Great job, Jesse!

After 14 months of arduous preparation, the night of Jesse’s Bar Mitzvah finally arrived!  And, it was worth the wait!

I loved Jesse’s Bar Mitzvah, for many reasons.  First, and most importantly, when I first  met Jesse, over a year and a half ago, he knew he wanted a Bar Mitzvah, but, his parents and I were not really sure exactly what it was he wanted.  He said he wanted to do it, but, most kids don’t really grasp the amount of work, thought, and preparation that has to happen, among their school studies, extra-curricular activities, family obligations, keeping up socially, and well, just trying to be a kid.  It isn’t easy, but nobody ever said it would be.  And getting there, honestly, isn’t any fun, either.  But, I’d like to believe that my kids have more fun than most, because we make it real, and we find the humor, and we try – most of the time, to keep it light hearted.

Jesse didn’t realize what he had signed up for.  Some weeks he cruised right through, and blew me away.  Other weeks, he was like a defiant toddler.  He made sure I knew that he had no intention of working on anything that week, and that we could struggle – if I wanted – or I could just simply accept that fact.  Other times, he wanted to – he just didn’t have time, and once in a while, Ronni (his mom) and I would just chat, and I would agree to accept the facts of life, and pull back on making Hebrew a priority.

Other times, Jesse was an astute student.  He loved his writing assignments, and his written products were deep, meaningful, and profound.  Jesse is an amazing writer.  And, I realized last night, a pretty serious kid when it comes to delivering on a promise.  I think of all the lessons Jesse learned, stepping up and being accountable was one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in him, over 14 months, and I’m so proud – I just can’t put it into words.

The other reason I loved working with Jesse was his Mom, Ronni.  Ronni was always interested in my life as a person, and she made the most amazing cup of special coffee every time I walked in her door.  She is a devoted Mom and wife, and she runs a great household – but she balances that which is critical – and that which is not, with amazing finesse.  Most of all, Ronni (and the rest of her household members) are REAL.  Not trying to show off in a city of sometimes-show-offs, but she and Gary work hard, give their children what they need, and teach the values of lifes ups and downs.

The venue and party was so much fun, and it was also so REAL.  We departed on the Sun Dream, behind the  Doubletree hotel in Fort Lauderdale.  60 kids, and 7 adults, and we held the ceremony on the middle deck.  Quite close quarters, but, we did what was important.  Jesse chanted his Torah and Haftorah portions perfectly, and was a shining example to his friends.  I have to add, that among these 60 kids, there were quite a few kids that sounded like little Yeshiva-buchers!  Wow – they knew every single prayer, and I could actually hear half the room chanting the blessing before the Haftorah along with Jesse.  Now, that’s what I call friends!  🙂

Then, when I sang Jesse “Lechi Lach”, by Debbie Friedman, the kids were singing along, too, and it was a really moving moment.  What I loved the most about last night, was that – we didn’t need a big fancy hotel, we didn’t need a DJ that brought 19 of his favorite high energy dancers, and we didn’t need glitz and glamorous entries and departures, we just needed Jesse, his Mom and Dad, his friends – and well, me.  And you know, I had just as much fun at Jesse’s party as I’ve had anywhere else.  Jesse – you truly became a Bar Mitzvah last night.  You did your job.  You held up your end of the deal.  You shined.  And I am so proud.  Yasher Koach!!

..pictures to come, as soon as Ronni shares them with me!

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Debbi Ballard

Cantor Debbi brings warmth. passion, and an infectious smile to her ceremonies, serving Jewish-Interfaith couples and families for all of your Jewish lifecycle events in Florida, and around the world. For weddings, baby namings, Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs and spiritual worship needs, Cantor Debbi works personally with each family – no rules, just right!

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