Then there was the whole Bar Mitzvah thing. If your only frame of reference for a Bar Mitzvah is the punch line of a joke, here's the basic idea: Around a Jewish kid's thirteenth birthday, they're forced up in front of everyone they know to read from a language that's thousands of years old, read from right to left on a scroll you can't touch, and has almost no vowels. As an added bonus, you don't really read it so much as sing it. And don't forget, you're thirteen, so your voice is changing.

So when I was twelve, and Bar Mitzvah season was about to start, I proudly announced that I wasn't having one. This went over real well in my family. My mom hadn't been allowed to have a Bat Mitzvah – that was before feminism had spread that far. And my dad managed to have one (with his poor, proud immigrant parents weeping nearby, I'm sure). I was the first of the new generation of America-born Powazeks, so it was up to me to do the right thing. Nazis bad, have a Bar Mitzvah.

I was pretty sure Bar Mitzvahs weren't much more than a really well-established hazing ritual.