jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

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Eden, to David the warrior king and his battle with Goliath. You can wander in the desert with camels, as did Abraham and those who came later; play Dan- iel in the lion’s den, or get swal- lowed by a whale. Young girls can look to Miriam, Judith, Debo- rah, Bruria, and Donna Gracia Mendes for inspiration. Kids can split the Red Sea, play Moses and get the 10 Commandments, bring down the walls of Jericho, wrestle with angels, free the Jewish slaves in Egypt and give the story a con- temporary twist. Tell it like it’s a video game, with all the sound effects…There are 52 weekends in a year, and there are at least 52 themes in the Tanach alone to choose from. With imagina- tion, you can actually make these themes fun. If putting the mitzvah back in is just too dull and boring, there are always Jews in sports to kick up a celebration. There’s also a place for everyone to blow off steam and live out race car fantasies and laser war games at Velocity 17 in Paramus. They do lots of bar/bats and can get you kosher food. Or choose themes from cities spanning the globe, where Jews once lived and made a difference, then create menus, music and programs to match. For example, the island of Curacao is rich in Jew- ish history, has Dutch-Caribe fusion food and a unique culture that can spice up any event. The same can be said of Recife, Brazil; Istanbul, Turkey; Cairo, Egypt; Kaifeng, China; Kobe, Japan. The list is endless, If your family comes from an unusual place, use the cuisine and culture to make your event interesting, while teaching your child about your family. More contemporary themes can center on Israeli and Jewish heroes, and those in the sciences like Albert Einstein — the theory of relativity for the local math genius. If you like outer space, use the creation of the world, and mix in a little bit of Carl Sagan, the astro- physicist, with his billions of stars, while partying at a Space Odyssey in Englewood. Jewish doctors date back to Maimonides and include Jonas Salk, Rosalind Yallow and so many others who changed the way we live. If we look to characters from Yiddish culture, the list grows even longer. An American-Jewish comedy theme could be a terrific idea! You are limited only by your imagination. Read your child’s Torah portion, talk to the rabbi about some themes that can relate to the contemporary world or your family’s history. Use those elements to create an exciting and meaningful experience for your child, your guests and your community. JEANETTE FRIEDMAN Y our daughter is 11 and your son is 12, and your family is unaffiliated and you want to do a little something to mark their bat/bar mitzvot? Oy, are you in trouble. You didn’t join a congrega- tion and book the bar/bat dates at birth? Your kids aren’t enrolled in Hebrew school? Your life is about to get complicated, and you are not alone. Even parents with kids in day schools, yeshivot and other Jewish learning pro- grams and affiliations, have a rough time putting all the pieces together to appropri- ately mark bar and bat mitzvot. Here’s some suggestions of what to start thinking about. THE FIRST STEP: CHOOSE A COMMUNITY Planning a bar/bat is not for the impulsive. The earliest decision you need to make: How will your child get a Jewish education? This decision, at the very latest, should be made when your child is about 9 years old. Pick a community where you feel comfort- able and reflects the values you want your child to incorporate into his/her life. Try to join a group that offers classes with enough time to give the child the basics, including a solid sense of Jewish history, and where they are prepped for their religious ceremonies. Since there is an echo boomer effect, lots of kids are going be bar or bat mitzvah’ed at the same time as your child, and being part of a community and a member of a congregation allows you to participate in services for your child’s ceremony. When you are a dues-paying member of a group, you still have to check with the event office to make sure there are no conflicts for the Hebrew date of your child’s bar/bat. Usually people like to do this on the Shabbat that is the closest to the child’s birthday. Sometimes five children have their bar/bats on the same day. Often, the congregation will have a format it follows for multi-bar/bats and your child will be part of a group activity. If it’s something much more personal you’d like — like having your child lead services as well as mak- ing the blessing on the Torah scroll, the prep time and pressure on the child need to be taken into consider- ation — and so does a venue. Talk to your rabbi to see how you can be accommodated. After the collation and kiddush, family and guests depart for other venues where additional festivities are held. From a haimish full-course traditional Shabbat COVER PHOTO: Mike Kortoci Photography 566 South Broad Street, Glen Rock NJ 07452 Main: (201) 389-3524 · Text/Call: (201) 639-8009 E-mail: [email protected] · www.mikekortoci.com SEE Plan PAGE 8 Time to get ready Today you are a plan(ner) meal served in the shul rec room, to a 12-course tast- ing menu served French-style in an immense mansion in the hills overlooking Manhattan, the choice is yours. There are work-arounds for procrastinators. But you really can’t do this on two week’s notice. You need at least three months lead time. Hire yourself a private rabbi to teach your child. On the appointed day, the rabbi will arrive with a Torah scroll, perform private services with your family and guests, and have a tradi- tional (or contemporary) ceremony before the festivi- ties begin in the grand ballroom next door. Depending on who you are, how you were raised, your choices range from the most contemporary and evolving segments of Judaism to the traditional denominations — up to and including ultra-Ortho- doxy in all its forms. If you’ve been unaffiliated, get on the Internet to check out learning groups available in your area that reflect your way of life, and call mem- bers to find out more. Information about the types of religious institutions and congregations, temples and synagogues can be found on the Internet. STEP TWO: ONE YEAR BEFORE THE EVENT, START YOUR ACTUAL PARTY PLANS THEME DREAMS What is the message you want to send your child? If you care about your child’s bar/bat as a religious life- cycle event, try to make sure your themes don’t cause a disconnect — or a revolution with the rabbi and more traditional members of your family. That being said, there are so many exciting themes that can be lifted straight from the Bible and Jewish history, from the creation itself and the Garden of Wendy Starr of Oradell practices Torah reading with the help of Rabbi Neal Borovitz at Temple Avodat Shalom. MIKE KORTOCI PHOTOGRAPHY

