These wedsites can be connected with the bride and groom’s Facebook profile and the photos guests take at the wedding can easily be shared to Pinterest and photo sharing sites like Snapfish, Polaroid Fotobar, and Shutterfly. The wedsites include such features as the gift registry, stories about how the couple met and where they became engaged, as well as where they’re headed for the honeymoon. For out-of-town guests these sites have proven to be important resources. Links to the hotel, discounts on airline flights, and the ability to coordinate travel with other guests are essential for a wedsite.
This news should come as no surprise for Facebook users who use the social networking site to wish friends “Happy Birthday” or leave a comment of condolence after the death of a loved one. Facebook now boasts 1 billion users world-wide, and for many of those users the custom of offering birthday greetings has changed.
Humans have been wishing each other birthday greetings for millennia. Even in the Torah there is mention of a birthday celebration (Pharaoh), but over the years, the way in which we mark each other’s birthday milestones has changed. Never has this change been as drastic as in recent years as Facebook usage has increased exponentially. While individuals still send paper birthday cards to close friends and relatives on their birthday, many transitioned to online greeting cards as the Web developed. (Hallmark’s main rival company, American Greetings, is adding jobs now because of its move to online birthday cards.) Picking up the phone to call our best friends and relatives on their birthday is still practiced, but it is also now acceptable to send an email or text message of birthday greetings as well.
Where Facebook has become the “killer app” and disruptor in the culture of sending birthday greetings is in its birthday feature on the sidebar. Each day beginning at midnight Facebook updates the birthday events box on each user’s sidebar alerting the user to birthdays being celebrated on that day. Prior to this feature individuals had to rely on their own information in an address book or birthdays manually inputted into a calendar. These daily reminders are appreciated by active Facebook users as forgetting birthdays is now mostly a thing of the past.
At first Facebook simply listed the friends celebrating birthdays on that day in the sidebar box, but within the past couple years the company realized how prevalent the custom of posting birthday greetings on friends’ Facebook Walls had become and instituted a simpler way of posting. Now users are given a text box next to each birthday celebrant’s name to easily leave a birthday greeting or wish. Past and future birthdays are also listed on the Facebook user’s calendar. Earlier this month, Facebook began showing friends’ birthdays at the top of its mobile site with a gift icon next to the birthday celebrant’s name. Clicking through this icon allows the user to send a birthday gift with Facebook taking a cut of the profit.
With Facebook’s assistance people are now wishing “Happy Birthday” to people whose birthdays they historically wouldn’t have acknowledged (long lost elementary school classmates and former colleagues), but some say it hasn’t changed the way they still mark the milestones of close friends. “Facebook doesn’t change the way I handle birthdays I always acknowledged in the past, but I still like to send paper birthday cards to my close family and a few friends. But I do offer birthday greetings to many of my Facebook friends — it takes but a moment, and I think they enjoy it,” said Bobbie Lewis of Oak Park.
Jacob Zuppke of Bloomfield Hills also uses Facebook to wish his large cohort of Facebook connections a birthday wishes. “Facebook reminds me every day someone is getting older. There are very few birthdays I store in my calendar, but with Facebook, I never miss a birthday.” Zuppke acknowledges that the standard Facebook birthday greeting can be impersonal. “I use Facebook as a calendar for birthdays. If I see it is someone close to me, I will call them or find a way to visit them. I don’t use Facebook to actually communicate with anyone close to me for a special day.”
Joey Niskar, an attorney who lives in West Bloomfield, has made the offering of birthday wishes via Facebook part of his daily regimen. “Every day, I check the automatic birthday notifications provided by Facebook and send a nice happy birthday wish to each Facebook friend celebrating a birthday on that particular day. For the other Facebook friends who may be old friends, a happy birthday wish via Facebook is very meaningful.”
RESPONDING TO BIRTHDAYS
What is the protocol in responding to the barrage of birthday wishes Facebook users now receive annually? Lewis explained, “For those who send Facebook birthday greetings to me, I usually offer a generic response to all unless the birthday message is something more interesting and personal than “Happy Birthday.’ I know some people dislike this aspect of Facebook, but I don’t mind it.” For Zuppke, with over 3,000 Facebook connections including many he doesn’t know or speak with on a regular basis, responding with one mass message at the end of the day thanking the group as a whole is sufficient.
