Gift Ideas for Bar & Bat Mitzvah

Archived Q&A and Reviews


What's an appropriate Bat Mitzvah gift from one 12yo to another?

April 2014

My 12-year old daughter is invited to a friend's Bat Mitzvah. Some have suggested giving money, but would that be an appropriate child-to-child gift? It seems that something more grand than a standard birthday gift is in order, but what?
sincere but clueless

A fountain pen set! If that's too traditional, here are some other ideas: Ipod gift card, E-reader gift card/regular gift card for books, backpack, Jewish oriented (Chai, Star of David) necklaces or bracelets, journals or plant a tree/save an animal. Mazel Tov

As parent of a bat mitzvah girl last year, and another next year, I can say that money is more than welcome. The same goes for sweet, personal gifts like journals, jewelry, books, etc. We gave a nice card and $20 to most of the friends, and she received many like gifts from her friends. Some gave just a card, and some gave gift cards too. It's really a personal choice. The greatest gift is having friends there for the celebration. The photos and memories from the day will last a lifetime, whereas an iTunes or Target gift card, while appreciated, is gone quickly! Jewish mom

A lot of people just give money, but something meaningful is always good. I think about something that represents or supports the transition into adulthood (like a book about growing up that would be useful to a teen), Judaica, or a donation to a charity in the child's honor (a charity which is meaningful to the kid). Debra

We usually give quality books. Other things my daughter received and liked was jewelry, mostly earrings since she'd just had her ears pierced. If the girl likes to do art, or write, quality notebooks and pens are a good present. I would say that you want a more ''grown-up'' gift than for a birthday party, but don't feel like you have to be more extravagant. anon

My kids have gone and had experience with about 20 Bar/Bat Mitzvah's. I apologize for how awful it sounds, but a check for $18 or $36 for one child is appropriate. If a family of 4 goes, its minimally $72, up to $180. Sorry to be so crass. It is appropriate for the money to be a multiple of 18, because 18 is a special number when it comes to Judaism. Most of the recipients save the money for college, and don't spend it on something frivolous. Save the fun presents for birthdays and holidays. Again, I apologize. This just sounds awful. experienced Mom

I know you don't want to give cash but money in multiples of 18 is always popular. There are lots of cool and unique gifts from Israel like a Shofar or Hamsa. Christian

For great Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts, money is always good (multiples of $18.) but if you want a more personal gift, check out They have fantastic and many one of a kind gifts and can get things ''personalized'' . Betty

Feeling resentful about Bar Mitzvah gift for affluent nephew

Nov 2013

My husband and I and our two boys are flying to New Jersey in a few weeks to attend my nephew's Bar Mitzvah. My parents are paying for the hotel and the airfare, as we never would be able to attend otherwise. It's a huge deal for them that we be there so we are going, and the enormity of it is something that we are not used to. So we ask, what is an appropriate gift to give to a boy for folks who do not have a lot of money?

We are beginning to feel resentful about the whole holiday season because we are expected to give the boys (they have two boys) Christmas gifts a few weeks later (my brother is not Jewish) and then both their birthdays are in January. It just doesn't seem right. Am I wrong to be resentful? They already have so much. Ipads each, tons of video games. Ideas? frustrated

Mazel Tov on your nephew's bar mitzvah! The traditional gift is money, often in multiples of 18. Most kids I'm familiar with donate a portion of the money to charity and the rest they keep to save for something important. I know money seems impersonal to many people but to my son it was a big deal to get cumulatively a large sum and be able to donate to charity and have a savings account. For him the gifts that tried to be meaningful, a book for example, weren't to him but most people gave money anyway. My daughter hasn't had her bat mitzvah yet so she may feel differently and I bet she will get jewelry and things like that. I have mostly given money in varying amounts, but on occasion given a book that I knew would really be something the kid would like (not something I thought they should like). So depending on your nephew you could do one of those. I would give an amount that feels meaningful to you. Your family knows your financial situation and should not be comparing your gifts to anyone else's.

As for the bigger gift question my family stopped giving birthday and holiday gifts when the kids got into their teens. It just became an exchange of gift cards and didn't feel very meaningful. That said we still give gifts for major events like bar/bat mitzvah and high school graduations. I would have a separate conversation about gifts in general at some point but I wouldn't link it with this once in a lifetime event. Or if the gifts must continue you could become the relatives that always give books, or homemade things (one of my sisters did that for many years), or some other modestly priced but thoughtful items for birthdays and Christmas.

