Cost of Bar & Bat Mitzvahs

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Bat Mitzvah Tax Deductions?

Sept 2007

My daughter recently had a Bat Mitzvah and I am wondering if any of the expenses including the food following the service--open to the entire congregation is tax deductible? Are any of the religious items purchased tax deductible? Advice please. Thank you. Bat Mitzvah Mom

I'm not a tax advisor but I'm fairly sure you can't deduct the items you mentioned. It may be possible to get the synagogue to give you a letter thanking you for your donation of ''lunch'' for xxx number people valued at $xxx, but I suspect they are wary of doing that. I used to take the cost of Hebrew school off my taxes as a childcare expense since I would have been paying for some other activity if my child wasn't in religious school. No one ever questioned it but then again I have no idea of its legality. been there

You know, I really don't think so. anon

Reeling from the cost of a Bar Mitzvah!

Oct 2006

I am beginning to plan our son's bar mitzvah and am reeling from the costs of renting a place for dinner, catering, etc. It seems as though it will cost $15,000. easily and probably more, even though it won't be fancy. (This includes the service, rabbi, etc). I waver between thinking this is ridiculous and we should do it as simply as possible, on the one hand, and, on the other, feeling that this is our only child and why not make it as wonderful a day as possible. I'd really like to hear from those who have been through it, who have the wisdom of hindsight. thanks! Barfuddled

Hi - well, I certainly sympathize because there is a lot of pressure to have a big expensive party (although one simple way to hold down the cost is to do a lunch instead of dinner). This whole process can be a great opportunity to find out what your son enjoys and then build an event around it. My son really loves baseball so he had a bbq in a park and we played baseball and other sports. Unless of course your son is feeling a lot of peer pressure and then that, of course, is a different issue. You may find his idea of a wonderful day is much simpler and lower-key than you anticipate anon

I am a member at Beth El Synagogue in Berkeley and asked some friends about their Bnai Mitvah experiences to respond to your post. There was a suggestion in your request that you don\x92t belong to a synagogue and will have to find someplace to hold the ceremony, pay a rabbi and hold a party. If that is the case, you should consider joining a synagogue; for the price of membership (plus additional bar mitzvah fees, $700 at Beth El) you get the rabbi, the cantor, the sanctuary and all the other benefits of membership.

Here is one person\x92s experience: We had a luncheon immediately following the service to which we invited the whole community. Maggie (the Beth El in-house caterer) did the food and it was wonderful. We spent about $5,000 for close to 400 people. We then had an evening party for the kids with pizza and a sundae bar. I think we spent about $300 on food, $800 on the Albany community center and $750 on the DJ. So the total was in the neighborhood of $7,000.

Here are another person\x92s comments: Oh no. This kind of thing really makes me crazy. It is, of course, possible to have a lovely Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration w/out spending $15K. This is just the kind of thing that keeps people from affiliating if they do not feel they are affluent enough. I wish the organized Jewish community was better at communicating that ''as wonderful a day as possible'' is not the same thing as spending a lot of money. (Great, if you have it and you want to do it. But we should be more supportive of people celebrating in other ways.)

I can think of lots of way to do this. You can xerox-copy the invitations, have great food (simplify the menu, have your friends help, buy from Costco), live music (students), an inexpensive venue (synagogue, park, schools).

Here are comments from another member: What do you want to achieve? Welcoming your 13 year old child into the adult Jewish Community doesn't really cost anything but time, care, love and community. Everything else is ... profit. I heard a commentary on NPR last year. It was on ''Marketplace.'' The commentator and his wife had opted out of the bar mitzvah arms race and that is what I'd recommend Barfuddled do. A Bnai Mitzvah is not about what you eat or about the band or party favors. Frankly it is not even about the event. It is about holding a child in community as s/he goes through the transformation from child to adult. It is about giving that child the ritual tools to help them in community and in worship, and equipping them with the ethical framework to guide their actions in the world. It is about valuing that child's intellect, ideas and intuition. It is about helping that child claim his or her voice.

So gather your friends around. Cook together and freeze. Figure out how you are going to embrace that child and guide them. You may choose to pay $15K, but recognize it as a choice that is not about the child but about the adults. Money doesn't make a b'nai mitzvah.