When it is Sherry Kanter’s birthday she simply acknowledges friends’ greetings with the ‘Like’ button. “I try to respond personally to as many as I can. It is a great way to keep in touch with people,” the Huntington Woods resident said.
“I think most people have come to realize that a group thank you at the end of the day or the next morning is quite appropriate,” reasoned Dave Henig of Sylvan Lake. “With the volume of wishes that I assume most people get, it becomes impractical to respond individually.”
OTHER GREETINGS ON FACEBOOK
Birthday wishes may be the most common form of greeting on Facebook, but the site is used to offer other forms of milestone greetings as well. From engagements and weddings to new babies and wedding anniversaries, millions of Facebook users share their news with their networks on the site and receive comments in response. “If someone mentions on Facebook they’re celebrating something important I don’t hesitate to offer a ‘mazel tov’ comment. Condolences following a death are a little trickier,” Lewis says. “For people with whom I communicate mostly by Facebook, it seems appropriate, but I always write a personal message too. And if they don’t want to receive condolences via Facebook, they shouldn’t be announcing their loss on Facebook. For close friends and acquaintances, I still send paper cards or make a tribute gift in their loved one’s memory.”
With Facebook, birthday celebrants who once received only a handful of phone calls on their birthday now get hundreds of wishes annually. That can be a nice gift. As Niskar observed, “By notifying me of birthdays and allowing me to wish each person a ‘Happy Birthday,’ Facebook has enabled me to nourish my connection to old friends at least once per year. It makes the other person feel good, which in turn makes me happy.”
Originally published in the Detroit Jewish News
I have wonderful memories of my bar mitzvah. I was a “day school kid,” so I had that going for me when it came to grasping the Hebrew verses I’d have to chant from the Torah. But on the negative side, I couldn’t carry a tune if my life depended on it; and to make matters worse, I had that awkward “going through puberty” voice thing going on.
My bar mitzvah party was fun and everyone seemed to have a great time, but the memory that sticks with me almost 23 years later is the Shabbat dinner the night before for close family and friends that my aunt put together. My aunt and uncle had just moved into a beautiful new home, and the Friday night dinner for close friends and family would be their first opportunity (of hundreds) to play gracious hosts.
To this day, I remember that my aunt went above-and-beyond (and then even further beyond) to prepare a delicious dinner. Her house looked immaculate. Everyone enjoyed themselves.
For me, more important than the food or the centerpieces that made her newly decorated dining room look so fancy was that I felt so relaxed in her home. I won’t go on record on the Web by admitting that my uncle likely snuck me a drink, but I do remember feeling peaceful and unstressed that night. While many 13-year-old boys experience butterflies in the stomach on the night before their bar mitzvah, I have a vivid recollection of having felt ready for the next day and able to just enjoy the evening at my aunt and uncle’s home.
Many people had important roles to play with the success of my bar mitzvah. My parents planned a wonderful celebration that Saturday night. My grandparents hosted everyone for lunch back at their home following the synagogue services. The rabbis and cantor all were integral to my entry into Jewish adulthood. But to this day, I feel like my aunt was the unsung hero of that memorable weekend. Six years later my aunt reprised the role of Friday night dinner hostess before my brother’s bar mitzvah. Like me, he too felt relaxed the night before his big day.
At a bar or bat mitzvah there’s a special blessing said by the parents as they mark the transition of their child into a more responsible individual. Additionally, the parents and grandparents offer a blessing of gratitude for reaching such a milestone. I’d like to suggest a special blessing for the Savvy Auntie of the bar or bat mitzvah. The aunt who makes sure the bar mitzvah boy’s tie is straight before he stands before hundreds to read from the Torah. The aunt who makes sure her niece’s hair is just right before her party. A blessing for the aunt who is ready with a needle and thread to fix a rip in the suit pants. For the aunt who has a wet cloth to remove a stain. For the aunt who lovingly opens her home for a relaxing evening before the big event.