Most of all I advise you find a way to give that makes you feel generous and loving rather than resentful. anon

It does sound frustrating to be the ''poor relative'' in a situation like this. My advice would be: don't try to keep up with this side of the family. And flying out to Jersey is not just about money -- it's about precious time as well, which is a big gift in itself. Your presence, even though the trip costs are covered, is a very large present. The boy is going to be overwhelmed with money and gifts, so if you offer something more in line with your own resources and values, it would only be a very small-minded person who would find fault.

My recommendation would be something that is not a thing. I love Kiva, an organization that offers small loans to people around the world who can use the loan to great effect ( You give a gift certificate of $25 or $50, and the recipient of your gift goes on to find people on the website with projects he wants to support. The loan recipient pays the money back, and then the gift can be used to help someone else -- again and again. A thirteen-year-old may be just the right age to be curious about Kiva. Heifer International is also fun (he will select an animal -- or bees! to give to people in need), but it's a one-shot deal. Either of these gifts could be offered with a card in which you write about the Jewish value of Tzedekah; ''Maimonides says that, while the second highest form of tzedakah is to give donations anonymously to unknown recipients, the highest form is to give a gift, loan, or partnership that will result in the recipient supporting himself instead of living upon others'' (ripped from Wikipedia). As for Christmas and birthdays, I would have a word with brother while in Jersey, and say, ''you know we adore the boys, but we are strapped for cash, so we hope that smaller tokens will not be taken amiss.'' Hopefully your brother and his wife are raising their kids not to be overly avaricious. Things that are not things, like tickets of admission to the Natural History Museum in Manhattan or a local amusement park or a laser-tag or paint-gun place (something they could do together) might be fun. Go and enjoy! another poor aunt

Money, in denominations of 18, is the traditional gift on the east coast. However, I'd strongly advise you not to give a gift at all if you cannot afford it or think they have enough. Our daughter's Bat Mitzvah was three years ago and quite a few people didn't give gifts. Gifts are optional and we were just thrilled that so many people were able to come (locals and non locals) or expressed their happiness at her milestone. Enjoy! Leslie M

A great& not expensive Bar-Mitzvah/Xmas/bday present is always a good book! For bar-mitzvah one with a Jewish subject,there are so many. I recommend 'The Periodic Table' by Primo Levi (it's in paperback). Write a heartfelt note inside it and it's a present they'll keep and appreciate....maybe not right away, but eventually! Michelle

It can be challenging when celebration dates are clustered so close together. There is economic disparity among our family too, but no lack of love among us all regardless of the financial circumstances. Gifts need not always be expensive or material. Check to see what theaters are in your nephew's area. Perhaps movie ticket vouchers that you can buy from Costco at a discount (about $16 for 2). I've given those to my nephews when they were teens and they enjoyed going out with friends to a movie. Perhaps something you make or bake, like a crocheted or knitted cap because they live in the East where it gets cold in winter, or a big batch of brownies or cookies that he especially likes? Teens also like going to Starbucks, which I've given to my nieces and nephews. If he has an iPod or iPhone or iPad, you can give a gift certificate to iTunes for $10. We need not all live or earn alike, however, we can love alike! I hope these suggestions help and hope you can release your resentment so you can enjoy the gift your parents gave you and the gift of time with family. Grateful for all that is

I would give a new $100 bill for the Bar Mitzvah gift. I would also talk to my brother and agree not to give each other kids' gifts for X-mas, Hannukah, or birthdays. Bar mitzvahs are special, involve a lot of work and preparation, and represent a big milestone in a child's life. Nice gifts are warranted. But the rest of it is just silly if you can't afford it. Practical

Here's an idea that immediately came to mind: the Jewish National Fund offers planting a tree in Israel in honor of someone. I think it's a wonderful gift for someone who has it all. It makes Israel greener and helps the environment. The recipient receives a personalized certificate. And it's very affordable.

Another option is to go to the Jewish museum store downtown San Francisco and find something there.

These gifts will be symbolic of the event you're attending.

Maybe you could bring a camera to the event and take pictures and make a nice calendar or photobook for your nephew's birthday in Jan... Anon