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Page 1: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

Eden, to David the warrior king and his battle with Goliath. You can wander in the desert with camels, as did Abraham and those who came later; play Dan-iel in the lion’s den, or get swal-lowed by a whale. Young girls can look to Miriam, Judith, Debo-rah, Bruria, and Donna Gracia Mendes for inspiration. Kids can split the Red Sea, play Moses and get the 10 Commandments, bring down the walls of Jericho, wrestle with angels, free the Jewish slaves in Egypt and give the story a con-temporary twist. Tell it like it’s a video game, with all the sound effects…There are 52 weekends in a year, and there are at least 52 themes in the Tanach alone to choose from. With imagina-tion, you can actually make these themes fun.

If putting the mitzvah back in is just too dull and boring, there are always Jews in sports to

kick up a celebration. There’s also a place for everyone to blow off steam and live out race car fantasies and laser war games at Velocity 17 in Paramus. They do lots of bar/bats and can get you kosher food. Or choose themes from cities spanning the globe, where Jews once lived and made a difference, then create menus, music and programs to match.

For example, the island of Curacao is rich in Jew-ish history, has Dutch-Caribe fusion food and a unique culture that can spice up any event. The same can be said of Recife, Brazil; Istanbul, Turkey; Cairo, Egypt; Kaifeng, China; Kobe, Japan. The list is endless, If your family comes from an unusual place, use the cuisine and culture to make your event interesting, while teaching your child about your family.

More contemporary themes can center on Israeli and Jewish heroes, and those in the sciences like Albert Einstein — the theory of relativity for the local math genius. If you like outer space, use the creation of the world, and mix in a little bit of Carl Sagan, the astro-physicist, with his billions of stars, while partying at a Space Odyssey in Englewood. Jewish doctors date back to Maimonides and include Jonas Salk, Rosalind Yallow and so many others who changed the way we live. If we look to characters from Yiddish culture, the list grows even longer. An American-Jewish comedy theme could be a terrific idea!

You are limited only by your imagination. Read your child’s Torah portion, talk to the rabbi about some themes that can relate to the contemporary world or your family’s history. Use those elements to create an exciting and meaningful experience for your child, your guests and your community.

Jeanette Friedman

Your daughter is 11 and your son is 12, and your family is unaffiliated and you want to do a little something to mark their bat/bar mitzvot? Oy, are

you in trouble. You didn’t join a congrega-tion and book the bar/bat dates at birth? Your kids aren’t enrolled in Hebrew school?

Your life is about to get complicated, and you are not alone.

Even parents with kids in day schools, yeshivot and other Jewish learning pro-grams and affiliations, have a rough time putting all the pieces together to appropri-ately mark bar and bat mitzvot.

Here’s some suggestions of what to start thinking about.

The FirsT sTep: choose a communiTYPlanning a bar/bat is not for the impulsive. The earliest decision you need to make: How will your child get a Jewish education? This decision, at the very latest, should be made when your child is about 9 years old. Pick a community where you feel comfort-able and reflects the values you want your child to incorporate into his/her life.

Try to join a group that offers classes with enough time to give the child the basics, including a solid sense of Jewish history, and where they are prepped for their religious ceremonies. Since there is an echo boomer effect, lots of kids are going be bar or bat mitzvah’ed at the same time as your child, and being part of a community and a member of a congregation allows you to participate in services for your child’s ceremony.

