Author Archives: af

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Chair Lifting

Main Piece: 

What is your experience with this tradition?

“At the party, we were doing the hora. They bring in a chair, without arms even though I asked for arms. Four men lifted the chair up. One person was pushing harder than the others. Being pushed up in the chair with no arm rests. I asked to be put down. It happens during Hava Negila”

Why do you think this is a thing?

“Probably to single out the person and make it known that it’s their day and that this whole ceremony is about them. Maybe it’s spiritual and you’re getting closer to god? It’s kind of stupid”


My informant is my roommate. She was raised in Conservative Judaism and had her Bat Mitzvah when she turned 13. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the Jewish coming of age ceremony that happens when a child turns 12 or 13. Hava Negila is the song that Jewish people traditionally dance the Hora to. The Hora is a traditional dance that involves dancing in concentric circles. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah teen is lifting in the center of the Hora circles. This story was collected when we were talking about Judaism during dinner.


This tradition is practiced by Jews of all observance levels and ethnic backgrounds at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and the majority of Jews have no idea why we do it. We weren’t commanded to lift people in chairs through religious texts or by our religious leaders, it’s just a tradition that Jews practice. Some people think that the “lifting” component has religious connotations, but most Jews agree that it’s just for fun and to highlight the Bar/Bat Mitzvah teen on their special day. The experience of having a chair with no arms and being asked to be put down is a common one, and I myself didn’t have a great time being lifted at my own Bat Mitzvah. 

Ballroom/Queer Slang

Main Piece: 

The informant provided examples of ballroom slang which are all used in situations with positive connotations:

“the category is”



“that was a serve”

“the house down”

“sissy that walk”

“work that pussy out”



“And like another slang trend is assigning everyone feminine pronouns, and even assigning feminine identify to inanimate objects. For example, like how we call our Roomba ‘miss Roomba’ or say, ‘oh that plant, she is everything.’” 

How did you get connected to this slang?

“Initially, through gay pop culture, like musical artists, friends, RuPaul’s Drag Race and Pose, documentaries and stuff.”

Do you use these words in your day-to-day life?

“Absolutely! I have to not use ‘miss’ or ‘she’ for everything because people don’t understand what I mean, and like my parents aren’t going to understand queer slang because they’re straight older people (laughs).”


My informant is my roommate. She identifies as queer and sees herself in queer culture. These slang terms were recorded during a dinner conversation about queer media and culture.


Most general queer slang has been lifted straight out of queer subcultures, such as ballroom and drag. Most queer people who live in accepting environments understand the meaning of all the phrases listed above. In general, these phrases aim to empower the receiver through the emphasis of feminine characteristics (like making “pussy” a positive word), while some others come directly from ballroom culture, like how “the category is” and “the house down” reference competition categories and Dance Houses. As society has become more accepting and queer culture has taken over digital media (through shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race), these terms have become well known to the general public. It was definitely a shock when I heard my 10-year-old cousin shout “Yaaaaas queen” when I showed her an outfit, but that really illustrates how mainstream some of these terms have become.

Chicken Soup has Healing Properties

Main Piece:

What is so special about chicken soup?

“All Jewish grandmas think that chicken soup will cure most of the things that are wrong with you. It’s called Jewish penicillin. And then I’ve heard that there’s some scientific support for this, in a paper I cannot find… supposedly if the chicken soup contains at least these four ingredients, it has anti-inflammatory properties, so your Bubby [Jewish grandma] might actually be right. The four ingredients are chicken, onions, carrots, and celery.”

Do you have a parent/grandparent that held this belief?

“I have a parent and a grandparent who would make me chicken soup, and now I make chicken soup, and I fed my daughter who got her covid vaccine chicken soup last night because she wasn’t feeling so great. She felt better after the soup (laughs).” 


My informant is my father. He was raised culturally Jewish, and his career is within the science field. This information was collected during a family Zoom call after my sister got the first dose of her coronavirus vaccine. Chicken soup is considered an iconic Jewish food. Variations include chicken noodle soup and matzoh ball soup.


I have been eating chicken soup as a cure for illness my entire life, and I had known that it was called “Jewish Penicillin,” but I had never heard that there might be actual scientific proof that it worked! My father’s statements about the ingredients line up with claims in an article by Alan Hopkins titled “Chicken Soup Cure may Not be a Myth.” Instances of folk medicine being investigates scientifically and then incorporated into Western medicine are common, and these instances highlight that just because a group doesn’t have access to “science” and “technology,” it doesn’t mean that their cures and treatments are necessarily less valid. 

Hopkins, Alan B. “Chicken Soup Cure may Not be a Myth.” Nurse Practitioner, vol. 28, no. 6, 2003, pp. 16. ProQuest,

Bloody Mary, but make it Jewish?

Main Piece:

How did you learn about Bloody Mary?

“When I was in Hebrew school, a teacher told me that Mary was related to Jewish history. She was a Jewish figure that would haunt you, and the teacher was trying to connect it to Jewish curriculum. I was like ‘why are you trying to ruin this story’, like yes, I was genuinely afraid but that was so stupid (laughs).” 

How do you play Bloody Mary?

“You get into a bathroom, close the door, turn off the lights, look into a mirror, say bloody Mary 3 times, she’s supposed to appear and do something bad.”


My informant is my roommate. She was raised in Conservative Judaism and attended Hebrew School from elementary school through high school. This story was collected when we were talking about Judaism during dinner. 


Many young children are taught a version of Bloody Mary. Various accounts can be seen in Alan Dundes’ article “Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety.” In my own experiences, I’ve been told that Bloody Mary is a wife who got killed before her wedding or a woman who died in a bloody car crash. However, in the case of this specific account, the person teaching this game to my informant tried to alter the backstory so it would fit into her religious education. My informant’s Hebrew school teacher saw the value in this myth and its impact on children, so the teacher tried morph it to fit her agenda. My informant saw straight through this attempt, but still ended up fearing the figure, Bloody Mary.

Dundes, Alan. “Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety.” Western Folklore, vol. 57, no. 2/3, 1998, pp. 119–135. JSTOR,

Tie-day Friday

Main Piece:

What was this event?

“I did not participate in it, but Tie-day-Friday was… did the school do it? No, it just started by people wearing ties on Friday. It was in elementary school, I have no idea who started it. I feel like people just started saying it because it was fun, and then it became a thing”


 My informant is my twin sister. She is Jewish, attended Los Angeles public school, and is currently a USC sophomore. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.


I was an active participant of Tie-day Friday. It was a fun tradition that allowed elementary schoolers to wear something an elementary schooler wouldn’t wear normally. No one knows who started it, but it created a fun inside joke shared by the student body. This inside joke unified us against the administration because they didn’t know that they were supposed to wear ties on Fridays, which was very amusing to the students.