Bar Mitzvah & Bat Mitzvah

Questions & Responses:
Fun place for co-ed bar/bat mitzvah party? (2 responses)
Bar Mitzvah entertainment, photographer(3 responses)
Place for Bat Mitzvah Party(9 responses)
Archived Responses: 

Venues and Party Ideas Advice on Other Pages Gift Ideas
Other Advice

2011 - 2012 Reviews

Bat Mitzvah in Israel

Feb 2012

My twins will have their B'nai Mitzvah in two years. I'd really like to do this in Israel. Is anyone willing to share their experiences? We belong to a synagogue and our elder daughter did the traditional route. But I'd like to do Israel this time because it will be a good opportunity for the five of us to go and see the country together before the eldest leaves for college. Also our parents are still healthy enough to come and with a few years' notice, five or so of our family friends will be able to save for the trip and join us. So how exactly do we do this? We're talking about 30 people. Do we book a tour, encourage our friends and family to do the whole tour and make this one stop? Do we go to Jerusalem a few days early and adjust to the time then make this the first stop on a custom tour? Do we find a restaurant to host all for lunch or dinner after the ceremony? If so, how? Many thanks for any words of wisdom you may have for us. Berkeley MOT

To the person seeking to hold their daughters' B'nai Mitzvah in Israel in a couple years, I would like to highly recommend you contact Joel Abramson. He is a Bay Area native who now lives in Israel (made Aliyah several years ago with his family) and is truly gifted when it comes to putting together all aspects of this important and meaningful ritual. You may have heard of him (he's won numerous awards in ''J'' magazine.) Joel was involved in my daughter's Bat Mitzvah here in the Bay Area, before moving to Israel, and was an invaluable resource. Many guests told us afterwards that it was the best Bat Mitzvah they ever attended! I know he can handle all aspects and questions you raise about planning and carrying out a very wonderful celebration in Israel, because that is what he now specializes in. Not only can he organize great tours, he can even officiate the ceremony, if you like. Best of all, he is a wonderful musician and will make the experience truly moving and magical. (I had the fortune of witnessing him at a wedding in Israel... truly magical!) His business is known as, Joel Abramson Israel Connection-''the Bay Area Connection to Israel.'' His website is Good luck with this exciting event! Naomi

2009 - 2010 Reviews

Where to have kids only party for Bat Mitzvah?

Dec 2010

I'd like to find an indoor location for a mostly kids party after my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I'd like a place where I can use a caterer so I need a kitchen; I need a dance floor and space for dining and I'd love it if the location was interesting or unusual in some way. I wonder if you could suggest someplace in Berkeley, Oakland or Orinda/Lafayette. Thanks in advance.

The UC Botanical Garden is a great place for party. They have an amazingly diverse collection of plants from around the world. It is a very special place. anon

Bat Mitzvah Venue- Inexpensive

June 2010

Our daughter is having an afternoon Bar Mitzvah and we are looking for an inexpensive venue to host a buffet dinner and dance party. We would like to serve the adults beer and wine and the venues at Parks and Rec (Leona, Sequoia Lodge, etc.) do not allow alcohol for youth events. Any ideas greatly appreciated, and advice on how to go low budget in general would also be helpful! saving for college

Mazel tov to you and your daughter. First the obvious question, you can't have the party at your synagogue? If you need transition time just let guests go home (or to their hotel) for a nap and then return.

You could look into the Hillel building on Bancroft in Berkeley. I've been to bat mitzvah parties there. They have a kitchen for the caterer - it's a kosher kitchen so just be aware of that. And they have a great space for dancing.

There is a cafe, Z Cafe, across the street from Temple Sinai in Oakland and I've been to events there. They have a huge space that used to be a car dealership. They may have to provide the food for you to use the space.

Otherwise I would say, ask your DJ or band where they've performed. A lot of the synagogues have someone who will walk you thru all this. Or if you have an independent clergy person, they should also have knowledge of where they've participated in celebrations.