When you are a dues-paying member of a group, you still have to check with the event office to make sure there are no conflicts for the Hebrew date of your child’s bar/bat. Usually people like to do this on the Shabbat that is the closest to the child’s birthday. Sometimes five children have their bar/bats on the same day. Often, the congregation will have a format it follows for multi-bar/bats and your child will be part of a group activity.

If it’s something much more personal you’d like — like having your child lead services as well as mak-ing the blessing on the Torah scroll, the prep time and pressure on the child need to be taken into consider-ation — and so does a venue. Talk to your rabbi to see how you can be accommodated.

After the collation and kiddush, family and guests depart for other venues where additional festivities are held. From a haimish full-course traditional Shabbat

Cover photo: Mike Kortoci photography566 South Broad Street, Glen Rock NJ 07452

Main: (201) 389-3524 · Text/Call: (201) 639-8009E-mail: [email protected] · www.mikekortoci.com

See Plan page 8

Time to get readyToday you are a plan(ner)

meal served in the shul rec room, to a 12-course tast-ing menu served French-style in an immense mansion in the hills overlooking Manhattan, the choice is yours.

There are work-arounds for procrastinators. But you really can’t do this on two week’s notice. You need at least three months lead time. Hire yourself a private rabbi to teach your child. On the appointed day, the rabbi will arrive with a Torah scroll, perform private services with your family and guests, and have a tradi-tional (or contemporary) ceremony before the festivi-ties begin in the grand ballroom next door.

Depending on who you are, how you were raised, your choices range from the most contemporary and evolving segments of Judaism to the traditional denominations — up to and including ultra-Ortho-doxy in all its forms. If you’ve been unaffiliated, get on the Internet to check out learning groups available in your area that reflect your way of life, and call mem-bers to find out more. Information about the types of religious institutions and congregations, temples and synagogues can be found on the Internet.

sTep Two: one Year beFore The evenT, sTarT Your acTual parTY plans

Theme dreamsWhat is the message you want to send your child? If you care about your child’s bar/bat as a religious life-cycle event, try to make sure your themes don’t cause a disconnect — or a revolution with the rabbi and more traditional members of your family.

That being said, there are so many exciting themes that can be lifted straight from the Bible and Jewish history, from the creation itself and the Garden of

Wendy Starr of oradell practices torah reading with the help of rabbi Neal Borovitz at temple Avodat Shalom.Mike kortoci PhotograPhy

Page 2: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

WINter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvah

Proceeds will benefit

children in the JCRC’s

Bergen Reads literacy

program. For more

information, please

contact Beth Figman

at 201-820-3947 or

[email protected].

Beautifulcenterpieces

with a special purpose.

For YourBar/Bat Mitzvah

BrisBaby Naming

Organization Event

Celebrate Your NextSpecial Occasion With

Book CenterpiecesFor Tzedaka

Proceeds will benefit

children in the JCRC’s

Bergen Reads literacy

program. For more

information, please

contact Beth Figman

at 201-820-3947 or

[email protected]@bethf jfnnj.org.

Beautifulcenterpieces

with a special centerpieces

with a special centerpieces

purpose.

For YourBar/Bat Mitzvah

Baby NamingOrganization Event

For Tzedaka

a checklist for advance preparationThree Years in advance:• Join a congregation / book the

date for the sanctuary• Put your child on the learning

and mitzvah track

Two Years in advance:• Select caterer and venue• If you are having tefi llin

specially made, order them early

one Year in advance:• If you need one, hire a party planner• Select a theme so that your invitations and accessories all go along with it• Make your guest list and take a count of out-of-towners• Decide how to accommodate them — with home hospitality or local hotels —

and book accordingly• Book entertainment, photo/videographers and makeup artists

six monThs in advance:• Order the invitations and all printed materials (you may want to mention

your child’s mitzvah project on the invite or giveaways)• Figure out the correct postage for each invitation, and don’t forget postage for

return envelopes• Hire a calligrapher or run off the envelopes on your computer• Start practicing with your child at home to make sure everything is cool and

that there won’t be last minute stage fright or panic• Order tefi llin, tallitot and other items you will need, like an engraved kiddush

cup for the child, or an embroidered challah cover• Pick out the supplies you need for your child’s theme, especially if you are a

D-I-Y.• Set up a gift registry at the local bookstore or Judaica shop or other stores, and

let people know where your child is registered

Two monThs in advance:• Send out the invitations• Make follow-up calls if the responses are slow• Send people to your website for additional information• Create any special ceremonies, assign honors and write your speeches

