Older Generations Are Reclaiming Rites of Passage

Harry Oxman’s bar mitzvah at the Society Hill Synagogue in Philadelphia looked much like the traditional Saturday morning event.

He recited the customary prayers before and after the Torah reading. He discussed the meaning of the day’s Torah portion. He carried the sacred scrolls in a procession around the sanctuary. The rabbi offered a blessing; the congregation yelled a congratulatory “Mazel tov!” and tossed pieces of candy to symbolize the sweetness of the days ahead. Lunch followed, with toasts from family members.

The difference was that the celebration, a tradition that normally marks Jewish adulthood for 13-year-olds, occurred in 2019, when Mr. Oxman was 83. Because the 90th Psalm says that age 70 represents a full life span, some congregations offer this rite of passage — often for the second time — to those turning 83.