Have a great time! Dawn

Low-key, low-budget bat mitzvah

May 2010

Hi there, Our daughter will have her bat mizvah in August 2011 in Walnut Creek. I am looking for more recent ideas and information on a few things (well, on everything! I've never planned one of these before!) than are currently archived on the BPN website:

  • how to have a low-key bat mitzvah (daughter wants low-key, at least at last check - she is not a social butterfly, but rather a quiet, studious type who loves to read and has a very small circle of friends she likes to hang out with. She does not like to be the center of attention. She doesn't like to dance, either, but I'm assuming she will want a DJ - we'll have to see).
  • how to have a low-budget bat mitzvah that is still special and meaningful and FUN!
  • recommendations of local people to hire for various things (e.g., caterer, DJ, videographer, venue for the party, etc. - don't even know what we need!)
  • how to deal with who gets invited: real meaning of this question is that my husband and I have all sorts of family & friends whom we will want to invite, but daughter may balk as it's ''her party'' (of course, we are paying for it, so...) and we may get some pushback here. Almost all family would be coming in from out of state

    RELATED ISSUE RE: BEING A GUEST AT A BAR/BAT MITZVAH: how to deal with the many bar/bat mitzvah invitations that our daughter will likely get from her classmates in terms of what types of gifts should be gotten for the bar/bat mitzvah that won't break the bank, particularly since we will be paying for our daughter's bat mitzvah
    Thanks! Mom of the bat mitzvah girl

    I may be coming from left field here but: back in the age of the dinosaurs when I attended a bar mitzvah, the ritual at the temple was followed by a nice lunch party at the parents' house. It is a relatively recent development that a bar or bat mitvah has to be as elaborate as a wedding. Since you say your daughter is a low-key type, why not sit down with her and imagine a party that will truly make her happy? True, she may feel pressure to do whatever her friends/classmates are doing--but maybe she would be happy to do something different, if you open up the possibility. Maybe she would enjoy a small party with her best friends and close relatives at a favorite place: at home, or a special restaurant or outdoor venue. Good luck and mazel tov to your daughter!
    Mazel tov! Having been there and done that, I have some thoughts about guests and guest lists: it'll go more smoothly if you don't encourage your daughter's idea that this is ''her party'' -- it is a party to celebrate her wonderful accomplishment and her passage into Jewish adulthood, which is a real milestone for your entire family, and in that spirit your invitees should include your family and friends as well as hers. If I were you, I wouldn't tolerate much balking or push-back from a 12 1/2 year old on this.

    As for classmates' invitations and gifts, you're right to anticipate that this could get out of hand. I strongly urge you and the other families of the bar/bat mitzvahs to discuss this and come to some agreement about upper limits for gifts (or, maybe no gifts at all) for each other. Also, in the synagogue we attended, it was an acknowledged custom that *every* child in the b'nai mitzvah class be invited to each classmate's bar/bat mitzvah ceremony and party. Not everyone attended of course, but this saved many hurt feelings, preserved self esteem, avoided the distraction of kids' wondering who's in/who's not for so- and-so's bar mitzvah, and communicated to the students that they are part of a community bigger than just themself. -- Been there done that

    I'm planning a similar low-key, low-budget Bar Mitzvah in August. Contact me, and we can share ideas. ruth
    After a morning service and synagogue kiddish lunch(catered by Lois Moore), we held a dessert party at our (1100 sq ft) house and in our backyard. The activities were pretty minimal -- silly balls, glow sticks (my daughter's request), and a chocolate fountain. We also did Havdallah which was an amazing bonding experience for the friends and family who shared the evening. Our year, a number of families held the parties at home, which all told has advantages, as even with a small place there are different spaces to hang out in, so the preteens/teens can run around, while the older people can talk to each other. You could think of the party as analogous to a birthday party where for the kids just being together is the fun. We did have the party catered so we could just enjoy our guests, though I know some people who have managed without the caterer. If you hold it at your house, and you have a small house, the main trick is to move as much as you can out of the traffic -- quite a bit can fit into a back bedroom. anon

    Non-traditional Bar Mitzvah?

