Moves That Matter

Last year, a video of a Dallas boy’s Bar Mitzvah reception went viral, earning sharp criticism from some in the Jewish community.
Described as “The Most Blogged About Bar Mitzvah Video Ever,” the clip featured 13-year-old Sam Horowitz shimmying with showgirls to the J-Lo song, “Dance Again.”
Instantly Sam’s Vegas-style performance was denounced as ostentatious and an affront to everything beautiful about the act of committing oneself to the covenant with G-d.
Maybe it was.  But it was also totally awesome.
Bright lights.  Sharp choreography.  If Sammy’s name ended in “Davis Jr.” instead of “Horowitz,” this Bar Mitzvah video would have fetched millions at auction.
Sam’s got the moves like Jagger.  He’s got a megawatt smile, and he’s got an amazing amount of stage presence for a boy who seems to be under 5 feet.  So I trust that he’ll weather the vitriol his video roused just fine.
But still, I felt for him – particularly because the outrage his video sparked reminded me of some nasty words inspired by my sister’s Bat Mitzvah dance performance.
Sis’s Bat Mitzvah was scheduled for December 1995.  My father died in October that same year – 18 years ago this month.  Told that Jews “never cancel a simcha,” Sis plowed ahead with her Torah practice and made it to the bimah like a champ.
It was important to Mom that Sis’s party not be “The Bat Mitzvah of That Girl Whose Dad Just Died.”  Instead, Sis’s Bat Mitzvah would look and feel exactly like everyone else’s.
If other people’s parties were emceed by DJs, Sis’s party would be emceed by a DJ.  If other people’s parties featured a video montage, Sis’s party would feature a video montage.
And if other Bat Mitzvah girls performed choreographed dance numbers with hired professionals, so would she.
For reasons I can no longer remember, I was asked/forced to perform in the dance routine with Sis.  I was 22, working as a professional journalist and in mourning.  But for Sis’s sake, I made it to rehearsals and learned my part for a performance to Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It,” because as Montell wisely put it, this is, indeed, how it is done.
So we danced.  We danced, and it was ridiculous.  And since it was ridiculous we laughed.
So we danced and laughed.
The sight of two young women whose father recently died laughing and dancing was too much for some of the guests, and tongues wagged.  I heard one middle-aged guest stage-whisper in Hebrew to her table mates that Sis and I were either disrespectful or in denial.  Either way, to some, our performance was inappropriate and wrong.
I never shared this with my sister.  And since the Internet had barely been invented at the time, she was saved from the same avalanche of invectives Sam received.  I don’t know what Sam answered to his detractors (if he answered at all), but I know what I wish I had said to that woman:  You’re wrong.
I definitely agree that too much money and not enough ruach go into the planning of B’nai Mitzvah receptions, but sometimes – sometimes, mind you – spectacle can be part of the rite of passage.  Sometimes it’s important to give a young girl the feeling, if even for a moment, that hers is a normal life.
Sometimes the best way two daughters can honor their dead father is to command the attention of an audience – particularly if that father happened to have been an actor and singer himself.
And sometimes, when you’re surrounded by friends and family who love you, who are proud of you for learning Torah and for making it to the bimah – no matter what other older, wiser people might say – sometimes, it’s OK to “Dance Again.”

One comment

  1. Attn Mody

    I just spoke to you about sending 5 copies of OCJewish Life to my son in Dallas. His address is
    Gary Horowitz
    6402 Mimosa Lane
    Dallas, Texas 75230

    I really appreciate your doing this as the article “Moves that Matter” referenced my Grandson Sam and it was such a beautiful and positive article. Thank you in advance for mailing the 5 magazines to him.. October edition

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Scroll To Top