May God who blessed our ancestors bless my beloved aunt who is often the unsung hero. She is there to nurture and to love. Thank you, God, for the gift of aunts who, together with parents, grandparents, teachers and friends, play a significant role in my life and in my upbringing.
And let us say, Amen.
Today it was announced that actor David Arquette had a bar mitzvah at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. The last newsworthy bar mitzvah at the Kotel was in May 2010 when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (then Obama’s Chief of Staff) brought his family to the Old City of Jerusalem to have his son’s bar mitzvah.
David Arquette is currently in Jerusalem shooting an episode of his “Mile High” show, which airs on the Travel Channel. While in Jerusalem, Arquette attended a bar mitzvah ceremony and was asked if he would like to have one as well. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, officiated at the ceremony in which Arquette wore a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) and tefillin (prayer phylacteries). Two years ago, Arquette told the Jewish Journal, “I wanted a bar mitzvah but didn’t have one as a kid… maybe for my 40th birthday.”
According to the Jewish Or Not blog, David Arquette is Jewish. His mother was born Jewish and is the daughter of a Polish Holocaust survivor. Arquette’s father converted to Islam. Arquette has been married to actress Courtney Cox, who starred in “Friends” television sitcom and co-starred with Arquette in the “Scream” films.
On his personal Twitter account, Arquette posted: “I had my bar mitzvah today at the wall. Finally I’m a man.”
If anyone would like to plant a tree in honor of David Arquette’s bar mitzvah, simply click this link.
Muhammad Ali’s grandson Jacob Wertheimer was called to the Torah as a bar mitzvah at a small service of only about 150 people. Jacob is the son of Ali’s daughter Khaliah Ali-Wertheimer and Spencer Wertheimer, an attorney. Ali was in the congregation watching with pride according to the Sweet Science boxing website in an article written by Muhammad Ali’s personal biographer Thomas Hauser, as reported by JTA. There was no mention of whether the bar mitzvah boy floated like a butterfly or stung like a bee on the bimah.
|Jacob Wertheimer, Muhammad Ali’s grandson on vacation with his parents|
Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay and raised as a Baptist, but famously converted to Islam in the 60s. Ali’s daughter Khaliah was raised as a Muslim. According to her, the young Jacob was given a choice and without pressure from his parents, “he chose this on his own because he felt a kinship with Judaism and Jewish culture.” It sounds like Judaism won by a decision!
Khaliah Ali-Wertheimer also mentioned that it “meant a lot to Jacob” that his grandfather Muhammad Ali was in attendance. According to JTA, the theme of the bar mitzvah party was diversity and inclusiveness.
On the occasion of The Champ’s 70th birthday, JTA’s archivist Adam Soclof compiled a list of articles chronicling Ali’s bouts and bonding moments with the Jewish community dating back to 1970. Ali has made some critical comments about Israel over the years, but is still widely respected in the Jewish community. Perhaps Ali’s Jewish grandson will travel to Israel and change his grandfather’s sentiments.
While Billy Crystal has always amused me with his dead-on impersonation of Muhammad Ali, this scene from Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America” is a personal favorite:
Mazel Tov to Muhammad Ali and his entire family on Jacob’s bar mitzvah!
Blessing my children is something I do every Friday night before we begin our family Sabbath dinner. Last week, I had the opportunity – actually the honor – to bless my children’s Savvy Auntie. Officiating at the wedding of my sister-in-law Stephanie made me realize just how meaningful she is in the lives of my children. More important than being my wife’s sister or my sister-in-law is her role as “Auntie Steffi.”
The focus of any wedding is on the bride and groom (or on the two brides or the two grooms for that matter). But my children were made to feel so important and special during their aunt’s entire wedding weekend. She was constantly giving them little tasks to perform, having them believe that the success of the wedding depended on their help.
|Photo: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot|
For months leading up to the wedding, all my children talked about was Auntie Steffi’s wedding. They anticipated her big day as much as she did. Part of the excitement for them was venturing to a beautiful, tropical destination where they would play with their favorite aunt on the beach and in the pool before watching her get married and celebrating well past their bedtimes. They haven’t stopped talking about Auntie Steffi’s wedding weekend since returning home.