    March 2010

    My son has been attending Hebrew school, very reluctantly, for the past several years. He is currently in 5th grade and the pressure is building up for the Bar Mitzvah in two years. As we get closer I am starting to feel less comfortable with pushing him to do something that he struggles with so much (he is very clear that he does NOT believe in God, for example), and I am considering other options. I really would like him to have a Bar Mitzvah, but am wondering if there are other ways to do it rather than through a traditional synogogue. We joined the synogogue so that he could go to Hebrew School, but do not participate in the community beyond that -- it just hasn't really jelled for us. I would love to come up with a Bar Mitzvah experience that could be more meaningful (and less expensive!) for both of us. Bar Mitzvah bound

    It sounds like what you and your son might really want is the most traditional bar mitzvah of all - a simple ''aliyah'' (being called to the Torah). That's all the bar mitzvah really is, the first time a child is called to the Torah and admitted into the community of adults. He does not need to prepare a speech or learn to read a portion, which is usually what gets kids nervous, and it doesn't even need to happen at a Saturday service. You also don't need to have an elaborate party if you don't want to make a big deal of it. And in case no one ever told him, a belief in God is not required in order to be an observant Jew or a member of a Jewish community. Sue
    Hi, My son and his friend had their Bar Mitzvot at Hillel with by Sacha Kopin. She is wonderful and made studying Hebrew fun and meaningful. She came to our house for his lessons, and when it was time for the ceremony, he was confident and ready. Without Sacha, I don't think my son or his friend would have been interested in or motivated enough to have their bar mitzvot. You can reach her at sacha [at] Jamie
    There are quite a few options out there for Non - traditional Bar Mitzvahs. First, have you tried Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont? Their program is pretty kid friendly (although not for everyone). Every child must agree to the process, and they mean it.

    If that doesn't work for you, contact Jewish Milestones, they can help you look at all of the options and how to make the whole learning process and event meaningful for you and your son.

    My last suggestion is find a congregation that you also want to participate in. If its just for your son, he'll probably never buy into it.

    I'm pretty networked in here in the east bay and would be happy to a conversation with you. Marcia

    I think there is a lot of pressure to have a Bar MItzvah a particular way when you are part of a religious community - my daughter has one coming up in July - and we have really tried to move away from those expectations and make this about her and our family. The education she is getting I believe is an important foundation from which to make later decisions about whether or not she really wants to participate (and to what degree she wants to participate) - but I think you can create a meaningful event within those confines. I suspect that there are others in your community who feel the same way - it just tends not to be something discussed, and in general I have had to learn to not care about what others think of the way we are conducting this event.

    For us the focus is on the bnei mitzvah - NOT the party - our child is good with that, and we are able to keep it a much more spiritual event because of that. I also think that questioning faith is normal (and is in fact encouraged in judaism) so if you have the right rabbi working with your child this can be a great learning opportunity. Good luck!

    Rabbi Yehuda Ferris is a hip, warm, non-judgmental Rabbi.Great with kids. Also small, warm, services. Maybe it would be a good fit. 510-540-5824. mimi
    I suggest stepping back and looking at this from the wide angle. You say that you joined a synagogue so that he could go to Hebrew school. Why did you want him to go to Hebrew school? Right or wrong, the vast majority of people put their children in Hebrew school in order to have a bar or bat mitzvah. The pressure you are feeling is probably more about the common expectation.

    Why Hebrew school? For a basic childhood Jewish education? So, tell your rabbi that you don't intend to have a bar mitzvah. (According to Jewish law all boys become bar mitzvah, a son of the commandments, at age 13. So your son will be a bar mitzvah whether he is ceremoniously called to read from the Torah or not.) What do you want from the synagogue experience? A community that loves, embraces and supports you? Often with spiritual communities we expect this to happen magically. But just like the PTA, you have to join in to get something out of it. You say that you don't participate in the community, it just hasn't really jelled for you. Maybe you are in the wrong synagogue for you. Or maybe you haven't tried yet. Or you didn't know what to do to make it happen. Or your attempts didn't work. In any of these cases, there are solutions to get you what you want.

