JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Question about birth year in Europe #general

Janette Silverman <jsilverman@...>

Most of us recognize that our Eastern Europe ancestors did not maintain
calendar records with the compulsiveness found in the twenty-first (and
part of the twentieth) centuries. We have had many discussions on this
forum about the difficulties of ascertaining correct birth dates or
years because of the record keeping (and lack thereof) for many reasons.
I was reviewing some of my material having to do with my
grandfather's birth as found in a record in Zhytomyr a couple of years
ago, which after converting the date between Julian and Gregorian
calendars I realized that the date we celebrated as his birth was really
the date of his bris. That led me to think about discrepancies in years
between different records. I do't have a question about that - I think
we have put out suppositions galore abotu why that happened, and gotten
many a chuckle >from the stories.

My question has to do about ritual. This is not a question about
halakha but rather about custom in different places. In the United
States, among observant communities, boys are called to the Torah for
Bar Mitzvah no earlier than 1 day after their 13th birthday. If the
tradition about Bar Mitzvah at 13 is considered to be accepted for at
least several hundred years, than what happened in Eastern Europe
(perhaps elsewhere, also, but I am not familiar with the calendar and
record keeping outside of Eastern Europe) - a birth date was not
necessarily known, although that was frequently tied to a particular
holiday or noteworthy event, and a birth year was often forgotten. How
was the age for bar mitzvah determined? That is, how was it determined
that a boy was old enough to be called to the Torah?

Janette Silverman
Phoenix, AZ

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