Mazel Tov: Celebrities' Bar and Bat Mitzvah Memories

Jill Rappaport, Author, Linda Solomon, Photographer
Jill Rappaport, Author, Linda Solomon, Photographer . Simon & Schuster $25 (157p) ISBN 978-0-7432-8787-6
Reviewed on: 08/20/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-4165-5427-1
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What do Larry King, Ed Koch and Richard Dreyfuss have in common? All three, we learn in this light book of profiles, had a bar mitzvah at age 13. On the one hand, this is a fairly superficial celebrity multi-biography that almost cynically panders to celebrities, with a couple of politicians thrown in. There are very few women represented, and almost no reflection on the spiritual commitments made in the bar mitzvah. But on the other hand, there's something to be said for the specific and focused nature of this book, with all these people chronicling a single rite of passage that has remained steadfast through centuries of change. (And of course, who can resist then-and-now celebrity photographs?) Two of the most touching stories are of deaf actress Marlee Matlin's bat mitzvah, since she had to learn Hebrew phonetically, and of her friend and mentor Henry Winkler, who struggled through his bar mitzvah because of dyslexia. Actor Kirk Douglas had two bar mitzvahs—one at the traditional age, and the other at 83, to honor his mother. Though frivolous—the chapter on the woman who bar mitzvahed her dogs and had them read the “woof-Torah” adds nothing helpful—some profiles are intriguing. (Nov. 6)

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