    Belief in God is not required to be Jewish or to become bar mitzvah. Judaism is not a faith based religion; we are a belonging based religion. You are a Jew because you are a Jew, not because of any belief system.

    A bar mitzvah is the welcoming into the community of a young person who comes of age as a Jew. Is this the community that you want to join you for this? The joy and sense of belonging should not end with the bar mitzvah.

    Cost: Wow, I can only say that you would get a standing ovation at the Council of Rabbis meetings! YOU DON'T HAVE TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY! That's where community comes in. You define what sort of party you want. Lunch in the synagogue social hall? Sounds good to me! Invite your friends to heat up their ovens.

    A meaningful experience. Studies show that the things that have the greatest impact on us are not things but interpersonal interaction. Forget the decorations or the band, what he will treasure is having people looking at him with love and respect. If you don't want to do this, DON'T. If you just need help, call. 510-845-6420 x11 Dawn

    Unique Bar Mitzvah Party Ideas?

    March 2009

    My oldest son is having his bar mitzvah this Fall. He is not interested in a big wedding reception style party with a DJ and games. We'd still like to have a late afternoon or evening celebration for him that includes kids and adults (probably 120-150 people total) and are trying to come up with a unique venue in the East Bay. We are in Contra Costa, but are fine to come thru the tunnel. It would be nice to have some activity that the kids (most will be from age 10 to just turning 13) will enjoy since he doesn't want a DJ, but they still need something to do. I'm having a hard time thinking of something that can include both kids and adults. Have looked into the Commodore Bay Cruise, but will need to trim down our guest list quite a bit to do that. Any other ideas?? Thanks in advance! Need ideas

    You might try some of the museums that do birthday parties. Like Lawrence Hall of Science or Chabot Space & Science. There would be plenty of room and a wide range of interesting things to look at. Dawn

    2007 - 2008 Reviews

    Fresh ideas for Bar Mitzvah party

    Dec 2007

    Looking for fresh ideas on what type of entertainment to have at a 13 year old's Bar Mitzvah party. About 70 kids are expected (next May). We have a DJ, but having trouble with ideas that will interest 13 year olds. Thanks!

    Mazel Tov! If you are the one looking for ideas, then you have the wrong DJ. A good DJ for kids will offer ideas up that include games and contests with prizes. The DJ should be keeping them on the dance floor for quite a while with the activities and line dances etc. Also, try to develop a theme for the party. It should be focused around what your child is most interested in. My daughter was really into swimming, so we rented out the community pool.

    Its also nice for the adults when the kids are occupied. It may not be quiet, but they will have some time to sit and schmooze. Jenny

    We rented a diner for the night for our son's Bar Mitzvah. It was equipped with a jukebox and a sound system to hook in to. So, we hired our daughter and her friends to be the party coordinators. It was perfect! They were older teens and had their finger on the pulse of that age group. They put together a song list on an iPod that hooked up to the sound system. It was a huge hit. They created games and had great prizes for the winners that were tossed out to the crowd. One of the games was about who knew the most obscure facts about the Bar Mitzvah's life, which can get hysterically funny. They had an arts and crafts table, they had a ''write a note or draw a picture for the Bar Mitzvah person'' table, a poker game was always in play, dancing and ice cream eating contests with their hands behind their backs. There were giant jars of candy, food they loved and they had a wonderful, crazy time. It sounds so ''youngish'' for this age group, but they all had a blast. Hope this helps. had a great time.
    I hired Jeremy Shafer at for a birthday party for a friend. He juggles from a tall unicycle, plays with fire, makes fantastic origami, and knows how to work a crowd. He had everyone laughing, oohing, and ahhing, from toddlers and teens to old farts. Highly recommended. He's pricey but worth it. peonygarden
    To the parent looking for a unique touch to their child's Bar Mitzvah, I highly recommend a Bhangra group/troupe called Dhol Rhythms ( They are a troupe of dancers that perform/teach this wonderful high-energy Punjabi-Indian peasant dancing (Bhangra music has a beat that could challenge any pop music!) They performed and led a workshop at my daughter's Bat Mitzvah and everyone was wild about them (kids and adults alike). Bhangra music and dance is the big rage in England these days and is starting to catch on here. Young, talented Vicki Virk is the founder of the troupe and has done much to promote the artform here in the States. We're lucky to have her right here in the Bay area! They're great for big parties because they are colorful, dynamic and get everyone up dancing (even reluctant boys). The beat is so infectious and the dancing so invigorating and free. Try them! You won't be sorry!! Call Vicki at 510-928-0595 or email her at Vicki at NK
    For both my son and daughter, we created a theme based on their mitzvah project or interest. We saw that we could buy a tree in Israel in the name of our guests, but that didn't quite appeal to my son. He was interested instead in saving the coral reef, so we worked with the Ecosystem Survival group (who understood what we wanted to do -- I believe the director was Jewish). My son ''bought'' some coral reef for preservation in the name of each of the adults attending, and they put together a certificate, ''deed,'' and other info. We used the envelopes as table cards.

