Why I Wish I'd Had a High School Prom

For Hasidic Girls, Secular Milestones Seem Larger Than Life

Slow Dance: Teenagers dance at a prom in New Orleans in 2006
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Slow Dance: Teenagers dance at a prom in New Orleans in 2006

By Frimet Goldberger

Published June 02, 2014, issue of June 06, 2014.

(page 2 of 2)

Not so in the community I grew up in, where the bat mitzvah does not exist. Girls go through childhood and adolescence uncelebrated. Boys, on the other hand, get festive parties: the Shalom Zachor party the Friday night after they are born, their bris, and the upsherin, the celebration of the first time their hair is cut at the age of 3, attend by parents, aunts, uncles and others interested in a slice of caramel cheesecake. In addition to the abundant toy cars and lego sets the child receives, he is taken to a cheder classroom, followed by a procession of loved ones, to read the aleph bet and to hand out pekelech, or loot bags to the bigger boys. And if that weren’t enough to celebrate His Greatness, he gets a mini wedding at the age of 13 — just because, well, he’s a boy.

And the girls — what do they get? Nothing. A peek from behind the curtain and a slice of caramel cheesecake.

I don’t, in any way, begrudge the boys of my youth their parties and rite-of-passage celebrations. I didn’t feel left out at the time, nor was I resentful of something I did not know existed; coming-of-age ceremonies for girls were as strange to us as bar mitzvah parties with half-naked dancers as entertainment. (I’m referring, of course, to Sam Horowitz’s party in his gone-viral YouTube video.)

Transitioning from childhood to adulthood is a momentous occasion — and one that should be properly celebrated. As an exacting mother and wife who insists on never missing a birthday, graduation, holiday or falling-out-tooth day, I believe rites of passage should be a right.

I wish I could go back in time and dress up my miserable, acne-bedazzled 12-year-old self and throw her a big party, while the boys sneak a peek from behind the curtains. Maybe I’ll do it one day as a 20- or 30-something still-acne-bedazzled woman and invite my fellow ex-hasidic girls.

I’ll even forgo my corsage and ball gown and holding hands with a boy who looks so young and insecure, you could practically put him in the sandbox.

Frimet Goldberger is a frequent contributor to the Forward.



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