B*Mitzvah Project

Pulling Back the Turban

There are elements of the B-Mitzvah experience that are unique to our Jewish tradition (reading from the Torah, reciting the haftarah, donning a tallit for the first time), and other elements that we have in common with coming-of-age rituals in cultures around the world (a challenge for the young person, significant involvement of elders, and a celebration afterward).

One such ritual, the Turban-Tying ceremony, is deeply meaningful within Sikhism and bears many similarities to the B-Mitzvah.

With the permission of The Moth, we share this audio recording of one young man’s Turban-Tying ceremony and the way it highlighted his relationship with his grandparents. 

We hope you will find his story as powerful as we do. We invite you to think about what this Sikh practice can teach us about the significance of the B-Mitzvah experience and how intergenerational Jewish families might further enrich this coming-of-age ritual.

Click below to hear the 12-minute Pulling Back the Turban podcast.

Here are some questions for grandparents to explore with their B-Mitzvah grandchildren:

  • What similarities did you notice between the Sikh’s Turban-Tying ceremony and B-Mitzvah rituals?
  • When the storyteller talks about his experiences in school, he comments, “I must have looked like Shrek to them …. I was ugly and had this thing on my head.” When have you felt different from your friends? Do you recall how that felt and what you did?
  • What is there in the B-Mitzvah ritual experience that you might compare with the Sikh turban-tying ceremony?
  • What about the B-Mitzvah experience do you find:
    • Interesting
    • Meaningful
    • Difficult
    • Strange?

And questions for grandparents to consider on their own:

  • In the Sikh tradition, children touch the grandparents’ feet to seek their blessing. In what ways can grandparents share blessings with their B-Mitzvah teens?
  • The child raises a question about his religious identity: why do Sikhs wear turbans? The grandfather uses the opportunity to share Sikh history and traditions. How might grandparents use the B-Mitzvah experience to share Jewish history and traditions along with family narratives?
  • The storyteller comments about the turban, “It wasn’t something I had accepted; it was put on me.” In what ways is this similar or different to the B-Mitzvah experience? How might grandparents help teens embrace and accept Jewish values and traditions as their own?


David Raphael is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Jewish Grandparents Network

Photographic Credits
Banner photograph courtesy of Pixabay