Baxter the Bearcat, the official mascot of Binghamton University, will become a man this Thursday evening, when he is “bear mitzvahed” at a party inspired by the Jewish “coming of age” tradition.
Baxter’s Bear Mitzvah Party, co-sponsored by Hillel at Binghamton and Binghamton University Athletics, will take place at 7 p.m. in the Mandela Room in the Old University Union. Tickets are currently on sale for $4 and will also be sold at the door Thursday.
All ticket sales will be donated to a local temple to help fund the bar mitzvahs of two children from underprivileged families who are members of the temple. The families’ identities were kept anonymous in order to protect their privacy, according to Ariel Poser, director of engagement for Hillel at Binghamton and a senior majoring in bioengineering.
Stephen Bedik, vice president of finance for Hillel at Binghamton and a sophomore majoring in accounting, said Hillel is encouraging students to donate any amount of money they can.
“It’s all for charity and we’re not collecting any of it for ourselves so anything students can donate will help a good cause,” Bedik said.
Bedik said the event is focused on social charity rather than religion.
“A lot of students are hesitant because they think we’re making Baxter Jewish,” Bedik said. “That’s not what we’re doing. We’re not saying that Baxter is Jewish, we’re just taking a new spin on a fundraising effort.”
Baxter’s Bear Mitzvah Party is part of a slew of Hillel events planned for both on- and off-campus locations leading up to Hillel’s 10th Anniversary Gala in New York City in March.
Poser said the 10th-anniversary celebrations are intended to showcase Hillel’s “success and longevity” at BU, as well as its “social justice initiatives in the larger Binghamton community.”
She said Thursday’s event is aimed at recreating the spirit of typical bar or bat mitzvahs.
“[We want to] engage students to relive their bar or bat mitzvah experience, creating a bridge from a previous positive experience to a new and continued Jewish journey,” Poser said.
There will be food, music, giveaways, a photo booth and a traditional hora dance with Baxter at the event on Thursday. Sodexo will be serving a hot buffet-style dinner.
Poser said she is particularly pleased with the charitable aspect of Baxter’s big day.
“I think most I’m looking forward to raising money and giving it to a family in need as well as having a social opportunity for students on campus,” she said.
Bedik said he anticipates about 250 people will attend the event.