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Lifestyle Trends: Bark Mitzvahs!

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Have you heard about the latest craze among Jewish American dog owners? It’s a doggie coming-of-age ceremony – the Bark Mitzvah! Whether you view them as just a silly reason to party, a celebration of your dog’s transition from puppy to adult dog, or a traditional religious ceremony tailored for your beloved pet, Bark Mitzvahs are quickly growing in popularity.

Lisa Katz, of About.com, describes in this article, the latest trend in Jewish American dog owners.

Lifestyle Trends: Bark Mitzvahs!

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.

Some people send their guests home with satin yarmulkes 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 yarmulkes tailored to fit over dog ears.

At Shul
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 California Reform shul promotes it Bark Mitzvah ceremony with “All participating pets will receive blessings, treats and a special pet kippah/yarmulke.”

One Reform Shul, 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 shul. 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 which about 60 dogs competed in a dog-show spin-off. “Most Jewish” was 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?

Read the article in its entirety here. What do you think of this growing trend? Have you ever held a Bark Mitzvah for your dog? Tell us about it below!

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