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US Jewish Rage: Bark Mitzvahs (Video)

Inspired by the Christian ceremony of the Blessing of the Animals, Reform Rabbi Fred Schwalb says the event is a simple way to honor dogs, cats and other pets.

Reform Rabbi Fred Schwalb blessing dogs.

Reform Rabbi Fred Schwalb blessing dogs.
Photo Credit: Diane Karsch

The Bark Mitzvah is a celebration that’s held when one’s dog turns 13 months or 13 years of age, or any age in between. To signify the ties that bind one’s dog to one’s Jewish roots, during the Bark Mitzvah the dog would wear a tallit (bitches too!), and a yarmulke. But it’s really tough to put a pair of teffilin on a dog, unless it’s a Great Dane.



Celebrity pet hairstylist and pet entertainer Lee Day has been performing Bark Mitzvahs since as early as 1972, for many celebrities, including Joan River’s dog Spike. Her website recalls that in attendance at the sacred ceremony were Geraldo Rivera & his wife, Betty White, Linda Dano, and others.

Here’s what you get if you register your dog for a Bark Mitzvah: A scroll, a Jewish Prayer to bless the event in Yiddish, a “Yamakah” (that’s how she spells it), a Tallis and a Pen (apparently, in some cases she also ordains your dog if he or she passes the quiz).

In early May, dozens of Somers, NY, dogs officially joined their Jewish families at the Hebrew Congregation of Somers’ annual “Bark Mitzvah,” The Somers Daily Voice reported.

Rabbi Fred Schwalb held the third annual ceremony celebrating and blessing the pets in the congregation. Inspired by the Christian ceremony of the Blessing of the Animals, Schwalb, who has led the Shenorock synagogue for almost a decade, said the event is a simple way to honor dogs, cats and other pets.

A regular St. Francis.

Rabbi Schwalb told The Daily Voice that he had come up with the idea a few years ago, “to remind those in the congregation about the importance of family and community.”

“People very much look forward to it every year,” he said. “It shows you how much people value their pets and I think it’s always nice to see that reminder of the value of community and coming together.”

The proud owner of two American Short Hair cats, I’m relieved no one has come up with a Miaow Mitzvah so far, although I’ve seen references to Cat Mitzvahs. Our cats will never be put through one of those, even though they are strict Shabbat observers (especially the Tuxedo male, Sylvester), and sniff the Bessamim devotedly during Hvadala.

“I think we have a lot of animal lovers in our congregation,” said Diane Karsch of Hebrew Congregation of Somers. “Our dog Zeke is a member of the family and he does bring so much to our lives and it really felt nice having that acknowledged by the rabbi and having that be blessed.”

Incidentally, Lee Day has performed a horse wedding, which means that if your favorite horse is showing an interest in his or her Jewish roots, let them tap 13 times and Day will do the rest…



About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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9 Responses to “US Jewish Rage: Bark Mitzvahs (Video)”

  1. Anonymous says:

    HE SHOULD also BAR AND Bat mitzah them and arrange for circumcisions where appropriate. Do they count as part of the minyan? Rabbi dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

  2. What do you call it when dogs dance at a Bark Mitzvah?

    A canine – a – hora. :-)

  3. Chaiya Eitan says:

    Ridiculous….

  4. Ethan Perks says:

    This is NOT amusing. A Bar/Bat Mitzva is an important right of passage for Jews. Want to have a birthday party for your pet, fine. This is sick. This is sad. No legitamate Rabbi should have anything to do with this!

  5. Gary Dalin says:

    Yes. Deform Jews can count dogs in a minyan whenever one is required. Uh yes, alas, there is nothing in Deform Judaism that requires a minyan.

  6. Laura Greenberg says:

    what's next?

  7. Yori Yanover says:

    Ethan Perks · If you ask me, we're also overdoing the ceremony for humans. It simply means that the child is accountable before a rabbinic court. A birthday party is plenty.

  8. Disgusting but not surprising coming from reform jews. Who needs an enemy when you have such stupid individuals destroying our people from the inside?

  9. No one asked you.

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