The date is Saturday, 8 May 1976, and I am feeling uncomfortable – stifled in a new suit and tie, standing in a crowded room, at the beginning of one of the hottest English summers on record. But there are other, more urgent reasons for my unease. The room is the main hall of a Reform 1 Synagogue in North London, and the occasion is my Bar Mitzvah – the ceremony to mark the coming of age of Jewish boys who have reached the age of thirteen, requiring their public reading or chanting in Hebrew of an extract from the Torah. 2 By declaiming the ancient language, and despite my lack of religious conviction, I am signalling that I am competent to participate in public worship and to accept moral accountability for my actions as a Jew. Not exactly a time to relax.