My children’s aunt is always showering them with gifts. As a librarian, she makes it a point to send books every few months that are carefully selected based on the interests of each child. The first thing she did when we arrived at the hotel at the beginning of her wedding weekend was present her nephews with embroidered groomsmen shirts and an adorable pink flower girl shirt for her niece.
When my daughter was a toddler, Auntie Steffi had her convinced that she was a princess. At school, she would tell her friends about her aunt who was a “real live princess.” Seeing Stephanie walk down the aisle in her beautiful wedding dress, perfectly applied makeup and fashionable hairstyle even had me convinced she was royalty on this special day.
As the rabbi standing under the chuppah (wedding canopy) with my children’s aunt and her groom, I had the pleasure of helping them sanctify their marriage. I offered my blessings that their now intertwined lives would be full of love and security, romance and peace. I have the good fortune to bless many happy couples during their wedding ceremony. The difference was that at this wedding I also blessed my children’s Savvy Auntie and gave thanks for everything she does for my children.
In an article on The Scarsdale Daily website, Rabbi David Holtz of Temple Beth Abraham was quoted about his memories of Mark Zuckerberg attending his Reform temple in Tarrytown, New York. Rabbi Holtz reminisced about Zuckerberg’s family and recalled the Facebook founder’s “Star Wars” themed bar mitzvah fifteen years ago. Rabbi Holtz also mentioned a congregational trip to Israel that the Zuckerberg family took when Mark Zuckerberg was fifteen-years-old. Rabbi Holtz called Zuckerberg a thoughtful and insightful teen. I don’t know if Zuckerberg plans to donate any of his fortune to the synagogue of his youth, but hopefully, at the very least, he’ll be willing to help the congregation improve its website.
As if this week wasn’t already exciting enough for Zuckerberg with his billion dollar company going public, he also made a very important change to his Facebook profile’s status tonight when he updated it to “Married”. Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Timeline now features the headline “Married Priscilla Chan” (with over 1 million likes). With that update, Zuckerberg is added to the list of famous Jews who have married outside of the faith.
Apparently the timing of the wedding had no connection to Facebook’s IPO. Rather, the couple was waiting for Priscilla Chan to graduate from medical school at the University of California San Francisco. Zuckerberg’s bride graduated on Monday from UCSF Medical School, which was coincidentally Zuckerberg’s 28th birthday.
Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan were married earlier today in a small ceremony in the backyard of his Palo Alto home. There is no word yet on who officiated the ceremony. However, I know the family has a nice relationship with Rabbi Laura Baum of Congregation Beth Adam and OurJewishCommunity.org (she’s also my colleague through the CLAL Rabbi’s Without Borders fellowship). Rabbi Baum officiated at the bris of Mark Zuckerberg’s nephew Asher a year ago. It is possible that Rabbi Baum officiated at the wedding through her connection with Zuckerberg’s sister and brother-in-law Randi Zuckerberg and Brent Tworetzky.
As an adult Mark Zuckerberg has claimed he is an atheist, so it is also possible that his wedding ceremony was not officiated by a rabbi, but was a completely secular ceremony conducted by a justice of the peace, or even a friend who became licensed in California for the occasion.
According to the AP, the wedding guests all thought they were coming to celebrate Priscilla Chan’s graduation from medical school, but were told after they arrived that the event was in fact a wedding. From the wedding photo released by Facebook, it does not appear that Mark Zuckerberg was wearing a yarmulke as he did at his sister Randi’s wedding to Tworetzky on a beach a few years ago.
I’m sure that more information will be released about Zuckerberg’s wedding this coming week. Of course, the big question for the Jewish community will be whether Zuckerberg and Chan plan to raise their future children in the Jewish faith. In other words, will a future Zuckerberg heir also have a “Star Wars” themed bar mitzvah?
I had no idea how many Jewish attorneys I know. In the past week I received no less than twenty forwarded email messages from lawyers about US District Judge Kimba Wood’s decision to grant a recess in an ongoing court case if Bennett Epstein, one of the lawyers in the trial, becomes a grandfather to a baby boy. As I blogged last week, Judge Wood famously agreed to allow Epstein the time off from the trial to attend his grandson’s bris, but also taught him a lesson about parity. If Epstein’s daughter gave birth to a baby girl, Kimba Wood offered her opinion that a simcha of equal magnitude should be presented.