I had this same question 2 months ago. My sister converted, so I didn't know what to expect from my nephew's Bar Mitzvah. When I was a kid, I heard a lot about how much cash kids had received for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, so I was a little intimidated regarding the expectations. In the end, I decided to give an amount that would cause me no remorse if spent on building a jetpack prototype or building his own electric car (his current fantasies) rather than college savings. For me, that was $100. I helped my nephew record his gifts for thank yous, so I got to see all the gifts -- cash was generally $50-$75 from friends, and $100-$200 from family. What struck me most was how with opening each card, my nephew would comment on that person's presence at his Bar Mitzvah and how much it meant to him, and anything special they did for him preparing. It was a 3 hour service, so many with mobility issues or small kids came 1 hour in. He was so appreciative of those who came to the whole thing. No criticism of those who couldn't even make it, but it was clear that he truly appreciated the full room and supportive smiles. My point? Your presence means the most. Be sure to tell your nephew how proud and impressed you are with him. and, in regards to x-mas and b-day gifts, keep it small and sweet -- the newest book from a series they like, graphic novel, something they collect (the tweeny boys in my life collect baseball cards, cacti, rocks, coins)or a gaggy silly gift from sweet dreams or powells. Enjoy the bar mitzvah! proud aunt

I think it is quite understandable to feel resentful when there is a large expectation from family. But the focus should be on family harmony if possible. For the bar mitzvah present I suggest you get a 'thing' so that there's no amount as there would be on a gift of cash or a savings bond. Go to a Judaica store, like Afikomen and ask for help to get a modest gift for a bar mitzvah. You could get him a star of David necklace, they have manly one (a guy I know just got one there). Or perhaps a kippah or tallis bag or a book. Books are always good and if he has a particular genre he loves -- get that.

As for all the other expected gifts, a few ideas -- for both kids for Christmas how about a board game? There's a clever domino game called Mexican Train that makes noises - boy friendly. I see it for $18 online.

Since both boys have birthdays in January you could again give them a combo present or give them each a book -- not terribly expensive and much better for the brain than video games. Or you could bake 3 different kinds of cookies and send a treats box. Everyone I've sent such a box to loves it.

Whatever you send include a note that expresses how much you love them. Love goes a long way. Dawn K

bar mitzvah gift ideas: a book on a jewish person. pen set. some sort of jewish themed jewelry (star of david necklace). money is traditional (in increments of 18 - signifies good luck), but you could instead make a small contribution to a charity in which the bar mitzvah might be interested. you don't have to say how much you contributed, but just that a contribution in his name was made. understand

There is a Jewish web site that offers gifts of all kinds, most of them meaningful, all different prices. Check them out, contact them and tell them how much you can afford. It is called I've gotten many gifts from there and they were very much appreciated (and very different) They gift wrap and ship also. And they donate a percentage, forgot how much to a charity of your choice. good luck

If you know something of your nephew's tastes, get him an attractive journal (or scrapbook) that will allow him to document some of the non-digital aspects of this time in his life. You could fill a couple of the pages with personal notes/photos/items from you. His kids will be happy to see it one day.... Good luck! Eric

Certain events can be very indulgent times. I am Jewish and am aware that Bar Mitzvahs can be such. I am not one to do what is expected. I look at the big picture and decide what is right for me, or my family, and what seems appropriate for the recipient. In acknowledging the meaning of this event, I might make a list of volunteer activities to contribute to the benefit of someone else. Examples would be 1)tutoring a student, 2)vacuuming your home, 3)helping at a food bank, 4)preparing breakfast for your family and 5)weeding a garden. There are many other possibilities. An accompanying card can explain your way of celebrating his/her achievement. For me and my family this has served as a way of letting the person know our values and that there are gifts that do not always cost money. Natalie G

Bar Mitzvah Gift for nephew who has everything

May 2010

Our nephew, to whom we're not particularly close, is having his Bar Mitzvah this summer. We'll be traveling back East to attend. His parents fall into the 'Keeping Up With the Joneses' category, so our nephew wants for nothing. So, what to get him? I've checked the archives for gift ideas (Shofar, money and Kiddush Cups were suggested) but am looking for others and would love to hear from recently Bar Mitzvah'd boys and their parents. I would like to go the savings bond and/or charitable contribution route. My husband would prefer to get him something that is more fun. So, what were the most interesting/fun/special gifts your son received? Thanks for your help!

Last year, for all my tween- and teenaged nieces and nephews, I gave Kiva International gift certificates. This is a microlending non-profit where the kid can take the money from the certificate and choose an individual to lend it to (from a list of people and groups with small businesses all over the world), can then follow the progress of the repayment of the loan, and use the repaid funds to make another loan. It's way better than giving to charity in their name, which can be kind of abstract, especially for a kid--because they are involved and it's very hands-on. They were all really intrigued, and it was a gift aligned with my social values and a way to to get them involved in the larger community. worked for me

I wanted to respond with some personal experience that also speaks to your husband's thoughts about bonds. If the child gets everything he wants than it seems whatever you would buy him likely would be no big thing in the scheme of an already indulged life. On the other hand, while bonds may seem like no fun when you're 13, I am a 38 year old woman who has, in the last 5 years been cashing in a Bat Mitzvah bond here and there to go on spa trips with my friends, get massages, eat at extremely extravagant restaurants occasionally that my current budget and income do not cover and upgrade an occasional trip to a better class of hotel, car or flight. So to me, I think bonds are a hell of a fun gift...25 years later when it counts! Future author of ''How I parlayed my Bat Mitzvah bonds into spa trips around the world''

To my way of thinking, a bar mitzvah is a joyful but serious event and the gift should reflect that. I think your savings bond idea is excellent. anon.