I hope this helps. And... mazel tov! Ruth

Bar Mitzvah on a Budget

Oct 2006

We have a Bar Mitzvah coming up, and I am stunned at how much people are willing to spend. I need a summer night venue that will hold 125 people (including 50 kids), allow for amplified music and not break the bank. I also would use a caterer but hope to keep the cost way down. Please advise. What are the best deals that folks are willing to share? Can a party planner help economize? I am not a do-it-yourselfer. anon

My daughter will have her Bat Mitzvah in Dec. 06. It is a very big event and I would definitely recommend an experienced party planner to help you navigate through this. It takes the stress somewhat off the parents and allows them to be present for the event that they spend months planning. I am currently working with Diane Meltzer who has her own business called Shindig. Diane is warm,fun and extremely organized and detail oriented. I'm so happy to be working with her! Her number is 510 524 1415. Good luck and Mazel tov! Alison

There was another recent post on the younger kids BPN about this--one parent reserved a park and had pizza and an ice cream sundae bar. It sounded absolutely delightful. My question about Bar and Bat Mitzvah: What is parent's thoughts on including everyone in the religious school class or grade? This special event should be an event of inclusion not exclusion, right? anon Bat Miztvah Mom

I understand your concern. For my son's bar mitzvah, we rented the big room at Northbrae Community Church on the Alameda in Berkeley. It's very reasonable, there's a kitchen for the caterer's to use (we used an Indian restaurant since that's what my son wanted and that turned out to be inexpensive as well). We still had to pay for a DJ (they brought their own sound system) which was the biggest expense. A friend had his bar mitzvah at the Rockefeller Lodge in Richmond, which is also not expensive, but then you have to use them as the caterer (Partytime catering). Another cheap place is the Albany library. There's a large room, access to a kitchen, easy parking, and low cost. Good luck and mazel tov! been there, done that

We did my daughter's Bat Mitzvah for ~ $3,000, having splurged $750 for a good DJ. We did our own invites, etc., on computer (beautiful); had the reception in the Social Hall of the Temple; her dad poached salmons and made quantities of pasta; friends brought their favorite salads; I hired a wonderful photographer who charged hourly and gave us the film to develop (before digitals were so popular); table centerpieces were baskets that guests were asked to fill with canned goods for the homeless. We had about 125 guests and our focus was on the kids. My only requirement was that the music during dinner was my choice. After that, it was all about the kids - music, games, inexpensive/silly prizes, lots of dancing. It was on a Monday evening school night to end at 10 and most were ready to stay on. We had calls for weeks about what a good time was had and my daughter got what she wanted - a meaningful Bat Mitzvah. It's definitely doable! Joan

I really sympathize with your dilemma, because there's a lot of pressure out there. For my oldest child's bat mitavah we used a party planner, but not for the younger one's. My experience with the planner was that she tried to talk us into a more formal and expensive event than we wanted and felt was appropriate, and also overstaffed the event itself. I would try to find a caterer who can do it all - decorations, etc. If you're already planning on a DJ, then that person will keep the party moving, so between the two, you've got it covered. Try for venues. Good luck and try to keep it all in perspective - it's celebrating a religious event for a 13-y-o! anon

The two most reasonably priced venues around Oakland are the Piedmont Veterans hall (cheaper if you have a friend in Piedmont who can reserve it for you at the resident's rate) and the Joaquin Miller Park Rec Center. You can't serve alcohol at any ''teen-oriented'' event held at an Oakland Parks and Rec venue, so right there you can save the money you'd spend on alcohol.

In terms of food, my chief suggestion is to not serve dinner. Make it ''desserts and dancing.'' Or just finger food. There are lots of options around. This is where a planner is helpful, they have lots of suggestions on how to economize -- but, of course, you have to pay the planner. The biggest appeal of a planner to me is to have someone there who can keep the evening moving along, make arrangements with vendors, etc. so you don't have to and you can enjoy the party. But if you have a simple party, you might not need it. The other thing a planner can do is sometimes save you money in ways you don't think about. A friend of mine said her party planner got her a refund of her deposit for her room rental because when she and the crew arrived it was a mess. She called the vendor and complained and got the refund. This all took place without my friend having to think about it at all. Good luck! another bat mitzvah mom