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  • Writer's pictureMollye Miller

Event Photography: Mendel's Bar Mitzvah

When you experience a beautiful event, it is often because it intertwines something ancient and something new. 

For instance, a child saying a phrase their great-grandmother used to say. Or a group of friends hanging out at their old college town bar with their own kids and families 30 years after graduation. 

This kind of experiential beauty swings in the balance of “then" and “now."

I experienced this at Mendel Druk’s Bar Mitzvah in a Jewish Orthodox Synagogue in Reisterstown, Maryland last month. The coming of age celebration, known in the orthodox religion as “making mitzvah” not “having” one, is where I saw and felt first-hand a merging of old and new.


This wasn’t your typical Mitzvah, one that starts in the synagogue with Hebrew prayers and turns into a themed mixer for teens and pre-teens with over the top party decorations and cake and party favors (not that there’s anything wrong with that ;) 

An ancient culture and religion, not brought back to life for a special occasion but lived every day.

This lovely orthodox Jewish family of 8 (that’s 6 kids plus mom and dad) and their relatives from all around the country came to celebrate 13 year old Mendel. At his coming of age ceremony Mendel: 


-Recited from memory a 15 minute prayer in Yiddish

-Gleaned advice from his grandfathers and his father 

-“Laid tefillin” and offered to lay tefillin on his family

-Danced the hora, women on one side and men on the other

In a modest room with fluorescent lights and linoleum floors and lovely but simple decorations, a lovely Kosher dinner with Kosher red wine for the Rabbi to bless and the men to toast. 

You could tell Mendel understood the gravitas of the event and how it was a once in a lifetime moment. A tradition passed down from every grandfather to his father to him. 

When I experience something beautiful as a photographer, it’s an ineffable sensation. A breeze of feeling washes over me with hints of nostalgia and a taste of flowers. 

Those of us who lean hard into emotions might actually clutch our hearts, the feeling is so intense and unnameable. 

At that Bar Mtizvah on a Thursday August night in Reisterstown, there was nowhere else to be. It was all right here and I needed to, couldn’t wait to, see it.

Witnessing a beautiful event is about letting yourself experience it. 

Without judgment. 

Without preconceived ideas. 

Without a vision, a stance, a stereotype or a schema.

In a photoshoot, the photographer has the best of all worlds: to observe, to experience and to preserve, and to make art. 

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