    My daughter at first was going to focus on peace between different groups of people, so we had a blast making centerpieces that were tableaux of multiracial children (dolls) in different settings -- art room, birthday party, garage band, Yosemite camping trip, each one different (she made a great minature s'more out of cardboard, brown corduroy and white model magic!) Put together by amateurs, but wowed the guests. Then she picked a global charity and made a contrbution in the name of each guest.

    Finally, we used a DJ who only does dancing (no games), and solicits requests by going to each table. An added benefit was that the parents as well as the kids liked the music, so they were ON the dance floor rather than by the sidelines watching their kids (My daughter preferred elbowing us on the dance floor to having us as an audience for her friends.) Everyone loved him, and 8 people asked me for his phone number for their events. So check with you child about whether he/she wants just dancing or also games. Wendy

    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

    Special music for Son's BarMitzvah Video

    June 2007

    With my son's Bar Mitzvah coming up next year, I'd like to assemble a video montage to show at the party that evening. This video will be about 20 minutes long and set to music, and will use about five songs at four minutes a piece, give or take. The music is a really central and evocative part of the video. Now the question: I need those five perfect songs. These songs need to really express deep love for a son, for his value to his family, for his great worth as a young man and our hopes for him as we send him on his way into adulthood. I'd really appreciate recommendations of songs that tell any part of that story. I know friends have used the song ''Beautiful Boy'' by John Lennon, as an example, and that is certainly a sweet song and might be an option. But I think I'm looking for something more unusual, songs with lots of soul and lots of power (serious, fun, sweet, uplifting...).

    When we put together a video for our daughter, the choices were abundant (Carole King, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Van Morisson - hereby revealing my musical vintage) but it's much harder to find something for a son that is at once masculine but still tender. We're really open to lots of different types of genres, and don't need to be frozen musically in the '70's - '80's. Any special song and/or artist recommendations (and where we might find these tunes) would be greatly appreciated. thanks!!

    I don't know whether it would be appropriate or not, but I cry every time I hear ''Day is Done'' by Peter, Paul and Mary (''tell me why you're crying, my son?'') Debbie
    How about ''The Circle Game'' by Joni Mitchell? I think it's a great, touching, masculine growing up song. You can find the lyrics here: and I am sure itunes would have all of the songs you ultimately decide on. Good luck and congratulations.
    You might try Lauren (Lauryn?)Hill. I know there is at least one song to her son Zion on her ''The Miseducation of...'' album, and there may be more on her later stuff.
    How about ''Solsbury Hill'' by Peter Gabriel? Great song, and just dramatic enough as a backdrop to a montage. anon

    2005 - 2006 Reviews

    Good place in Berkeley for evening Bat Mitzvah

    Oct 2006

    Looking for a recommedation for a good place for Bat Mitzvah evening party around Berkeley. Also for fun ideas, DJ's. Please, share your experience. Thank you. Izabella

