Jeff Friedman

Bat Mitzvah Party

for Helene Frankel

In the center of the dance floor, Bubby Satz stood with his arms folded, wearing a coat and tie and a red headband, two tall white feathers sticking up over his head.

“I’m a full-blooded Sioux,” he repeated.

Only a few weeks before, he had been bar mitzvahed at B’nai Brith synagogue. Was it that easy to give up your Jewishness? I wondered.

An army of Jewish soldiers surrounded him.

“Let’s burn him at the stake,” Jimmy Crazilneck shouted, his walrus-tusk front teeth stained from punch. He pulled out a pack of matches.

“Get the tomahawk; we’ll scalp him,” Moshe Waldbaum burst in.

Eddie Lipkin, towering over everyone, raised his big fist. “Let’s pants him.”

No one wanted to get on the bad side of Eddie Lipkin, but I interfered anyway. “Bubby, just admit you’re Jewish and all this will stop.”

“Call me White Cloud,” he replied with his German-Jewish accent, but he looked more like a miniature poodle, more like Poodle Cloud.

A few feet away, Irini Moscowitz, the bat mitzvah girl, yanked her long braids while her father broke through the lines and tried to get Bubby off the dance floor, but he wouldn’t budge, unmovable like a Tai Chi master.

“Why do you attack my people?” he asked.

The other girls stood in small groups talking and laughing. When Mrs. Moscowitz rushed toward Bubby, stumbling and almost tripping off her heels, when she told him she had called his parents, Bubby broke into a Native American chant, which sounded identical to his bar mitzvah haftorah—only recited in a gibberish tongue.

On the platform, Hal Diamond, the DJ, turned away and poured rum from his flask into his Coca Cola cup and swigged it down. He put on a rock version of “Hava Negila” so loud the walls vibrated, and pretty soon, we were all hooking arms and kicking up our heels, going round and round, singing “Hava nerananah, hava neranenah, havah neranenah, ve-nishmeha,” Irini grabbing Bubby hard by the arm, pulling him in.

Jeff Friedman

Jeff Friedman’s sixth collection of poetry, Pretenders, was recently published by Carnegie Mellon University. His poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in many literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, Poetry International, Quick Fiction, Antioch Review, Agni Online, Boulevard, Big Bridge, 100-Word Story, Sentence, New England Review Digital, Vestal Review, Plume, Flash Fiction Funny, North American Review, The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets, and The New Republic. A contributing editor to Natural Bridge and Anthem Literary Journal, he lives in West Lebanon, New Hamphshire with the artist Colleen Randall and their dog Bekka.