You Are SO Going To Like This

You Are SO Going To Like This

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

At the end of a long day, I watched “You Are SO Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah,” the new movie starring Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, among other greats. I settled into my chair with skepticism. Would this be another movie to lay on the pile of caricatures in Jewish life and holidays we can’t live down or easily ghost? I watched with an open mind and without judgment as a Jewish parent and rabbi.

It turned out that the story was not unrelatable. Pre-adolescent angst we’ve all felt and witnessed was reformulated accurately. Cell phones and texts, Tik-Tok and videos became characters in the show with important roles to play. Instead of notes passed between pre-teens, their phones and texts created the natural gap between an up-and-coming generation and their lame parents. But in this story, the lame parents weren’t as lame or as stereotypically Jewish; meaning detached from the contemporary world or indifferent to their commitment to Jewish life. As the kids gathered at Hebrew school and looked forward to their bar/bat mitzvah celebrations — with a big highlight on the party — they dealt with all the issues that were ever faced by pre-teens. They worked through fears about how they looked, how to identify their real friends, and if they would ever be loved by their crushes. As it turned out, young love is still short-lived and, in this movie, lessons about friendships sorted out so-so soccer players and wannabees from real friends who knew how to forgive and move on.

The adult roles were cast in a refreshing new light. The parents, played by Adam Sandler and Idina Menzel, were typical but not without being effective role models. When their daughter, played by Sunny Sandler, refused to go to synagogue on her own bat mitzvah day, her father physically put her in the car, gently. Their rebellious daughter’s refusal wasn’t going to end the family’s duty to Torah.

Good thing there was a hip rabbi. Played by Sarah Sherman, a new cast member on SNL, she was not just a silly or overly exuberant rabbi. To reach pre-teens and give them some Torah, she was fairly spot-on as young rabbis go. She played a rabbi who was really hip, spontaneous, and accessible, but also compassionate without being permissive. It’s been a long time since a rabbi said, “Or you won’t have your bat mitzvah,” without losing the child and the family. On the bimah, she read the situation right, except for the part where the bat mitzvah girl ran from the Temple. Only in the movies, right?

In the end, as most Hollywood stories go, there was a happy resolution. But more than a walk into the sunset, it was a walk into a bat mitzvah party that, while over the top, was also a demonstration of some Jewish values for pre-teens that shouldn’t be understated or overlooked. The truth is that Jewish parents and rabbis make a BIG deal about the b/mitzvah, as they should. If our children are going to consider it a BIG deal, too, then we need committed Jewish parents who aren’t lame, and rabbis, cantors, and educators who know how to reach kids where they are.

I’m glad I watched the movie. I’m also glad not to be of bar mitzvah age; but I’ll admit that I was eager to be a bar mitzvah. Now what should we do with this movie? Where we can, rabbis, cantors, and educators might show it to b/mitzvah cohorts to stimulate conversation about this time of life, what’s more important now, and what should always be important in the future. If they’re successful, they’ll sneak in some fun Jewish lessons at Hebrew school, too.


You Are SO Going To Like This 3