Hillel throws bar mitzvah bash for Sebastian the Ibis

Never mind that last year he celebrated his 50th birthday.

The Hillel Jewish Student Center hosted a bar mitzvah celebration for Sebastian the Ibis on Thursday night, an event usually reserved for 13-year-old Jewish males.

Males become a bar mitzvah, or “son of the commandment,” and females become a bat mitzvah, or “daughter of the commandment.”

Traditionally, a b’nai mitzvah – the non-gender specific term – is a rite of passage in the Jewish faith. After becoming a b’nai mitzvah, the boy or girl is considered an adult in the Jewish community.

This was not the case Thursday.

“These students haven’t had bar mitzvahs in about 10 years so why not give them something old school and use Sebastian as the excuse to have it?” said Joel Berger, executive director of the UM branch of Hillel. “After all that has gone on this week it’s a good time to let our hair down and celebrate a little bit.”

The party lasted three hours, but Sebastian did not read from the Torah, the Jewish Holy Scripture.

“There’s no ceremony, there’s no ritual observance, this is purely like the after-the-bar-mitzvah party,” Berger said.

Joel Solomon, a sophomore, said that the religious service is the most boring part of bar mitzvahs. He was impressed with how well the event replicated the bar mitzvah receptions of his youth.

“From what I’ve seen so far, it’s pretty much exactly the same thing, which caught me completely off guard,” he said.

Nayda Verier-Taylor, an intern at Hillel and one of the event’s organizers, agreed.

“This is up there, it’s pretty good,” she said. “We have people drinking, which you couldn’t do when you were 13 – or not legally at least. We’ve got the cake, we’ve got the sign [and]we’re going to dance the hora. I think we have all the basics covered.”

Verier-Taylor, who is a columnist for The Miami Hurricane, also had an explanation for the delayed timing of the celebration.

“Bird years are interesting. I’m not exactly sure what the equation is but it’s something where 50 equals 12 plus something,” she said.

One thing no one was sure of was whether Sebastian actually was a member of the Jewish faith. “Everyone keeps being like, ‘Since when is Sebastian Jewish?’ and he’s not actually,” said Amanda Carlow, a sophomore and volunteer at social events for Hillel. “We just thought it would be fun since Hillel’s putting it on to have a Jewish theme, but open it up to everyone.”

The event was not only a party, though, as it also featured a bar mitzvah project intended to raise awareness of the conflict in Darfur, Sudan. Participating guests signed their names to letters to local congressional representatives, urging them to take action. The letters were affixed to paper plates, which Leora Rosenblum, a member of the Hillel staff, said represented hunger that people in Darfur face everyday.

Andrew Hirsh, a freshman, thought the concept was great.

“Sebastian is, I think, the best part of the university,” Hirsh said. “He represents everyone, so to get a whole section of the university to celebrate Sebastian brings people together.”

Nate Harris may be contacted at

November 14, 2006


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.