B’nei mitzvot on the BBC ‘showed the positive side of being a Jewish teen’

‘It puts a shining light on Judaism’, says Dylan, 13


One of the girls featured in the BBC’s documentary about bar and bat mitzvahs that screened last week is donating her long hair to charity, inspired by her cousin who has recovered from leukaemia.
Talia Niman, who is from a Modern Orthodox family in Borehamwood, is giving her hair to Zichron Menachem. Her mother said, “There’s been so much antisemitism and hate in the world, so to be focusing on the giving is really important.”

All the families involved in Growing Up Jewish, which aired last Wednesday, felt it was important to focus on Judaism in a positive way, especially at a time of rising antisemitism when the BBC’s coverage of the Gaza war has come under the spotlight.

“We’re able to show what it’s like to be a Jewish teenager, and although there’s conflict in Israel, it puts a shining light on Judaism, for people to understand,” said Dylan, 13, who celebrated his simchah at Finchley Reform synagogue.

His father agreed. He said: “It’s nice with everything going on right now that people can see Judaism in a more joyous light, and to show a celebratory side to it. Because obviously most of the news for the last few months has been about the conflict in Israel.”

Dylan, who goes to a non-Jewish school, does not feel directly affected by the more than 500 per cent increase in antisemitism that he has heard about on the news. “But I understand it’s quite hard to be growing up as a Jewish person, especially now after the conflict,” he said.

Talia’s parents also concurred. Her mother, Gabby, said that with antisemitism at its current level, it’s “more important than ever” to make such a programme. “Talia was saying how she feels to be Jewish,” she said. “If anything, it makes the faith even stronger.”

Talia’s father, Martyn, hopes the programme will help break down divisions. “It’s just nice to focus on the beauty of the religion in the midst of so much confusion. People watching will probably see commonalities with their faiths, in terms of coming of age, and it’s just nice to have something positive about the faith.”

For dyslexic Eve, whose mother is Jewish and father is not, her bat mitzvah at Finchley Reform Synagogue was a way of connecting to her heritage but also appealed as a “fun” opportunity for family and friends to meet up and celebrate. In seven months she learned Hebrew from scratch.

The eldest daughter of a Orthodox rabbi from London, Ayala wanted to show people that a bat mitzvah means more than throwing a big party.

“There’s so much more meaning behind it, especially for Ayala,” said her mother Tamar. “People have different conceptions of Jewish people and the values that we hold and what is meaningful. This is all portrayed through a bat mitzvah.”

Dylan’s father Paul said, “When I first started work, and I met people who had never met a Jewish person, they assumed everyone wore a kippah.  A lot of Jews won’t have the best views on the BBC, so it’s good that they are showing us in a positive way.”

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