Today I attended my first ever Bar Mitzvah. Not only have I never attended a Bar Mitzvah — I’ve never been inside a synagogue before.
Thankfully my friend had sent a letter along with the invitation to her son’s Bar Mitzvah. The letter explained the ceremony, and also listed the things that were off-limits. No bare shoulders, no cell phones, no applause, no writing, and no monetary gifts.
When I arrived, a kind woman met me in the lobby and handed me two books — a copy of the Torah as well as a prayer book called Siddur Sim Shalom. Next to the books were extra yamakas (head coverings) and tallits (prayer shawls). The yamakas were manditory for all men and boys; the prayer shawl was only for Jewish adults. Since I was neither a man nor a Jew [...]