I would suggest a gift certificate to a store that is meaningful to him. Find out from his parents where he would like to have a shopping opportunity and then call that store. Maybe he's into guitars or comics or whatever. That way the gift has a personal meaning but also gives him flexibility to get what he wants or to put several gifts together to buy something bigger. You could also put half the money into a gift certificate/present and half into a savings bond type thing.

I would warn against buying a present that is suggested by someone who doesn't know this kid. Kids (especially ones with well-off family friends) tend to get so many off-base expensive gifts, or ones they can't really appreciate, that they are just overwhelmed or numb to the whole thing. If you want the gift to mean something to him, then I suggest you either get him a gift tailored to his interests, or get a savings bond type of thing that is clearly for later. L

You might consider giving a $ gift starting a car-of-his-own fund. It would solve the ''fun gift'' and an acknowledgment of his more adult status. amma

Money. Especially since he wants for nothing. That is the one thing you can be sure he'll actually like. Please don't get him a shofar unless you want to be the object of jokes (behind your back) forever. Or anything else that will soon become clutter/junk. anon

I've been giving trees for teh NRDC ''Revive a Rainforest'' campaign for gifts recently. Maybe not substantial enough?

I also read this interesting piece on philanthropy. A foundation gave $1500/participant to a group that trained ''underserved / at risk'' youth in 'how to evaluate and give to charities'. It was a NYC program that met regularly for many months and evaluated various local charities. The At Risk youths were able to see all of the other people out there in greater need than themselves. At the end of the program, the youths were able to direct the giving within the range of eligible charities. Maybe this could be adapted - your nephew could do research and decide where a chunk of money was donated? Would be nice to have a structured way to do that... unimpressed with teh trappings of success

Sentimental gift for very indulged nephew

May 2005

My nephew will be Bar Mitzvah in June in New York. I would like ideas for a sentimental/special/unusual gift that he will cherish. He is very indulged and the idea of just giving him another gift (he will get many) is not appealing to me. When his sister was Bat Mitzvah I gave her a Teddy Bear made of fur from her great grandmother's fur coat. It was a hit with everyone (parents, grandparents, and her). I have no similar gift ideas now for her brother. I noticed some previous suggestions for a shofar. He already has one. Any suggestions? aunt

Sometimes a donation in the child's name is very much appreciated by the bar mitzvah kid, esp. if you accompany the donation with specifics of what the organization does. This is an especially meaningful gift for the child who ''has everything.'' And there are some wonderful charities out there related to Israel and other non-Israeli causes. You can google all sorts of charities.

How about naming a star after him, or sending him a gift cert. and having him pick a star (you can choose the constellation) and name it whatever he wants? You can Google the Nat'l Star Registry. anon

I have 2 nephews whose bar mitzvahs were 10 years apart. I gave each of them a pair of tickets to see the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. For the younger boy, their father (my brother) ended up buying another pair and taking his older son and a friend along. I found out what teams they were interested in seeing and I bought tickets (most recently online) from whatever the most likely source was at the time. It's a lot easier to do that now than it was 10 years ago. In my case, I didn't think the boys would want more Jewish paraphernalia than they were going to get from other people, and I wanted to give something more personal than a check. Robbie

I reread the past postings and thought a yad would be good for an aunt to give, but you have to do it in advance so he can read the Torah with it during the Bar Mitzvah. The other thing that would be special and unusual would be a havdalah set. The following isn't special, but another thing I like to give is a Jewish cookbook - American or international. Dana Lear

As the mother of a recent Bar Mitzvah I have to tell you that my son's most favorite gifts were money or gift cards. I know they are impersonal, but it's what he loved. He bought his own computer with some of the money, bought electronic games, music, etc. with some and put some away in a college acct. No one gave him any ''items'' that he absolutely loved. Some really nice books. What I found most dear were the messages people wrote to him in cards. This may not be helpful, but it's my 2 cents. anon

I'm not sure how much you want to spend, but what about giving him a trip to come visit you for a long weekend and do some fun things he enjoys that are special to California. My grandmother gave me a trip to visit in her NYC for my Bat Mitzvah and we went to several Broadway shows. It was my first trip by myself and I felt very grown-up (which is part of what the Bar Mitzvah is all about). Good luck and Mazel Tov! Miranda

