turned 40 and now wants to have a bar mitzvah. When he first told me, I thought he was just making up an excuse to throw a party (he loves a good party), but he’s actually serious (and taking it seriously). I don’t know quite how to react. I’m worried about what people will think of us — an adult having a coming-of-age event. A.F., Burlingame

Saul: It sounds like your husband is trying to connect with his religious or cultural identity. I can totally understand your husband’s desire to create a special moment in his Jewish life, and share it with friends and family. I’d support him. I remember my bar mitzvah vividly — for one day I felt like I was the center of the universe. This is not a bad thing for your husband to experience, too. I imagine it’ll mean a lot to him if you’re invested in making this special.

Alexis: I’m concerned with your level of concern about what other people think. Your husband wants to create a meaningful, religious experience for himself — one that he missed as a young person — and this should be the focus of your attention. If you live your life based on what other people think about your actions and decisions, you’re probably going to miss the chance to enjoy the experiences, relationships, work and life that’s right for you. My advice is to throw out what you should do (have a bar mitzvah at 12 or 13 years old or none at all) and embrace your husband’s joyful interest in this rite of passage. You only live once — make it fun and meaningful.

Sharon: There isn’t any reason to worry about your husband not being taken seriously if you invite people with clear expectations. There are many adult b’nai mitzvah classes going on around the Bay Area, so most people will be familiar with an adult ceremony marking this special experience. I have been honored to witness many of these ceremonies, for both men and women, and they are always lovely and meaningful. It is great that your husband feels connected to his Jewish learning and wants to celebrate his knowledge with a traditional event to mark the time. Support and celebrate his passion for the ritual, and enjoy planning the party with him.

Jessica: It’s really awesome your husband wants to do this! Didn’t you love bar/bat mitzvah season when you were growing up? I would love it if friends of mine started having bar/bat mitzvahs again — just think of all those parties. I agree with my sister: What other people think really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. You have to do what makes you happy regardless of what other people think. Embrace this and be proud of your husband. He clearly wants to create a special event for himself, and you have the chance to make it great.


Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.

Ufberg/Sclamberg Family