Joe Berger of the Times reports on the the fire that severely damaged Manhattan’s landmark Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on Monday:
The synagogue was where generations of congregants gathered to pray — and schmooze — on the Sabbath, the place where they married their beloved, bar mitzvahed their young, bade farewell to a dead parent.
It’s a sweet sentence, but I am especially taken with the use of “bar mitzvahed” as a verb. We avoid it at my paper, instead using the long and probably over-fastidious phrase “celebrate becoming a bar mitzva.” Bar mitzva is actually a noun — literally “son [or if bat, "daughter"] of the commandment.” Technically, saying a girl was “bat mitzvahed” is like saying a young woman was “brided.” (In English the noun form has been extended to the name of the event itself.)
The Times tends to go with “became a bar/bat mitzvah.” When it uses “bar mitzvahed” as a verb, it is usually in casual pieces or direct quotes. For example, two sentences from the same story, in 2007:
”We try to get people talking about the issues in a safe environment,” Rabbi Epstein said. ”These are such complex negotiations. Two rabbis. Two cantors. Two boards of directors, two buildings have to become one. And these are not just ‘buildings.’ They are places where people are named, bar mitzvahed, married.”
Eileen Lamban, 69, became a bat mitzvah and later married at the Farmingdale Jewish Center.
I still like the “becoming” phrase, since it honors the Hebrew meaning. But as Joe demonstrated, breaking the rules can lead to some fine, evocative prose.