Need to buy two Bat Mitzvah gifts in $20-$50 range

Oct 2004

We have 2 Bat Mitzvahs to attend in the near future, one here in Berkeley and the other on the east coast. Does anyone have any ideas for what would be a nice gift? What do 12 year old girls want these days? What says, ''Congratulations on this step to becoming a grown up!''? For both we were thinking of something in the $20-$50 range. Thanks! --not as in touch with the teens these days

My son got lots of gift cards for his Bar Mitzvah which he loved. He also got checks for various amounts of money. Unless you're really close to this girl and know what she likes I'd suggest a gift card or money and she can buy something she really wants. My son's gift cards came mostly from Barnes and Noble, Game Stop (video game store in EC), Tower Records, and a few other stores...HOpe this helps... June

I think the best Bat Mitzvah gifts are the ones that can be appreciated over time. I like to give jewelry. If you can go in with someone to get a silver necklace from Tiffany (approx $100), that would be great. Or, if you want to stay in your price range of $20-$50, I would check out the jewelry at Afikomen, your local jewelry store or even Macy's. I still have some of the jewelry I received from my Bat Mitzvah which was 23 years ago. Good luck! Nancy

Gift Certificates!! That way, since they are 'adults' now, they can CHOOSE the gifts they want. My suggestion: Places like Best Buy and Tower Records where they have video games and music, CD players and walkmans, etc. You'll guiding them to a place where they can pick and choose from a selection of things they probably already want. Making the selection process easier for you. Then all you need to do is buy a card! Have fun! tinygirl

I gave my cousin two nice reference books. One was an Oxford dictionary of American English and the other was JPS's new Jewish Study Bible. I personally researched these choices so I know they're good quality. Both were published within the last year, so I was pretty sure she didn't have either already (and she didn't). Sure, she probably won't use either for a few years, but they're nice to have around and a good book lasts forever.

Check out this beautiful web site that has Jewish related gifts and a whole section on Bat/Bar Mitzvah ideas. Also, when you buy something the owner of the web site donates 10% to the charity of your choice. You could also get a gift certificate there. bb

Special Bat Mitzvah Gift for my niece

Sept 2003

I am very close to my niece who is having her Bat Mitzvah at the end of the month. I want to get her something really special. She is a very lovely talented young girl, smart, artistic, loves shopping, girlfriends etc etc. I don't want to just give her money but for the life of me can't come up with something that would be special and indicative of our closeness. I'm looking for ideas and suggestions of what others have done. Thank you! Stumped

I would suggest a shofar. I bought one for a special Bar Mitzvah gift and it was so well received. Afikoman has a wide variety of shofars of different sizes & prices. You can try them out and see which one is easier to blow and has a nice sound. I was told it was the most special gift he received. Good luck. Alice

I gave my favorite niece a very nice necklace purchased from Afikomen - on Claremont in Berkeley. There is a great selection of different gifts; it's better than even just a couple of years ago. I think you'll find something that you like for your niece. --batya

Time and your company are always the best gift, especially if you are as close as you say. Perhaps you could take her for a weekend ''just girls'' trip? Unless she considers you to be ancient (smile), I bet she'd really enjoy an overnight adventure with a creative-who-is-not-mom-or-dad. Take her to a spa for a weekend, or to another city (LA?) for a cultural adventure. Obviously it won't be an ''adult'' trip, but for a thirteen year old it'll feel like one, and that transition into adulthood is a big part of what the bat mitzvah is about. At 13, having adults who treat you like a peer (ok, not quite, but close) is *really* exciting; after all, she's probably tired of people making comments about ''how much [she's] grown'' and the like. Eric

I have given several girls a ''Miriam's Cup'' that I selected at Afikomen. Gail

What about a special piece of jewelry? I gave my sister-in- law a pair or silver earrings from Tiffany & Co. for her graduation, and a matching necklace a few years later for her sweet 16. She still wears them. I think jewelry is a very personal gift, and there is just something about that little blue box. Good luck! JF

What about a kiddush cup? That's what we gave to our two nieces and I hope they think they are special and will continue to use them for many years. Or perhaps some other ritual object, such as a spice box, a yad (pointer) that could be used to read the Torah during the service, candlesticks, or a mezuzah. Or special jewelry. My daughters both received earrings from Tiffany's from an aunt and uncle. Money is nice, but it quickly gets put in the bank and somewhat forgotten, at least in our case. Judy