Of course Jewish feminists around the world applauded Wood’s response to Epstein. But, alas, it’s a boy and we won’t know what type of Simchat Bat ceremony the family would have held.
According to the NY Daily News, “Defense lawyer Bennett Epstein (pictured) stood in court on Monday and told Wood: ‘Judge, I have an announcement to make: Hoo hah!’ It was Epstein’s slightly unorthodox way of announcing the birth of his grandson. But there was precedent. Epstein had cautioned Wood earlier this month that his 33-year-old daughter, Eva, was due to give birth on Dec. 3 – right after the start of his loan-officer client’s mortgage fraud trial.”
I didn’t have to wait to read about Bennett Epstein’s news in the NY Daily News. As promised, Mark Fass, a staff reporter for the NY Law Journal who is friends with Epstein, sent me an email this morning to inform me of the grandson’s birth.
Epstein’s letter to Wood and her response have been so well circulated around the Web that it would appear this newborn baby boy’s fifteen minutes of fame will be among his first minutes of life. Mazel Tov!
In my second year of rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary, I took a year-long seminar that focused on Jewish life-cycle observances. Of course, we covered all the basics like the bris, the Jewish wedding and the Jewish funeral. But we spent more time discussing life-cycle events that traditionally had been given short shrift. In fact, we devoted a great deal of time discussing appropriate ceremonies for the birth of a Jewish baby girl.
For generations, the birth of a baby boy in Judaism was cause for great celebration. The bris, or ritual circumcision, meant a crowded home event with festive foods, speeches, singing, and celebration. Relatives and friends would travel great distances to attend the bris on the eighth day of the baby’s life, carrying gifts with them for the elated parents. The birth of a baby girl often meant nothing more than a synagogue honor for the newborn’s father while mother and baby were still in the hospital. In recent time, it has been a naming ceremony after baby girl’s first month, or any time in the first year when the parents got around to it.
Beginning with recommended rituals for welcoming a newborn girl into the Jewish faith by the authors of the 1960s classic The First Jewish Catalog: A Do It Yourself Classic and continuing more recently with Debra Nussbaum Cohen’s wonderful Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls into the Covenant-New and Traditional Ceremonies, greater attention has been paid to welcoming ceremonies for Jewish baby girls.
On Thanksgiving Day, 2005, my wife and I welcomed our twin son and daughter into the Jewish covenant with separate ceremonies that took place in the synagogue one after the other. We figured that they were born minutes apart, so their naming ceremonies should be minutes apart as well. On the eighth day of their lives, they would become part of the Jewish people in rituals that were different, yet balanced. Our son had the traditional bris and then our daughter had a “Simchat Bat,” in which she was blessed by her female relatives in a candlelighting ceremony. Rather than wait a month or longer to bestow a Hebrew name on our daughter, we chose to make both our son and daughter the main event of this life-cycle event attended by many friends and family.
I am feeling nostalgic as the fifth anniversary of that special event, in which neither male nor female was favored above the other, approaches. And so, I had to smile when I read about Judge Kimba Wood’s recent decision in a case in which a lawyer asked to be excused from court if and when his pregnant daughter’s baby turns out to be a boy. Kimba Wood was one of the judges nominated by President Bill Clinton to be Attorney General of the United States before Janet Reno was eventually confirmed. Both she and fellow nominee Zoe Baird were brought down by stories involving their nannies. Wood is also known as the judge who sentenced the “Junk Bond King” Michael Milken to ten years in prison.
Apparently, like me, Kimba Wood recognizes the unfairness in making a big fuss over a Jewish boy’s birth, but seeing a Jewish girl’s birth as a lesser event. Here is the letter to Judge Kimba Wood by attorney Bennett M. Epstein, with Wood’s response following:
Dear Judge Wood:
I represent Mark Barnett in the above matter, which is scheduled for trial beginning November 29th.
