A Bark Mitzvah is an observance and celebration of a dog's coming of age, as in the Jewish traditional Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah. The term has been in use since at least as early as 1977, and Bark Mitzvahs are sometimes held as an adjunct to the festival of Purim.
The Bark Mitzvah is a celebration not necessarily held in conjunction with a specific age but can occur when the dog turns 13 months or 13 years of age. During some Bark Mitzvahs, dogs wear a tallit, a ritual prayer shawl worn during Jewish religious services and ceremonies. A male dog wears a specific yarmulke, a thin skullcap.
The first recorded Bark Mitzvah took place in Beverly Hills California in 1958. According to the Beverly Hills Courier, Max and Janet Salter celebrated the coming of age of their black cocker spaniel Duke of Windsor (Windy for short). Janet coined the term "Bark Mitzvah" on the invitations. Over the next 50 years, Max and Janet threw several more Bark Mitzvahs whenever one of their dogs turned 13.
On July 10th, 1977 a Bark Mitzvah took place in West Orange New Jersey. Marvin and Thebe Drazin held a Bark Mitzvah for their dog Schnoppsie-Lewis Drazin in their backyard. The pictures of the ceremony are posted online in a Google+ album.
In 1997, the first widely recorded Bark Mitzvah was celebrated, receiving scrutiny and disapproval from several rabbis. One rabbi expressed his distaste for Bark Mitzvahs in a letter to the editor of The New York Times, describing the celebration as "nothing less than a desecration of a cherished Jewish tradition" and claiming that Bark Mitzvahs "degrade some of the central principles of Jewish life".
Although the idea of the Bark Mitzvah is frowned upon by some, the idea spread throughout the United States, and the celebrations have continued to occur. The ceremonies became increasingly popular on the East and West Coasts in the early 2000s. As a result, specialty pet stores and dog bakeries now offer special Bark Mitzvah party packages, party favors, and gifts.
Notable Bark Mitzvahs
Admiral Rufus K. Boom Nadler
- Owner: Mark Nadler
- Place: Nadler Residence, New York City
- Date: December 2004
- Breed: Wheaten Terrier
Mark Nadler, a New York cabaret singer, hired party planners and bartenders to ensure a special evening for Admiral Boom. The event was complete with a Bark Mitzvah cake displaying Boom's photograph and his name written in English and Hebrew, satin yarmulkes with Boom's name and date printed inside, and a full buffet. Mark Nadler requested that as a Bark Mitzvah gift to Boom, guests make a donation to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Coverage of the celebration was featured in The New York Times.
- Owners: Edie and Ed Rudy
- Place: A local café, Aventura, Florida
- Date: October 14, 2005
- Breed: Poodle
Edie and Ed Rudy celebrated Columbo Rudy's coming of age at a local, outdoor Aventura café. Rabbi Rex Doberman signed a certificate from Congregation Beth Poodle congratulating the canine. Coverage of the event was featured on MSNBC.
- Owner: David Best
- Place: Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse, New York City
- Date: November 10, 2007
- Breed: Parson Russell Terrier
David Best, CEO of MDea and The Doctor's Channel, hosted this celebration at Sammy's Roumanian, a famous Jewish steakhouse. The event featured live music, traditional Jewish cuisine, and various speeches given by Elvis Best himself. In attendance were representatives from various US pharmaceutical companies. As a result, the celebration served as the event of the season in the pharmaceutical industry. Sex therapist Dr. Ruth also helped Elvis celebrate his big day. Coverage of the event is available on YouTube, The Doctor's Channel, and AOL.
Other uses of the term
The term is also used for a dog-assisted literacy education project, one of several "bark mitzva" projects designed by a Lawrenceville, New Jersey conservative synagogue's religious school to teach children about tzedaka, the Jewish practice of charity.
- Lily Koppel (20 December 2004). "Today He Is a Dog; Actually He Always Was". The New York Times.
- Shari Cohen and Marcelo Gindlin. Alfie's Bark Mitzvah. Chandler: Five Star Publications, 2007. Book with audio CD. ISBN 1-58985-055-6, ISBN 978-1-58985-055-2. ASIN 1589850556.
- 1977 Bark Mitzvah (10 July 1977). "1977 Bark Mitzvah'". 1977 Bark Mitzvah.
- Maryann Mott (6 October 2006). "Pets Gaining Recognition in Places of Worship". National Geographic News.
- Letter to the editor (19 January 1997). "A Rabbi's View Of a 'Bark Mitzvah'". The New York Times.
- "Muzzle-tov! Couple holds Jewish coming of age ceremony for dog". MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann. 18 October 2005.
- "Elvis: The Bark Mitzvah Highlights Film". The Doctor's Channel (also on YouTube).
- Marilyn Silverstein (7 April 2006). "Adath Israel is dogged in its commitment to youth education". New Jersey Jewish News.