But first, a little history on Judaism and dogs. In Judaism, there is no ban on keeping dogs, but it is interesting to note that dogs are portrayed negatively in both the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud, where they are mostly associated with violence and uncleanliness. In Jewish mysticism, dogs are symbols of the demonic. The Mishnah states that one must keep dogs chained as they are known to do damage. Deuteronomy 23:19 appears to equate dogs to prostitution, and the Book of Kings describes dogs who feed on corpses. As recently as July 2019 Rabbis from Elad (a city in Israel about 16 miles east of Tel Aviv) signed an edict to ban dogs from the city. The edict states that the dogs are "scaring women and children with their barks, even if they do not bite."On the other hand, Judaism does not permit the neglect and abuse of any living animal. Exodus 20:10 requires that an owner allow his pets to rest on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Tel Aviv has become the number one dog-friendly city in the world with over 30,000 dogs. Dogs are allowed in most cafes, stores, and even high-end restaurants as well as on buses, trains, and taxis.
So clearly these furry family members have become an important part of our lives. We nurture them as one would a child and celebrate major milestones as they grow. And of course, one of the most important days of their lives is their Bark Mitzvah, their coming of age. AKA a dog Bar or Bat Mitzvah. It can occur when the dog turns 13 months or 13 years of age or even 13 in "dog years" (1 year, 10 months and 6 days, give or take). Dogs can even wear their own tallit and yarmulke. The practice of a Bark Mitzvah seems to go back as far as 1958 when Max and Janet Salter of Beverly Hills, celebrated their black cocker spaniel with all the trimmings. The idea of a Bark Mitzvah celebration is not embraced by all clergy, but overall the practice has grown significantly throughout the United States and is quite popular.
One of our ModernTribe customers and Instagram doglebrity, Penny DePuppo, a stylish Goldendoodle from Los Angeles, recently celebrated her Bark Mitzvah and we are kvelling! She's featured in these photos. #barkmitzvahgoals! Owner Becca says the best tips when planning a Bark Mitzvah for your pup is to:
"Make sure all your pup friends are in town, get some good goodies for your humans to munch on, and make DIY pawmakahs!"
So how else do we mark this occasion?
Just as we would for any other Bar/Bat Mitzvah, here is everything we will need:
The Ceremony- a blessing and prayers by clergy, friends or family. Maybe your dog can bark their haftarah!
A Theme- choose a theme that goes along with your dog's personality. Does he gravitate to certain foods, love music, flowers, bodies of water or the sites and sounds (and smells) of the neighborhood? Make sure to incorporate your pet's favorite colors too! Some theme ideas: Favorite Sticks (Nature Theme), Tennis Balls (Sports Theme), Swimming (Water Theme), Sticking Their Head Out the Car Window (Travel Theme).
Invitations- let everyone know how special this day is and how much it means for them to celebrate with you - encourage them to bring their dogs to the event too - they will want their own bark mitzvah once they see how much fun it can be.
Activities- Penny DePuppo made her own dog yarmulkes (love this idea). Make sure to have some activities to keep your dogs happy, like swimming or snuggling or ball chasing. And of course, lots of toys to play with!
Food- Make sure to have snacks for dogs and humans! Kosher dog treats are always a good idea. But anything goes from a simple brunch, to appetizers and cocktails. Be sure to include a large bowl of chex mix or anything that resembles your pet's favorite food so people feel included too. Cookies in the shape of your dog or cake with a gorgeous photo of your dog on top would add a little fun to the theme.
Favors- What better way to honor your pet than with a "doggie" bag filled with treats for their human or pet friends. What dog wouldn't want their own bagel dog toy?
Gift Suggestions- Dogs can't possibly have enough Chewish Toys. Plush dog bones, bark mitzvah pens, and soft bagels are all fun and appropriate. On a more altruistic note, consider a donation to Help Save Animals from Cruelty (ASPCA) or any other organization that benefits our canine friends. A donation to your synagogue or a food pantry would be another great choice.Thank You Notes - Make sure to acknowledge the generosity of your friends and your dog's good manners with a personalized thank you card for sharing this special day with you!