With the Summer Olympics beginning on 8-8-08, it should come as no surprise that China is in the news quite a bit lately. I came across an article today, however, that I don't think one would expect. The piece tells the story of Isaac Shapiro, who will be celebrating his bar mitzvah in Beijing on August 16. (Perhaps you're thinking "Is there even a Jewish community in Beijing?" and the answer is "Yes. There have been Jews in China at least since 1841 though many historians will argue a Jewish presence was established in China since as early as the 7th century, CE.") In the article, Isaac's father Sam discusses some of the reasons they chose such an unusual locale for such a momentous occasion:
It will give Isaac a wonderful sense for the Jewish Diaspora... We also wanted to give our kids a better understanding of China since it is rapidly becoming one of the most important countries in the world.
I thought that sentiment was truly beautiful: examining one's own cultural identity by turning to the past, looking to the future, and seeing oneself as an active global citizen. The really fun part about being 13 (goodness knows there are about a million not so fun things) is that you are beginning to gain awareness of the world around you; a deeper understanding of history; and your place in both. This spirit of discovery and reflection are at the heart of a new curriculum of the Museum's called Coming of Age During the Holocaust, Coming of Age Now. COA provides the resources for in-depth Holocaust study in the classroom with bar and bat mitzvah students by presenting the touching, heartbreaking, and inspirational stories of 13 young people who came of age during the Holocaust. Click on the link above for more information on this program and materials.
So now I turn this post to you, readers: where was your bar/bat mitzvah? Was there an element of the unusual involved?