About Bark Mitzvahs for Dogs

Bark Mitzvah
http://www.whenpoochcomestoshove.com/

I almost fell off my chair when I first heard the latest craze among American Jews — Bark Mitzvahs for dogs (and Meow Mitzvahs are on the rise).

A search on the Internet turned up photos of Bark Mitzvah (a play on the bar mitzvah) parties in homes, gift packages for Bark Mitzvah dogs from pet stores, and invitations to Bark Mitzvah ceremonies from synagogues. Are Bark Mitzvahs actually a spiritual event in the lives of American Jews today or simply an excuse for a party?

The Celebration

Some people do Bark Mitzvahs for Purim entertainment, some do it to raise money, and others do it simply for the fun of it. Those celebrating Bark Mitzvahs today are mostly Reform and Conservative Jews.

At Home

Bark Mitzvahs celebrated in private homes tend to be personal and fun. Guests, who sometimes bring their own dogs along, greet the hosts with mazal tov and bring doggies presents for the Bark Mitzvah dog. The dog of honor generally feasts on bone-shaped doggy cake, while the human guests feast on gourmet food.

The Bark Mitzvah party of Kasha can be viewed online.

Alfie's Bark Mitzvah is the focus of Shari Cohen's children's book Alfie's Bark Mitzvah. The CD of children's songs that comes with the book, created by the internationally acclaimed Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, includes a song describing Alfie's Bark Mitzvah.

At the Doggie Salon

Some people have more formal affairs, and new businesses have cropped up to support them.

For $50, Places Everyone offers a seating kit for your Bark Mitzvah celebration, as well as a free Bark Mitzvah certificate for your dog. If you really want to go all out, then you can get the $95 Bark Mitzvah package from CleosBarkery. It includes: all-meat canine Bark Mitzvah cake, happy Bark Mitzvah hat, Doggie Treat Bag filled with dreidel and menorah biscuits, Star Bark Mitzvah collar, and a ribbon balloon cake topper.

You can make sure your guests will remember the event by sending them home with a pet candy bar wrapped by wrapsodydesigns.com. The wrapper commemorates the Bark Mitzvah celebration and even provides personal information about the Bark Mitzvah dog.

Some people send their guests home with satin kippot (also called a yarmulke) with the dog’s name and Bark Mitzvah date printed inside.

Yarmulkes just for the guests? Some Bark Mitzvah dogs get all dressed up for the special occasion. There’s been unprecedented demand for doggie-sized tallit and kippot tailored to fit over dog ears.

At Synagogue

Bark Mitzvahs celebrated at synagogues have a bit more of an “official” flavor to them.

Often Bark Mitzvahs performed by rabbis begin with the rabbi reciting a prayer or blessing the dogs. The prayer said when seeing beautiful animals is an ideal opener. The rabbi generally ends the ceremony by awarding a Bark Mitzvah certificate to the dog's owner.

One Reform synagogue, Beth Shir Shalom in Miami, holds Bark Mitzvah celebrations for the congregation members' dogs on Purim. The ceremony takes place in the synagogue parking lot and not in the sanctuary; thus, there is no chance of a dog having an accident in synagogue.

Bark Mitzvah dogs are given certificates, and the dogs’ family members bark and say a prayer.

Temple Kehillat Chaim, a Reform temple in Atlanta, uses the Bark Mitzvah celebration as a way to raise money. The synagogue sponsored a "Bark Mitzvah Day" fundraiser in 2003, in which about 60 dogs competed in a dog-show spin-off, with "Most Jewish" as one of the competition's categories. 

Behind the Celebration

Most Bark Mitzvahs are simply a fun reason for a party. However, there are those who recognize a spiritual component to them. And, on the other side, there are those who find them offensive.

A Spiritual Component

Some people do see a spiritual component to the Bark Mitzvah ceremony.

They claim that the Bark Mitzvah is a celebration of the spiritual connection they feel for their dogs. And they want to express this spiritual connection in a Jewish, communal way.

Others claim the ceremonies express the divine spark in animals. What is dog spelled backward? In this way, the Bark Mitzvah can be seen as the Jewish equivalent to the Catholic ritual of blessing animals in the church.

Still others simply want to celebrate a rite of passage for their dog. Some celebrate it after the dog has lived 13 human years, while others wait for 13 dog years.

An Offensive Component

Some people find Bark Mitzvah celebrations as offensive. They feel that dressing a dog in a yarmulke and tallit dishonors Judaism. Others say that Bark Mitzvahs marginalize Jewish identification to the point where stereotypes are perpetuated.

A Humorous Component

The great majority of those celebrating Bark Mitzvahs today simply do it for fun.

And the jokes abound: Feeding the dog biscuits shaped as Stars of David. Reading Arf-Tara instead of Haftara. Barking in honor of the dog.

They say that so many of the bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies of humans these days have lost the religious coming-of-age meaning and have turned into showy social affairs, so why not a Bark Mitzvah?

What’s Next?

Meow Mitzvahs? Ruf-Ruf Rabbis? Or even worse, Ruf-Ruf Rabbis performing Meow Mitzvahs?!

One dog-less couple supposedly held a Car Mitzvah to honor their Rolls Royce for giving them 13 years of high quality service.

I wonder whether we should be laughing or crying. Who can help but laugh at the creativity and absurdity of giving a dog a Bark Mitzvah? On the hand, if you think about how Jews throughout history experienced persecutation, exile, torture and death just for the right to wear a tallit, isn't putting a tallit on a dog an act of abasement? Should we just lighten up, have a little fun and laugh, or do we need to be more protective and honorable of our traditions? Behind the Celebration

Most Bark Mitzvahs are simply a fun reason for a party. However, there are those who recognize a spiritual component to them. And, on the other side, there are those who find them offensive.

A Spiritual Component

Some people do see a spiritual component to the Bark Mitzvah ceremony.

They claim that the Bark Mitzvah is a celebration of the spiritual connection they feel for their dogs. And they want to express this spiritual connection in a Jewish, communal way.

Others claim the ceremonies express the divine spark in animals. What is dog spelled backward? In this way, the Bark Mitzvah can be seen as the Jewish equivalent to the Catholic ritual of blessing animals in the church.

Still others simply want to celebrate a rite of passage for their dog. Some celebrate it after the dog has lived 13 human years, while others wait for 13 dog years.

An Offensive Component

Some people find Bark Mitzvah celebrations as offensive. They feel that dressing a dog in a yarmulke and tallit dishonors Judaism. Others say that Bark Mitzvahs marginalize Jewish identification to the point where stereotypes are perpetuated.

A Humorous Component

The great majority of those celebrating Bark Mitzvahs today simply do it for fun.

And the jokes abound: Feeding the dog biscuits shaped as Stars of David. Reading Arf-Tara instead of Haftara. Barking in honor of the dog.

They say that so many of the bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies of humans these days have lost the religious coming-of-age meaning and have turned into showy social affairs, so why not a Bark Mitzvah?

What’s Next?

Meow Mitzvahs? Ruf-Ruf Rabbis? Or even worse, Ruf-Ruf Rabbis performing Meow Mitzvahs?!

One dog-less couple supposedly held a Car Mitzvah to honor their Rolls Royce for giving them 13 years of high quality service.

I wonder whether we should be laughing or crying. Who can help but laugh at the creativity and absurdity of giving a dog a Bark Mitzvah? On the hand, if you think about how Jews throughout history experienced persecutation, exile, torture and death just for the right to wear a tallit, isn't putting a tallit on a dog an act of abasement? Should we just lighten up, have a little fun and laugh, or do we need to be more protective and honorable of our traditions?