10 things I love about Boston
By Robin Abrahams
You thought I'd forgotten about that, hadn't you? Of course I didn't. Number 7 on the list--
7. The O'Donnell bar mitzvah
I don't remember when or where I saw this, and sadly I don't have a picture. I only have the vivid memory of taking some little daytrip with Mr. Improbable, and driving past a synagogue which sported a sign outside listing the service times, and noting that this Saturday was the O'Donnell bar mitzvah.
The O'Donnell bar mitzvah! How I would have loved to have been invited. I'd have had to live on salad and lean meat for weeks afterward--I can't even compute how carbo-loaded a blend of Ashkenazi and Irish cuisine might be. I wonder how much of the ceremony was "O'Donnell" and how much "bar mitzvah"--was there Celtic as well as klezmer music? Did the bar mitzvah boy speak of his two cultures' history of oppression? Of their common love of language, wordplay, and argument?
I hope it was a good bar mitzvah. I'm sure it meant many things to the participants, and I hope part of what it meant to them is what it means to me. That diversity is more than cold-blooded "tolerance" or rote learning of this culture's customs, that culture's customs, in order not to give offense. That multiculturalism can be rooted in a deep engagement with our commonalities and differences. That we can maintain our integrity while still keeping ourselves open to growth and transformation. That O'Donnell can teach bar mitzvah something about what it means to be Jewish, and bar mitzvah can teach O'Donnell something about what it means to be Irish.
My Boston is not a melting pot in which differences fade away into a bland fondue (due respect to fondue). It is a salad in which the flavors and textures complement and comment on each other, each standing out, each part of the whole.