Would it be possible to take your niece on a special vacation just the two of you? Is there a place she'd love to go to that the two of you could go for a week, or if it's closer, for a long weekend? I bring this up because my son, who will become a Bar Mitzvah next year wants his uncle to take him to Japan (not sure yet if that will happen, but it's what he's asked for). It'll be a gift your niece will remember forever, as opposed to something that you could buy to give her that may be outgrown or forgotten over time. Enjoy anon

For special Bat Mitzvah gifts, I've given silver necklaces (the ones with the charm on it - like a floating heart or the bean shape) from Tiffany's. A box from Tiffany's always seems special (no matter how old you are) and the necklaces are good for any age. She'll have it forever. Cost is about $85. Happy shopping! anon

If you are very close to your niece, why not buy her a special time together? You could spend a special luxury weekend together in San Francisco, go shopping, enjoy each others' company, go to museums, etc. This could be a treat for both of you. You could also give her some money to spend, but the major part of the gift would be time spent together. You could provide her with a memory that will last a long time. You're A Nice Auntie!

Bat Mitzvah Gift for someone we don't know

Feb 2003

Can anyone suggest an appropriate Bat Mitzvah gift for the daughter of someone you know professionally? We're unable to attend the Bat Mitzvah and we've never met the daughter, but very much like the father, and though the relationship with him is based on professional circumstances, feel like he was reaching out in a personal way by inviting us. If the answer (as we suspect) is that a check is best, can you suggest a ball park figure? We're really in the dark on this one.

For a bar mitzvah gift or bris or any other life cycle event, it is often appropriate to give either $18 or $36. In jewish numerology (called gematria), the number 18 represents the hebrew word ''chai'' which means life. 36 is double chai. Both are appreciated, and show that you know a little bit about jewish culture. Only you can know whether those amounts are too low in your situation. Like any other monetary gift, $50 or $100 is always appreciated. Batya

I usually give a book -- if you're jewish, a book of Jewish literature or poetry by women , or a book on the holidays. If you're not Jewish a general anthology of literature by women -- after all the bat mitzvah celebrates the girl joining the community of adults and she deserves a gift that honors her intellect. Carol

For someone you don't know well personally, you could give:
- a check, multiple of $18, the number for ''life''
- a gift certificate to Afikomen Judaica shop, again multiple of $18. You can buy by phone and they'll send it to her or you.
- a book about Jewish women, e.g., see or http://www.jew-
- a donation or membership in her name to something important to you or her. Does she love small children, animals, care about music? I usually give to Doctors without Borders, UNICEF, Oxfam. I think this kind of gift is the most meaningful for your situation. Dana

I'm curious to see what everyone else says, but the amount I've given for the past 5 years is $50. I do a gift certificate (Barnes and Nobles/Borders) or a US Bond. gifter

Yes, a check is what I would recommend, especially since you don't know the girl. Traditionally people give in increments of (i.e., $18, $36) because the word ''life'' in Hebrew has a numerical equivalent of 18. There is no right answer here, but just for example, if I don't attend the bat mitzvah and I don't know the girl that well, I give $18. I suggest you give something similarly modest because you don't want your friend to feel awkward that you felt a big obligation. Helena

My son had his Bar Mitzvah last year and got lots of gift certificates to Borders and Tower Records and numerous checks in varying amounts ranging from $25 to $100. One thing you might do if you want to give a check, is to write it for $36.00 which symbolizes a double chai (life) and would have personal meaning to the Bat Mitzvah girl. Hope this helps. Jamie

For checks, amounts in multiples of 18 are nice, since 18 is the numerical equivalent of ''chai'' or life in hebrew. Other gifts could be monogrammed stationery. Someone gave me a very nice dictionary and it is my household dictionary to this day. I would simply think of the bat mitzvah as a very special birthday. Jasper Johns did a painting of a pen once and titled in w/ something to do w/ a bar mitzvah. That must have been the gift 'du jour' in the 1950s. Jessica

Money is always an appropriate Bat Mitzvah gift, and traditionally is given in multiples of $18. $18 or $36 checks are common gifts. In addition to cash, gift certificates to stores (Borders, Cody's, Barnes and Noble, Amsterdam Art) were among my daughters' favorites. My daughter, who recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah, also received a gift card that was like a credit card. It was issued by Bank of America, I think, and could be used anywhere a Visa-type card was accepted. She really liked it because it could be used at her discretion, and didn't require her to go to a specific store to purchase something. Judy