    Hi, one of our staff members has this to say about LHS as a site for his son's Bar Mitzvah: I did my son's Bar Mitzvah this past September at Lawrence Hall of Science I work at LHS, so I'm a little biased, but it was a fabulous location for a number of reasons. The special events staff are very helpful and flexible. There are several different large spaces, indoors and outdoors that can be used for different parts of the event. The views are incredible and the indoor spaces are both elegant and fun (among the exhibits). Several guests commented to us how much they loved the location, and that despite it being a science center, it has a beautiful, dignified, even awe inspiring feel to it. The challenge is, it is only available for special events when the museum is closed--after 5pm seven days a week, so it is only practical for an evening event. We used a somewhat untraditional format on a Friday night: we did the kiddush outdoors overlooking the entire Bay Area, came inside to a gallery for the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, then moved into the lobby for dinner--so we did the entire event in one place on a Friday evening, but one could do the ceremony in a synagogue or other location on Saturday morning, then have the dinner and party at LHS on Saturday evening Linda

    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

    Bar Mitzvah kids' entertainer

    Feb 2004

    I'm looking for an adult/skilled teen to entertain kids (ages 6-14) at my son's bar mitzvah. I'm not seeking a DJ because this will be a lunch reception with a jazz quartet. Any suggestions for someone to play games/music with kids for an hour or so at the reception? Naomi

    we hired the San Francisco Klezmer Experience for our wedding and loved them. they aren't inexpensive, but perhaps they could recommend someone. Or you could hire (aas we did for our dinner hour) a subset of the musicians -- they are amazing and festive and everyone at our wedding was up dancing and having a great time. and half of them aren't even jewish ;-)
    Daniel Hoffman San Francisco Klezmer Experience Work: (510) 658-4528 E-Mail: krywanoga at

    Special touches for Bat Mitzvah dinner party

    Sept 2006

    Hi - Having not hosted a dinner party in ages, I could really use some tips from some party planners in our community. Our daughter's Bat Mitzvah is coming up in January and we'd like it (of course) to be really special. We'll be hosting two events in addition to the luncheon after the service: a Friday dinner the night before the Saturday morning service and a Sunday brunch. She's a very informal kid and doesn't want a fancy party as part of her celebration weekend. We'll have friends and family flying in from all over the country, really going out of their way to be with us. I'd like to acknowledge that and let folks know how grateful we are that they've gone to such lenghts to join us. Therefore, I'd really appreciate tips on how to make the Friday dinner memorable and any touches I could use to make each family feel special. We're renting a private room in a nice hotel for the entire evening; we're able to decorate the room as we wish, play music, dance, whatever we'd like. Sunday brunch is less of an issue - we'll have a great spread and it will be very relaxed. In a nutshell, my real question is, ''What makes for a great party?'' No disco for this kid

    We recently attended a Bat Mitzvah out of state. We were there to attend all the events from Friday to Sunday. However, the one thing that really sticks in my mind is when we checked into our hotel. The hotel clerk gave us a basket with our family name and a note from the hosts thanking us for coming. The basket included candy (theme of the Bat Mitzvah), water, snacks, invitations and directions to all the events. We were very surprised, but it also made us feel very included. At the Bat Mitzvah dinner, they also named all of the out of town families and had them come up to take pictures with their daughter. It is difficult to fly out of town for such an event and I often wonder if the party will even know we are there. The basket made all the difference from the moment we arrived Tabnand
    It seems like you are well on your way to making your special guests know how grateful you are - having a dinner for them in addition to the Bat Mitzvah. I recently went to Madrid for a friend's son's wedding and I felt welcome because I was included in such events. Also, the friend and her son both thanked me for coming and said they were really grateful. One thing they did for the pre-wedding party for ''family and out-of-towners'' was transport us all from the hotel to the restaurant. Then we felt we were on an excursion, something special. They didn't give any favors or anything like that - just great food and good company and verbal thanks. And, they spent their time with us when they were busy. My friend also said, ''don't give them a gift, you spent so much getting here'' (of course I did give them a gift, but again I felt acknowledged for making a special effort). Ideas beyond that though - a slide show making sure you have a photo with each guest in it, a favor or momento of some kind, a toast by your daughter to the group. Have a great time! Mary in Oakland
    I have two thoughts for you. First, if you have family/friends travelling to this event one way to make them feel extra appreciated is to have gift bags in their hotel rooms when they arrive. I did this for my wedding and it was a HUGE hit. They were not expensive things, just useful stuff like bottles of water, nice snacks, mints, a map of the area with a list of area attractions and services. It is a really nice thing to do. Plus, the list of things-to-do in the area gave guests some guidance about what to do when they weren't with us. Second, a really thoughful favor at the always makes guests feel appreciated. Not something they can't use and will throw away but something that shows you thought about what they would really use. It is hard for me to say what not knowing your family but what we did (again at our wedding) was leave a card at each place that said that we were going to make a donation in that guests name with a charity. There were two (or three) charities listed on the card and the guest picked which charity they wanted. Then after the party, we grouped all the picks together and gave the charity $5 times the number of guests who picked that card. It was the same (or even less) than we would hav espent on favors anyway and it made the guests feel really good. Anyway, congrats and enjoy! lynnb
    One thing that makes hosting parties fun for me is to pick a theme. In January it might be fun to pick a warm theme like Hawaiian Luau, Mexican Fiesta, or a Jamaican theme. Then that helps with decision-making as far as decorations, food, music, etc. Have fun! --loves a good theme

    Afternoon venue in Oakland Jan 2006

    We're starting to plan my son's Bar mitzvah for the end of March 2007. We're thinking an afternoon party. Any ideas for venue? I will have relatives from New York. Looking for good places to stay. We live in Oakland hills.

    Have you considered Lake Merritt United Methodist Church in Oakland for an afternoon party? Right on Lake Merritt, near the Kaiser Convention Center, the social hall can acommodate up to 200 guests seated. A gated courtyard with a play area is adjacent, and makes a wonderful space if young children will be in attendance. The facility is available for group or individual rentals including parties, banquets, wedding receptions, etc. An open and welcoming kind of place to people from all backgrounds. Check out the website: The main restriction is no alcohol is allowed. If that's not an issue for you, then I suggest you check it out. B Avalon

    Bar Mitzvah Party ideas for techie son

    Dec 2005

    I'm looking for ideas for a bar mitzvah party/event for my son. He is not able to come up with any ideas about what it is he would like, just a list of what he doesn't want: no DJ with dancing, no bowling party, no sports party, etc. His main interest is technology (now what can I do with that!?). I want to do something nice, fun and affordable that includes both kids and adults on a Saturday night. Any suggestions or creative ideas?
    Looking for Mr. Good Bar Mitzvah

    Either the Exploratorium in SF, which could be a good spot for a party, or Expressions New Media in Emeryville. Call them and ask if they have any innovative party ideas. Tech Kid Mom
    Laurence Hall of Science hosts parties where they open one or more of the labs. If your son likes the technology and science that might be a place to have his party.
    mom of a science lover
    I highly recommend O-Ollie Entertainment. They specialize in unique, one-of-a-kind parties. Check out their website at Or, email them at brian AT, or call 510-558-8611.
    Richard E

    Special Touches at Bat Mitzvah

    Nov 2005

    Our daughter's 13th birthday is on the horizon and we're beginning preparations for her Bat Mitzvah next fall. We'd like to fill this day with a real sense of spirituality and symbolism. We'll have family coming in from far and wide, who haven't all been together since our wedding a hundred years ago. So I'm wondering about, and would really appreciate, any musings that you might have on special touches to make this day memorable. If you've been to a comparable event, what made it stand out, what was especially moving, what gave the event its special feeling(s)? We'll be holding a Friday night dinner and then a Saturday afternoon service with dinner immediately afterward. We'll be in a lovely community center rather than synagogue, and therefore will have no constraints about levels of observance in a sanctuary (we are a very reform but deeply culturally Jewish family.) Any ideas would be gratefully received. Have checked the archives and no word on this. Planning ahead for a special day

    Hello and mazel tov on your daughter's impending Bat Mitzvah!

