Artists’ Incubator Adult Coming of Age Bnai Mitzvah Ceremony Offers Pathos, Agony, Comedy, Choreography


Neve Schechter’s courtyard with a traditional bar mitzvah picture and invited guests

Community building is an art. Building a community of artists takes sweat, patience, study, cooperation, consensus, solidarity, trust, space and funding.

At Neve Schechter in Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek neighborhood, community creation is happening today and everyday.

Neve Schechter initiated a multi-year artist incubator program to craft a community supporting a variety of artists. Rather than each one thinking of herself or himself as a single entity, alone navigating the art world, the incubator’s Artistic Director Yael Biegon-Citron created a framework enabling the artists to interact. The focus is to create a common group bond surrounding the idea of Jewish identity.

Schechter’s partners in the process include the Sapir Center for Jewish Education and Culture and the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs.

The incubator is not hoisting a certain or specific Jewish identity upon the artist. Instead, the idea is to construct a space and time for each artist to find or develop her/his/their own Jewish identity.

“Our idea is to bring a plethora of ideas via textual study, conversations, watching and listening to the other so that the artist can find her, his, their place in Judaism,” says Biegon-Citron. “Together, we want to explore, experience and cultivate an identity incorporating an Israeli, Jewish element that can be portrayed in their art.”

Yael Biegon-Citron preparing audience for program (photo by Evgenii Petrushanskii)

Much of their time together focused on the uncovering the inherent meanings encapsulated within a coming of age ceremony, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Many of the artists grew up without ever experiencing a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. In the incubator, they participated in Jewish textual study with Rabbi Irina Gritsevskaya, Director of Midreshet Schechter and they learned the history of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony and customs with Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin, President of Schechter Institutes, Inc.


Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin teaching Bnai Mitzvah history and customs

Rabbi Irina worked one-on-one with each artist studying each one’s weekly Torah portion.

“We reviewed their parashah so that they could create their own idea, concept of how they would like to approach expression of their reading for the ceremony,” Rabbi Irina says.

The culmination of this process was the development of an artistic piece, a personal Jewish coming of age ceremony, akin to an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Each creator received nine minutes to present an artistic impression (dance, theater, song, etc.) of their journey. Here they asked and answered personalized questions about their Jewish identity and its relationship to the coming of age ceremony. In a certain sense, each artist created their own ‘Aliya to the Torah.’

Just prior to Shavuot (May 2023), they assembled in the courtyard of the Neve Schechter’s restored Templar building to experience each individual’s artistic interpretation of the process. There, the prologue started with Biegon-Citron rhythmically ringing cowbells, and the laying of two parallel lines of colored tape on the courtyard’s mosaic floor. All were asked to think of two meaningful maturing experiences as they walked over the tape – one in the past and one in the present or near-future, thereby drawing the audience into the evening’s ambience.

Tape being laid down in initial coming of age ceremony experience (photo by Evgenii Petrushanskii)

The first nine-minute ceremony found Ayelet Golan communicating with an interactive picture of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as she sought someone to advise her on finding her own path. Whereas her performance was comedic, others were much darker or filled with pathos.

Adva Weinstein overwhelmed the audience with pathos and agony in describing her son’s still birth only three weeks prior to the ceremony. Solemnly joined by the other eight artists, partners and even the young daughter of one, they stood behind her, and along with the audience answered “blessing of life” following each phrase she uttered in baring her heart and thoughts.

Adva Weinstein’s sorrow-filled ceremony before the Ark (photo by Evgenii Petrushanskii)

Kineret Haya Max dissected her relationships with her family and her surroundings using a golden colored curtain pole she twirled and turned around in her hands representing water flowing. Singing a popular Israeli song about Moses and water, she struck the floor to create a ringing sound – symbolizing Moses’ hitting the rock instead of asking it to provide water to the Children of Israel in the desert wandering.

The evening’s performances ended with Ofir Yudilevitch interspersing his monologue of his journey from being traumatized from his army service to the difficulties of finding a fulfilling life. He punctuated his ceremony with Brazilian capoeira and jumping and climbing throughout the synagogue space before ripping off his old self’s traditional bar mitzvah picture from its pedestal to reveal a picture with the new him alongside his smiling family.

Following this, everyone adjourned to the courtyard for group discussions, blessing the artists for their offerings and celebratory crying and hugging.

“These adult coming of age performances were artistic and personal catharses for the incubator’s participants,” says Biegon-Citron. “We experienced deeply personal choices through their own words and actions. Schechter’s incubator atmosphere was key in providing space and time to refine their messages and explore their identities.”

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