Planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah When the Parents Are Divorced

Divorced parents must rise above their own differences and make the day special for the child.

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"If we're not in wholehearted agreement," says Tom, "then we at least have an understanding of what's going on and just what this occasion means for our child."

That's the kind of attitude that would gladden the heart of Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. "The overriding point I try to get across to divorced parents who are acting in less than mature ways is, 'This is the child's day.'"

"Sometimes I have to be very blunt about it," continues Weiner, "but there are times when parents really need to be straightened out."

Weiner reminds parents that their child has ties to each of them and needs to feel that both parents are invested in this occasion, which has both symbolic and public meaning.

"It's important in this situation," says Weiner, "for both parents to have the proper perspective. The essence of a bar or bat mitzvah is the coming of age of the child, his or her debut as a Jewish adult, and the parents play an integral role in that debut...they are indispensable."

Susan (not her real name) is hoping that she can make that point to her ex-husband; if she can't do it by herself, she's prepared to enlist the aid of a counselor or her rabbi. Though she realizes she may have to pay for the event herself, she hopes that she and her ex-husband will be able to communicate so that they can have a smooth-running celebration. But she's already considering the alternative, "If he doesn't want to be involved, I'll do it on my own."

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Carol Sorgen

Carol Sorgen is a freelance writer in Baltimore, Maryland. Her articles appear in newspapers and magazines across the country, as well as on numerous websites.