    I want to tell you, for their daughter's Bat Mitzvah, very dear friends of ours put together a photo montage of their daughter's life from birth to present and set it all to beautiful music that still brings tears to my eyes. The Beatles' ''Black Bird'' will now always remind me of Jessica.

    If you are not technically inclined, I am sure there are services out there that will put a photo montage together for you. I am already listing songs that we will use for a photo montage when our sons are ready for their Bar Mitzvahs.

    I have been disappointed with how commercial B'nai Mitzvahs have become. Having something so intimate, sweet and innocent to share with the guests really brought the focus back to what was important.

    I guarantee you, people won't stop talking about your slide show and feeling a connection to you daughter.

    Oh, I have one other idea to share with you. When my nephew was bar mitvah'd his parents had a professional photo taken of him. They matted an 11x14 or so and had all the guest sign the matte board. They then framed it and have it in their home. All the beautful wishes and sentiments of the guests will be with my nephew throughout his life.

    Good luck and have a beautiful celebration!! Karen

    Party room for fifty 13 year olds

    Feb 2005

    I am looking for a room to rent to have my son's bar mitzvah party for his friends. It can be rustic as it is for the kids only, not for the adults, and we want to be able to provide the DJ and the food. One of the problems is that the event is May 14th, and we are cutting it close to find a place. It can be anywhere from north Oakland up to El Cerrito. Thanks for any suggestions.

    It's been a while since we did the Bar/Bat Mitzvah circuit, but my daughters had their parties at the El Cerrito Community Center, and went to parties similar to what you are planning at the Kensington Youth Hut, Albany Community Center, Berkeley Yacht Club, and Arlington Park Clubhouse in El Cerrito. Judy
    The Sportsman Lodge in Pinole, near Appian Way is a fabulous place for a kids' party. It is small enough to be intimate. It overlooks the bay from its perch close to the shoreline. This fabulous view of the bay might be appreciated more by the chaperones than the 13 year olds. The room is comfortable, casual, and has parking! Been there
    Try They have tons of listings. It is hard to find a place where you can bring in your own food, but the guide will give all the specifics. Good luck.
    Try the Kensington Youth Hut, across from the Kensington Library. anon

    2004 & Earlier

    Bar Mitzva party ideas for boy who isn't into dancing

    October 2002

    Does amyone have ideas for a Bar Mitzva evening celebration for a 12 yo boy who isn't into dancing. I'm looking for fun, enjoyable, maybe a little grown-up, but fun for this age.(and it takes place in late January)

    Our son did not like to dance either, so for his Bar Mitzvah we had a guitarist playing music, not necessarily for dancing but beautiful in the background. We made the party to suit his personality, which is kind of shy and reserved. Lots of excellent food of course. Some kids have rented a pinball machine for their party. Some parties have a magician or even a belly dancer. Let the celebration reflect who your child truly is, and let him know how wonderful he is right now. It is his day to shine. Mazel Tov, Patti
    It sounds like you want ideas for an evening party for the Bar Mitzvah boy and his friends. Make sure you ASK him if he even wants one, and then, if he does, he'll probably have some preferences. I wouldn't assume that he wants a party, and if it's YOU that wants the party, do it your way but don't force things on your son. Our son had been to Bar Mitzvah teen parties and enjoyed them, but really didn't want one of his own. His friends came to the Bar Mitzvah and the lunch that followed, and one came along to the restaurant where we had dinner that night with the out- of- town guests, and that was really fine. Remember the focus of the day. Simple works, too
    My son was not interested in a ''standard'' celebration for his bar mitzvah so we took his friends to the Sunday matinee at Yoshi's for jazz. The admission was remarkably cheap for kids (I believe it was $5) so we looked like big sports when we allowed kids to have all the sodas they wanted. Patty

    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