The rite of passage from childhood to adulthood is a turning point in many cultures. A Jewish boy becomes a bar mitzvah (literally, "son of the commandment") at the age of thirteen. He must recite a portion of the Torah in the synagogue, and later give a speech on a biblical or an ethical subject either in the temple or at home.
In this scene, the proud mother and the maid are the only women in a sea of men. All listen intently to the bar mitzvah boys' discourse and await the celebratory meal. A picture of Frederick the Great of Prussia (1712-86) demonstrates the family's patriotism. Again, Oppenheim adds a vernacular touch--the kitten tugs on the tassels of the prayer shawl newly acquired by the young man.