I think the amount you spend once you've said you like the parents is determined by the profession you and the parents are in and therefore your income. If you're both attorneys or physicians I'd think $75-125 in the form of a check or a silver piece of jewelry from Tiffany (very popular w/ 13 yr old girls in SF!) If you're both teachers or something similar, I'd say $25 ro $40 would be fine!!! anon

As for a bat mitzvah gift, if you are giving money, you give in multiples of $18. The number 18 represents Chai, which means Life. So any multiple of $18 will do as a gift. Lori

I think if you are not going to the Bat Mitzvah and you do not know the girl at all, a check is best and using a multiple of 18 (i.e., $36,$54 or $72, whichever seems appropriate) is a nice way to give the money. The number 18 is the numerology for the Hebrew word ''Chai'' meaning ''life.'' I would package it in a flat gift box with a bow and card on top. You could also include in the box a beautiful, but not expensive, pen (in the spirit of the ''fountain pen'' - which is another traditional Bar/Bat Mitzvah gift.) noyce

''Chai'' or luck is 18. Hence, a check in multiples of $18 ($18 is just fine for someone you don't know well; if you're well-off, you can multiply). anon

Your best bet is to go to Afikomen, a store filled with Judaica and right now saving the perfect gift for the bat mitzvah girl. They are helpful, learned, sweet and have had the same question posed to them a thousand times. They know what to do. Personally, I shy away from checks. But that's just my own inclination. Last time a similar situation arose, we went to Afikomen and got a collection of stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and a CD of Sephardic music for the girl. Something a bit serious, and something to celebrate her arrival as an adult. But there is so much there to choose from. You should have no trouble finding something. Afikomen is on Claremont Blvd where The Uplands dead ends into it, a few blocks from the Claremont Hotel. Phone number: 204-1880 Good luck (mazel tov) Tobie

Charitable donation in lieu of gift for Bar Mitzvah 

Oct 2001

This year my 12 year old daughter will be attending numerous Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. In lieu of a gift for each of the kids, my husband and I would like to make a donation to a charity in their name. Does anyone have a suggestion of a worthwhile (preferably Jewish) charity or charities that we should consider, perhaps one with an emphasis on helping children less fortunate than themselves? I would appreciate any ideas! Thanks.

I have attended many Bat/Bar Mitzvahs over the past few years and I know that each Bat/Bar Mitzvah donates a portion of what they receive to a charitable organization of their choosing. (At least the 8 or so that I have known have done so which makes me assume that it is standard practice). I think it is nice for the child to have the option to choose and suggest that you give the child the money along with a note that you hope your gift is donated to the charity of their choice.

If you want to give contributions in honor of the bar/batmitzvah, consider

Beth El Homeless Meal Fund - feeding homeless in Berkeley:

If you call the Beth El office, they can probably give you the additional names & contacts: 848-3988 Merry

Suggestion for Jewish Charity. Women's ORT funds vocational training all over the world using techniques developed to resettle people in Israel. It especially works in much less developed countries such as in Africa and South America. Also I believe that they still fund projects in Israel for Ethiopians and Yemenites and people from other non-industrialized cultures. They train people in useful professions such as medical technicians or in computer skills. There are local groups here that meet to raise money and support these projects. Peggy

I recommend the Jewish Fund for Justice (, a group dedicated to combating poverty by building sustainable self-sufficency. They do small, effective grants and good work, and have a long solid track record. Well worth looking into. Wendy

Our daughter took a portion of the gift money that she received and donated it to Mazon, a Jewish (but not discriminatory) charity dealing with hunger. She also donated another portion to the American Foundation to AIDS Research. We all felt good that she made these choices. Making similar choices as Bat and Bar Mitzvah gifts is a lovely idea I think.

My suggestion is a very personal one. My 11 year old son passed away in May from a rare Jewish genetic disease. I am very active in fundraising to support research toward treatment and cure of the disease, known as Familial Dysautonomia. If you are looking to make a donation for a Jewish cause involving children, I can think of none more critical. The organization that is fundraising for this purpose is known as FD Hope. Their website is at

We are grateful for funding which will help us to save lives. Michael Rancer

The Jewish Family and Children Services the East Bay do a lot of programs for kids. They accept money as well as school supplies and books. I was at a dinner of Bnai Brith and all the centerpieces were kids' supplies headed for JFCS of the East Bay. Their phone number is (510) 704-7475 and they are located at 2484 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley. They have an office in Walnut Creek too. Dawn

Ethiopian Jews are in desperate need for assistance both in Israel and in Africa. There is an organization in New York which arranges for Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts for such children, as well as assistance in the form of food, etc. Kcubratsej

