The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page -

DAN PAT­TER­SON, TV com­edy pro­ducer, was barmitzvah in 1973 in Ox­ford: “Be­cause Ox­ford Syn­a­gogue was be­ing re­built I had the cer­e­mony in St Aloy­sius Church. The lunch was at St Cross Col­lege and the din­ner was at St Giles House, so it was prob­a­bly the most saint-in­voked barmitzvah of all time.

“I have happy mem­o­ries. I was al­ready be­ing swayed to­wards Habonim and the Jewish joy­ous­ness was through that re­ally, but it felt like an im­por­tant rite of pas­sage. The presents were un­be­liev­able. It was like get­ting the best thing you got at your birth­day over and over again. So when I say to my kids: ‘It’s not all about the presents,’ it’s a bit un­fair. ” Co­me­dian Mark Maier was barmitzvah in June 1976 at Jes­mond Syn­a­gogue: “My over­rid­ing mem­ory was the pit-of-the-stom­ach churn­ing sen­sa­tion that em­bed­ded it­self deep within my belly six months be­fore the big day. Coined by my fa­ther as ‘The Bar­mit­vah Feel­ing’, it was the ab­ject fear that I would get my Haftorah wrong and be marched out of shul, shunned by my fam­ily and the New cas­tle Jewish com­mu­nity and be forced to live in Sun­der­land. Suf­fice to say, all went well and I now look for­ward to my son Jake’s big day. We’ve got nine years to pre­pare but it’s start­ing. That pit-of-the-stom­ach churn­ing sen­sa­tion.” Hadley Free­man, writer, was bat­mitz­vah in 1991 at West Lon­don Syn­a­gogue: “Looking back at the pho­tos from the whole day, I seemed to have been go­ing through a skirt-and-match­ing-jacket phase, work­ing a white and black look for the syn­a­gogue and then break­ing out a match­ing flo­ral twin set for the party. I looked like a 13-year-old Ivana Trump, with brown hair. The party was at the Man­darin Ori­en­tal Ho­tel on Hyde Park — or, as I now re­fer to it, the ho­tel where Sa­man­tha Ron­son’s cousin also had her bat­mitz­vah party and took Lind­say Lo­han this year. So Lind­say Lo­han came to my bat­mitz­vah (18 years later).

“Ba­si­cally, the whole point of the party was for me to try to en­trance some French boy, David, who was the son of my par­ents’ friends. He, of course, was sat next to me for the din­ner. He spoke not a word of English and I spoke not a word of French. It was not a suc­cess.” DJ Yoda was barmitzvah in 1990 at North West­ern Re­form Syn­a­gogue: “The party was at a restau­rant in Is­ling­ton where there was a DJ but no band. I per­formed my speech at the party as a rap, with my dad on hu­man beat­box du­ties! Other than that, my mem­ory is (thank­fully) su­per-hazy.” Doc­u­men­tary-maker Tim Sa­muels was barmitzvah on Oc­to­ber 3, 1989 at South Manch­ester Syn­a­gogue: “The com­ing-of-age got off to a good start: the Mor­ris­sey quiff was per­fectly groomed, the but­tons on my first blazer twin­kled, the To­rah por­tion went down a treat, and I only got three Parker foun­tain pens (well be­low the late ’80s av­er­age). What hadn’t been fac­tored, though, was the prove­nance of the egg may­on­naise at my kid­dush in the shul hall. That be­came some­what clearer in the car park of the Safe­ways in Hale on the way home — with the sight of freshly bar­mitz­va­hed boy pro­jec­tile vom­it­ing. The rest of the day was spent in bed, lis­ten­ing to the sounds of the party go­ing ahead in the lounge without me. And I got three more Park­ers later that week.” Co­me­dian Olivia Lee did not have a bat­mitz­vah but she re­mem­bers her brother’s: “I made a speech and my par­ents thought it would be funny to play a trick on me. While I was about half-way through, there was the sound of a phone ring­ing and the MC in­ter­rupted me to say there was a phone call for me. The gag was meant to be on me, be­cause as a teenager I was al­ways chat­ting on the phone. But I was de­ter­mined not to look the fool. In an at­tempt to turn the joke back on my par­ents I reached for the tele­phone cord, held it up and said: ‘Great gag, the phone isn’t even plugged in.’ The room went dead. It was my first ex­pe­ri­ence of dy­ing on stage, you could say.” His­to­rian Sir Martin Gil­bert was barmitzvah in Novem­ber 1949 at Bron­des­bury Syn­a­gogue: “I re­mem­ber vividly singing my por­tion — Parachat Chaya Sarah — at my grand­mother’s bed­side as she was not well enough to come to syn­a­gogue.

“Just be­fore the kid­dush, my fa­ther went into the syn­a­gogue hall and saw a man knock­ing back sev­eral glasses of whisky. He had never seen the man be­fore. ‘Who are you?’ fa­ther asked. The man replied: ‘I am a close friend of the barmitzvah boy’s fa­ther’.” Ac­tress Tracy-Ann Ober­man was bat chayil in 1980 at Stan­more United Syn­a­gogue: “I was chan­nelling a Lady Diana look in a white skirt and lemon cardi­gan. I had my hair cut to match hers and looked de­murely out from un­der my fringe. I was go­ing to the Dorch­ester ev­ery week for the boys’ bar­mitz­vahs, but we had a tea at home. It was bet­ter than any posh do, though. My par­ents were very proud of me.” Co­me­dian Ivor Dem­bina was barmitzvah in 1964 at Har­row Syn­a­gogue: “I was in­sanely jeal­ous of those boys from more af­flu­ent fam­i­lies who could ex­pect a lav­ish party. To my shame I con­ducted a bul­ly­ing cam­paign against my fa­ther to force him to pro­vide a cel­e­bra­tion that would meet the de­mands of my pubescent ego. So he cut a deal with me: I could have an ex­pen­sive party if any cash gifts I re­ceived were used to fund it. When at the party one of the guests com­plained about the food, my fa­ther sim­ply pointed in my di­rec­tion and said: ‘Speak to him, he paid for it.’”


Re­mem­ber­ing the fear: ( clock­wise from top) Dan Pat­ter­son, Olivia Lee, Hadley Free­man, Ivor Dem­bina, Sir Martin Gil­bert, Mark Maier, Tim Sa­muels, Tra­cyAnn Ober­man and DJ Yoda ( cen­tre)

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