“Let’s go to a world of anxiety and genital mutilation! Come with me to Judaism!”
Obviously, these are not the traditional words initiating most b’nai mitzvah ceremonies. But then again, they were spoken at the beginning of a very non-traditional bar mitzvah.
But let’s back up.
On the most recent episode of their comedy show “Desus & Mero,” non-Jewish comedians Desus and Mero, also known as “The Bodega Boys,” sought out Jewish tradition for the purpose of becoming Bodega Men. With the help of “Blewish” comedian Eric André (speaker of the aforementioned anxiety and genital mutilation joke), the boys sit down at The Village Temple in New York City with Rabbi Diana Fersko to learn about this momentous rite of passage.
“Bar mitzvah is a coming-of-age celebration for a 13-year-old boy or girl, where for the first time, the student will chant Torah in public, in front of their community,” Rabbi Fersko succinctly explains.
After some questions from Desus and Mero about the preparation process and the Biblical roots of the b’nai mitzvah party, with some interjections from André about the kosher nature of drugs, the ceremony begins.
— DESUS & MERO on SHOWTIME (@SHODesusAndMero) August 6, 2021
Adorned in tallits (prayer shawls) and Yankees-themed head coverings, Desus and Mero receive the traditional blessing over children from Rabbi Fersko. That, however, is about the full extent of the Hebrew in the ceremony.
“I unfortunately can’t give you the full experience because you haven’t engaged in years of study,” Rabbi Fersko admits, “but maybe one day you will.”
From there, Eric André delivers an unusual and hilarious sermon.
“Today marks a historic day. Bodega boys have become bodega men,” he begins, with the rapt seriousness of an actual rabbi. “They woke up this morning, two little children, they leave this afternoon to go party, drink, rap along to a Shek Wes tune, as men; full men, with beautiful, manly bodies.”
And then the party begins.
Yankees-themed with Manischewitz alongside bottles of Hennessy, the boys celebrate their new-found Jewish manhood. Like any typical b’nai mitzvah party, there’s dancing to “Hava Nagila,” challah, and chair-lifting. Unlike (most) b’nai mitzvah parties, the boys did some pretty heavy drinking. You can take a look at some behind-the-scenes photos here:
Tonight @ericandre & @shodesusandmero becomes Bodega Men 🕎 , Directed by @shomipatwary , written by @joshgondelman & @RachelSayaJ , it was a pleasure to be an art director for this fun episode ! The Brand is Strong ! 📸: @oldirtycastro pic.twitter.com/twakBRW8IN
— T A S H (@TASH__P) August 5, 2021
All in all, was this an actual bar mitzvah ceremony? Definitely not. But then again, that wasn’t the point. In the segment, the Bodega Boys learned and engaged with Jewish tradition in a way that was accessible for non-Jews and enjoyable for everyone.
And to that we say: amen.
Check out the full segment here: