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Keith Strudler: Best Bar Mitzvah Ever

When it comes to Bar Mitzvahs, particularly in the greater New York metropolitan area, it’s always the case of trying to keep up with the Schwartzs. That means having more dancers, or a bigger band, or more elaborate deserts. Or, as is the custom, don’t serve dinner until around midnight, which seems to be the arbiter of status of the upper class. Or, if that doesn’t work, have Kyle O’Quinn of the New York Knicks come as your newly minted adult’s special guest. That’s right, if you play your cards right, you can have your very own New York Knick singing Hava Nagila and doing the chicken dance and being the envy of every 13 year old that’s ever played a single JCC pick-up game.

Quinn’s Bar Mitzvah quest started when his agent invited him to his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. And apparently he had a really good time. Such a good time that he told an agency to go ahead and book him on the circuit, like a magician or a comedian. Which they have. Basically, Quinn shows up at the party, does a dramatic entrance – which to be honest, isn’t that hard at 6”10” at a Bar Mitzvah party, and apologies for all stereotypes. Then Quinn signs autographs, dances, takes selfies, and, as he puts it, just goes nuts. Perhaps his only self-critique is that he stays too long because he’s having such a good time. I’m guessing this is in start contrast to many adult friends and relatives who are trying to figure out if it’s socially appropriate to leave after the entrée is served. Because it’s like 1 a.m. And who eats dinner at 1 a.m.?

So in what I’d have to assume to be the Bar Mitzvah capital of the world, Kyle O’Quinn is now, as he calls himself, “Bar Mitzvah Man.”

Obviously, there’s a lot of money in the Bar Mitzvah circuit, even for an NBA athlete. There’s free food, drinks, and, usually great party favors. And it’s an economy that’s as stable as Warren Buffet. No matter what, there’s young Jewish boys and girls that will become young Jewish men and women, and Jewish parents that will do everything in their power to make sure their party was better than the last. Now, I would suggest that Quinn could, if he’s so inclined, grow his business model beyond simply Bar Mitzvahs. Certainly, weddings are well within his repertoire. And being the parent of two Jewish boys, there is very strong economy in business of brises, where mohels often double as Borsht Belt Comedians. Because nothing says comedy more than a circumcision on your kitchen table in front of a house full of people waiting to pile into bagels and cheesecake. Now I’m not sure if Quinn would want to actually perform the procedure or simply be there to assist – to steal a basketball term – but who wouldn’t remember a bris with Kyle O’Quinn? Finally, and apologies for being morbid, but I’d sign up right now to have a New York Knick speak at my funeral. It’s like to going to prom with super model. So if Kyle O’Quinn wants to build a business, the opportunity is there.

For historians and sociologists, there’s plenty to unpack around Jews and basketball. It’s hard to imagine today, but Americans Jews were dominant basketball players early in the 20th Century. Perhaps there remains an emotional if not innate pull towards the game for Jewish kids. There certainly is for my oldest son Sloan, who was the only Jewish kid of 28 in his kindergarten class. And who during graduation day, was the only child to say that when he grew up, he wanted to be a Division I basketball player. Which, to be clear, is not a job. Now aged 10, he’s since come to realize he probably won’t make it to the NBA, but not for lack of desire. But I can assure you, there’s no one Sloan would rather have at his Bar Mitzvah – and I’m including his immediate family – than a New York Knick.

Also, not to overstate the obvious, the racial dynamic of Kyle O’Quinn, who’s African American, like the majority of the NBA, starring at a series of Bar Mitzvahs, is, for lack of a better word, apparent. Of course, Jews and blacks share an interwoven and complex history in the US. So Kyle O’Quinn doing the Horah is, well, just another chapter.

Now as much as I’d love to line up Quinn for Sloan’s big day, I’m guessing it’s a bit out of my Bar Mitzvah budget, which to be honest, is yet to be determined. Which means we may have to do the old fashioned thing and hire someone to do card tricks, or maybe breakdance – and yes, I’m dating myself. But just in case Bar Mitzvah man is listening and has an open date some 30 months from now, just know you’re invited.

Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management. 

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