Please consider this letter as an application in limine for a brief recess in the middle of trial on the grounds known (perhaps not now, but hereafter) as a “writ of possible simcha]”.
The facts are as follows: My beautiful daughter, Eva, married and with a doctorate no less, and her husband, Ira Greenberg ( we like him, too) live in Philadelphia and are expecting their first child on December 3rd, tfu tfu tfu. They do not know whether it will be a boy or a girl, although from the oval shape of Eva’s tummy, many of the friends and family are betting male (which I think is a mere bubbameiseh but secretly hope is true).
Should the child be a girl, not much will happen in the way of public celebration. Some may even be disappointed, but will do their best to conceal this by saying, “as long as it’s a healthy baby”. My wife will run to Philly immediately, but I will probably be able [to] wait until the next weekend. There will be happiness, though muted, and this application will be mooted as well.
However, should baby be a boy, then hoo hah! Hordes of friends and family will arrive from around the globe and descend on Philadelphia for the joyous celebration mandated by the halacha to take place during the daylight hours on the eighth day, known as the bris. The eighth day after December 3rd could be right in the middle of the trial. My presence at the bris is not strictly commanded, although my absence will never be forgotten by those that matter.
So please consider this an application for maybe, tfu tfu tfu, a day off during the trial, if the foregoing occurs on a weekday. I will let the Court (and the rest of the world) know as soon as I do, and promise to bring pictures.
Very truly yours,
Bennett M. Epstein
Judge Kimba Wood’s response:
In the summer of 1998 I was a madrich (Hebrew for counselor) on the Michigan Teen Mission to Israel. This was the second teen Israel trip coordinated by the Metropolitan Detroit’s Jewish Federation. I helped lead a bus of Conservative Jewish teens from Congregation Shaarey Zedek and we traveled through Israel with a bus of teens from Adat Shalom Synagogue — another Detroit’s Conservative congregation.
One teen on the Adat Shalom bus was Hillary Rubin. I had been friends with her older sister Kim in high school and quickly recognized Hillary as Kim’s sister. I remember talking with Hillary at a Bedouin village in the Negev and immediately realizing that she was infatuated with Israel more than the other Jewish teens on the “mission.” So, it was no surprise when I learned a couple years ago via Facebook that Hillary made aliyah (immigration to Israel).
This morning I awoke to Hillary’s picture in a front page article on Haaretz.com — the Israeli newspaper’s online edition. Turns out she has gotten a first-hand experience of what many Israelis go through when they want to get married in an official Jewish ceremony in the Jewish state.
I know of many Israelis who board planes to nearby Cyprus to tie the knot so they don’t have to deal with the Israeli chief rabbinates (there are two: one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi). The Haaretz article explains that Hillary is, ironic enough, the great-niece of a prominent Zionist leader with a street in Israel named for him. Today, she and her husband, Craig Glaser, are finding it impossible to register for a Jewish wedding in the JEWISH state.
Letters from four Conservative rabbis and a Chabad rabbi are not sufficient to prove Hillary’s Jewishness. The daughter of divorced parents whose divorce was officiated by Conservative rabbis has probably complicated the situation. Her mother remarrying a Catholic man won’t help matters. But the ultimate insult is the Herzliya rabbinate’s demand that she provide ketubahs (wedding contracts) from her grandparents whose ketubahs were curiously not returned to them after they fled the Nazis during the Holocaust. Other relatives of her’s were gassed at Auschwitz so the death certificates never existed.
I can’t imagine this is what Theodor Herzl had in mind when he envisioned a Jewish nation. The great niece of Nahum Sokolow who lives in Herzliya (named for Herzl) cannot get married in Israel. This is a travesty. It seems that there is no longer one Judaism. The Judaism of the chief rabbinate(s) in Israel is just not my religion. They have corrupted it out of recognition.
So, in a week when all eyes in the Jewish community are on the high profile intermarriage of Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea who is marrying the Jewish Mark Mezvinsky, I would recommend that Jews throughout the world turn their attention to this Hillary. She might not have the Secretary of State for a mom or a past U.S. president for a dad, but she’s become an example of everything wrong with the way Israel is handling religious matters. Something’s got to change.