By Stephanie Lewis
When our fifth child turned 12, we searched for a more meaningful and less materialistic experience than our other children had. You know—the synagogue ceremony followed by the huge dining/dancing affair in a social hall.
So, if an alternate idea sounds intriguing, simply follow these 13 easy steps.
- Announce that Israel is a great place to celebrate and get the whole family excited about traveling. Research tour guides and find a Rabbi to officiate at this far away, exotic simcha.
- Suddenly realize that some friends and close family won’t attend due to travel costs, time constraints, and health concerns. Begin to imagine Grandma Ethel’s phone call. “What’s this? Just because I’m afraid to fly, I should miss out on my little Jakeala’s big day? Not having a great-grandmother there? Whoever heard of such a thing?!”
- Brainstorm an additional uncomplicated, fun and affordable way to commemorate the actual day your child turns 13. Decide on a lovely (but free!) get together in a local park because you won’t have much money due to your Israel trip.
- Realize the summer date will be hot and you’ll need to provide shade. Rent canopies.
- Do you expect Grandma Ethel to sit on a swing in the sandbox? What kind of person are you? Rent folding chairs.
- Since this is a casual gathering, handwrite “please bring a dish to share” on your invitations. Become aware of how tacky this is after you hang up from Grandma Ethel. Change to “please bring a canned item to donate to the homeless shelter, which is our child’s mitzvah project.” Hire a caterer.
- Conclude that cellphones don’t take the best quality photos. Uncle Gary, the family photography buff, offers to take pictures for you, but honestly (according to Grandma Ethel) shouldn’t her son who works so hard all week be allowed to enjoy himself as a regular guest? Consider hiring a college student (earning a degree in filmography) but worry that not being Jewish, he’ll overlook all the traditional shots. Hire a professional photographer who has done many Bar Mitzvahs and knows how to pose your child with the Torah.
- A Torah! You need one. Your local Rabbi states under no circumstances will he bring the holy scroll to a park. Switch the entire simple gathering to your synagogue.
- Synagogues are serious places and friends who thought they were coming to a park anticipate their young children playing on slides and teeter-totters. Hire a magician to keep them occupied.
- Do you want bored teenagers kvetching? Rent a wax hands booth and caricature artist. And then because teen girls usually reveal lots of bare skin, rent a Henna Tattoo booth.
- Recall how Grandma Ethel has been saying for years, “My biggest joy will be to live until I’m 90 so I can dance the Hora at my grandson’s Bar Mitzvah.” Since you have no music, she insists Aunt Ida should sing. Hire a band.
- Because your gathering will no longer be held outside, chocolate won’t melt. Therefore you have no excuses for saying “No” to your child’s request for a candy bar. Order a half-pound per person (guidelines from party planner’s website) of sugar-laden confections to be set up buffet-style with cute little boxes to take them home in. Make a mental note if Grandma Ethel complains about a lack of Bar Mitzvah cake (with traditional candle-lighting ceremony) to remind her that this is NOT a Bar Mitzvah, it’s just a get-together.
- As the day draws closer, cross off “videographer, DJ, prizes, dresses, suit, hair appointment, party favors, centerpieces, seating cards and thank-you notes from your To-Do List.
Finally, cross off the most important thing of all, “Planning a meaningful and non-materialistic Bar Mitzvah!”