Barb, a Wexner Graduate Fellowship alumna of Class IV, is the Director of Education at Temple Israel in Memphis, Tennessee.  She is the mother of three inspirational teenagers.  Barb can be reached at:

I had a personal milestone recently.  My youngest child became bar mitzvah.  People were congratulating me and joking that the next big thing I would have to do is a wedding.  It made me laugh, and then it made me think.    Although we understandably title the large ceremonies and celebrations as the “big things” we do in life, it is the everyday things that are really big.  It is the lessons we teach through our daily actions, the examples we set with our words, and the love and guidance we show when we impose expectations, offer hugs and listen, really listen, to our children’s fears and hopes.   

I work with many families as they go through the bnai mitzvah process, and having been through it myself three times, I think I finally understand that the moment on the bima represents the best of what we want to give our children, and if we can remember it daily, or at least most of the time, we will be the parents our children need. When we put as much thought into our children’s ethical and moral development as we put into their social lives or their academic careers, we will raise happy, kind and successful human beings.

My son told me that his bar mitzvah was the greatest day of his life.   I hope that the love and support of his friends and family and the inspirational teachings of Judaism that he absorbed on his “big day” will guide him through the next phase. My hope is that we will be brave enough to help our kids to become the best versions of themselves.