August 26, 2003

Many people are actually surprised to hear that there’s a large and thriving Jewish community in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. In fact, Charleston was the home of the first Reform congregation in America, and Jews in Charleston have done a remarkable job of adapting their traditions to those of the community in which they live—perhaps too good a job.

For example, there’s the matter of Bar Mitzvah presents. (For those of you who aren’t in the know, a Bar Mitzvah is the ceremony at which a thirteen-year-old becomes a man in the eyes of Jewish law.) Traditional Bar Mitzvah presents around the country include books, money, whatever one might want to give a thirteen-year-old.

In Charleston, the traditional Bar Mitzvah present is a mint julep cup.

For my Bar Mitzvah I received no fewer than seven pewter or silver mint julep cups.

I mean, I’m all for when in Rome do as the Romans and all, but still, something about equating manhood with becoming a total lush makes me wonder.

In any case, we used all seven of them in a production of Sweeney Todd I was in in college and I haven’t seen a single one since.

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6 Responses to Many people are actually surprised

  1. jadedju says:

    In college I met my first fellow jew who had grown up in the south. Small minded northeasterner that I am, I made sure that I let Judy know as often as possible how absolutely wrong I thought it was for a jew to have a southern twang.

    We’re not in touch.

  2. matt says:

    Sweeney was drinking mint juleps? That’s just so wrong.

  3. You know, I’ve lived in SC my whole life – including having spent two years at the College of Charleston – and I didn’t realize there was a special cup just for mint juleps. Ah, well. I guess that’s just one more piece of evidence against the fact that I’m a true South Carolinian. The list is getting longer and longer.

  4. sam says:

    This made me remember my friend Paul from Charleston. Jewish.

  5. How many mint julep cups did he get for his Bar Mitzvah?

  6. Becca says:

    Scarlett, we Kentuckians can tell yuh that a julep cup is de rigeur

    (Ok, my claims to Kentuckian status are semi-suspect: my dad’s from Bowling Green & my family moved to Louisville in ’88, but I only spent the last 3 years of high school there…though I did get married there & had the rehearsal dinner at Churchill Downs, at the Kentucky Derby Museum–that, and attending all those Derby Day parties thrown by expat Kentuckians when I was growing up in DC, must count for something…)

    Faustus, I am jes’ green with envy! When I got bat mitzvahed in Arlington,VA, nary a julep cup in sight among the gifties…and so even when I got married in the bluegrass. Ah well! Now you & I are united in julepcuplessness.

    I’ll keep you posted, however, on the complicated Talmudic discussion on the finer points of Jewish law for observing Shabbat HaSus, the “Shabbat of the Horse,” known in the vernacular as Kentucky Derby Day. For the last decade Mike and I have been introducing the good folks of Oxford, England & New Haven, CT to the festivities of the First Saturday in May, and converting others to its observance. 😉


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