It is a wonderful to encourage and facilitate charitable giving on the part of our children. The B'nai Mitzvah is an important spiritual passage that has been quite often reduced in our culture to a bonanza of gift giving and party-throwing. While those celebrations absolutely have their place, I applaud you for adding to the meaning by acts of "tzedakah" (Hebrew for justice, often translated into "charity.") So, a few quick ideas:
1. Mazon - the Jewish response to hunger - for more information:
2. Parent's Place - a wonderful support service run by Jewish and Family and Children's Service in San Francisco, which supports Dream House, a shelter for (primarily) mother's and children escaping domestic violence. JFCS in San Francisco 415 567-8860.
3. Jewish Literacy Project - This project is a Jewish community response to supporting kids in public elementary schools, primarily in the Richmond-Oakland corridor, with reading support. Based at the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay 510 839-2900, ext 272, ask for Allison.
4. American Jewish World Service - a wonderful organization, similar to the Peace Corp, helping folks in Third World counties develop self-sufficiency.

I could go on and on - please feel free to contact me for additional suggestions. I can be reached at the following: Deborah Louria, Jewish Community Relations Council, 510 839-2900, ext. 211 I've been working in the Jewish community for many years and would be happy to share some additional ideas and contacts. Deborah

I have two suggestions:

The first is used frequently at our synagogue. The B'nai Mitzvah class establishes a charitable fund, the students vote on where the collected funds will go, and over the year as each student celebrates, well-wishers can make contributions to the fund.

Second, why not find out from the family if there are specific funds the student is interested in. Our family has participated in the Rebuilding Together (formerly Christmas in April) projects, and both our children asked that contributions be made to similar projects. PJ

To the parent looking for organizations for Bat/Bar Mitzvah donations. I got a catalog in the mail from an organization called Heifer International where you buy an animal, for example, a goat or a share of a goat and that goat goes to a family somewhere on the other side of the world where they raise it for the milk. The family then gives an offspring to another family in the village and that family gives a female offspring to another family and so on. I don't know anything about them other than what I've read, but my family is going to donate a share in a "knitting basket"- 2 sheep and two llamas. It is my understanding that with the gift comes training on care and feeding of the animals. Jamie

Mazon is an organization that deals with providing food for the hungry via grants to programs that feed or to food banks. the berkeley/richmond jewish community center provides hot lunches and other services for the elder adults in the community. there is also a preschool and afterschool program. some of the families need scholarships. Jewish Family and children's services provide a wealth of services to jewish families like counseling, domestic violence counsel, children w/ special needs parent groups, relocation assist for emigres... congregation beth el does a homeless meal once a month tehiyah day school provides scholarships for day school education. Michelle

Gift Suggestions for my niece's Bat Mitzvah


My 12-year-old niece is preparing for her bat mitzvah and I need some suggestions for a gift ...

My 12 year old daughter who is also preparing for her bat mitzvah offers the following suggestions for your niece: cash, clothes, computer games (she was playing one when I asked), or jewelery. She thought the idea of a CD encyclopedia was especially bad and agreed with your husband's assessment of the SF trip. I'd also suggest asking the girl's parents for some suggestions. Pamela

As the parent of a daughter who became Bat Mitzvah two years ago and a son whose Bar Mitzvah was last month (and, of course, the corollary: someone who has given many presents for these occasions), I have some thoughts that might help.

The cash presents are forgetable for the kids, impersonal, although they seem excited by the idea at the time. Some of the books the kids got seemed very meaningful, not when they opened them up, but later. (Although my son spent the day after his Bar Mitzvah reading a book about basketball.) My daughter loves a serious watch one of my brothers gave her, although she never uses it. (She's saving it, she says. But I think it must seem adult to her in a way that made sense for a Bat Mitzvah.) Someone gave her a beautifully crafted box in which she keeps all the cards, her speech, etc. from the Bat Mitzvah. I think that my son's all time favorite gift was a shofar! He spent two solid days driving us crazy (but it was also charming) blowing it in preparation for next year's

My daughter also likes arts. Someone gave her a lovely bookbinding kit which she loved; and she has gone on to make a number of handbound books.

I try to give kids something that they will have after they're done being 13. I am well past 13 and I still have a few things I received for my Bat Mitzvah in 1964, some jewelry, a couple of books.

From their peers, the kids get (and give) earrings (kid taste and budget), gift certificates to book and record stores, sports stuff, games, cash. I think that the whole present thing around this event is very complicated and can get pretty charged. Good luck!


The newsgroup soc.culture. jewish.parenting had a thread on bar/bat mitzvah gift ideas a long time ago. You could probably look it up in dejanews ( There's also been discussion there of ideas on having the child donate part of the proceeds to charity. Sophie