Hillel Holds ‘Bark Mitzvah,’ Celebrating Culture and Canine

April 10, 2018

A dog wearing a yarmulke.

Duke, a resident of the Goodrich Club, at his Hillel-sponsored ‘bark mitzvah.’

By Jake Weber; Photos by Peach Norman, ’20, and Morgan Trowbridge-Pross, ’21

Albion College Hillel went to the dogs—one dog, anyhow—recently celebrating a “bark mitzvah” for Duke, a 12-year-old Yorkie/Maltese mix. With kosher snacks (although not for Duke, whose weight dictates carrot chips), a photo booth, and dancing, it was indeed a party. It was also an affirmation of Hillel’s presence for Jewish and non-Jewish students at Albion.

“This is a way for us to celebrate part of our culture,” said Mickey Benson, ’21, Hillel president, who introduced the shortened mitzvah service for the mostly non-Jewish audience. Benson and other Hillel members described the traditional mitzvah service and its importance in Jewish culture.

Two students, one of them holding a dog in a yarmulke.

Kierra Bush (in white) with Duke, held by sister Karissa Bush.

They also noted that while their “bark mitzvah” was a little tongue-in-cheek, many Jewish scholars have espoused the sanctity of animal life. “Rabbi Abraham Isaac Cook once said, ‘There is a place for both animals and humans in the world to come,'” Benson said. “That is, ‘All dogs go to heaven.'”

“We just want people to know about the Jewish community here on campus,” said Kierra Bush, ’20, who received Duke on her eighth birthday and lives with him in the Goodrich Club. Bush’s twin sister, Karissa, ’20, is a member of Hillel and Kierra knew the group was looking for an awareness event for the campus. “Duke is almost the age for a bar mitzvah and if you tell students there is a dog anywhere on campus, they’ll show up,” Kierra said.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about bar mitzvahs, which is another reason I wanted to do this,” Kierra continued. “Hillel works really hard to make things relatable for everyone. This is so much fun!”