Two weeks in advance:• Final fi ttings for everyone• Confi rm all grooming appointments• Give the count and the table arrangements to the caterer• Get rehearsal time with the rabbi and fi nd out if you can make a video

a week beFore The big weekend• Sit down with the caterer and make sure everything is the way you want it to

be• Make sure that baskets will be delivered to guests from out of town

prepare YourselF For anY evenTualiTY:• Make a kit containing aspirin, needles and thread to match the various out-

fi ts, buttons, hair brushes, extra lipstick, tissues, a pair of pantyhose and comfortable shoes, just in case, and any medications family members may forget to take. Put the kit in with the things that need to be brought to the synagogue.

Two daYs beFore The evenT:• Take it easy, relax, take a deep breath, and drive on• Chaos is about to hit• Stay collected and focused and• Everyone will have a wonderful time

Page 3: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

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Page 4: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

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Brunch - The Backyard at Sole East

Continental Cuisine - The Backyard at Sole East

ON THE FORKS CATERING

owned and operated by

Larry Kolar Executive Chef / The Backyard at Sole East.

catering for every occasion and event

small•large•intimate•corporate•wedding•birthday

simple barbeque…

Larry KolarExecutive Chef Sole East

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rainbows oF choices, choices, choicesDo your research, choose your options, and then make decisions. Those choices include who will teach your child about his or her special responsibilities as a member of the Jewish community and the world-at-large to what you are going to serve for desert. You will have to decide budgets, venues, entertainment, menus, photographers, music, flowers, and what not to wear.

Be aware. If you can think it, you will have to make a decision about whatever it is.

So if you aren’t very good at deciding, hire a party planner who will do the thinking for you — as far as the reception, party, or other capstone event is con-cerned. Your responsibilities are inescapable, but the planner will minimize your confusion and help you create a memorable event for your child, family, and friends — if you provide her or him with the input needed to make it meaningful.

Pick someone whose work impressed you at another event and get referrals. You never know what someone is like until you work with them, so interview a party planner the same way you would interview your personal assistant. Make sure the party planner is well-connected to local resources and has a good imagination, as well as respect for your values — and your dollars.

Select your theme so that invitations and acces-sories match. The theme can include the mitzvah that the bar/bat has chosen. For example, when you do a “green” theme, you can choose “rain forest” decora-tions that can be repurposed and centerpieces that can be planted in someone’s garden and make sure all papers are recycled.

Make your guest list and take a count of out-of-towners. They will need to be accommodated, and in Orthodox communities, they will need to be housed within walking distance of the synagogue. Home hos-pitality can be arranged with good neighbors or local hotels — and book accordingly. If you take a block of rooms, you may be able to get a discount for your guests, if you aren’t footing the bill yourself. You may also have to arrange for transportation — whether it’s getting Dad to get to the airport to pick up Uncle Joey, reserving plane tickets, arranging for shuttle service, or hiring a limo to take the bar/bat to his or her party in style.

parTY TimeSome party planners want you to ask your child where he or she wants to have their party. In the real world, most parents really don’t want to know what their child prefers — except for their favorite themes and colors. Parents should stay realistic and try to keep things on a level that shows their children they respect the dignity of the occasion.

However, once the ceremonies and rituals are over, a family can throw one heck of a fun birthday party for the kids who just went through all that hard work to commit themselves to Judaism. They do deserve a reward… and skating parties, boat rides, white water rafting, bowling, and even hang-gliding are great ways to have fun and celebrate an emerging teenager’s birthday. But such a party really has nothing to do with a bar/bat mitzvah — unless of course, you decide that the reception is formal and contains its own rituals, candle-lighting ceremonies, cake cuttings, and other ways to interact with and honor extended family members and guests.

Plan from page 5

Page 5: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

Jewish Standard, Jewish Community news, rockland Jewish Federation reporter s-9

Winter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvah

rainbows oF choices, choices, choicesDo your research, choose your options, and then make decisions. Those choices include who will teach your child about his or her special responsibilities as a member of the Jewish community and the world-at-large to what you are going to serve for desert. You will have to decide budgets, venues, entertainment, menus, photographers, music, fl owers, and what not to wear.

Be aware. If you can think it, you will have to make a decision about whatever it is.

So if you aren’t very good at deciding, hire a party planner who will do the thinking for you — as far as the reception, party, or other capstone event is con-cerned. Your responsibilities are inescapable, but the planner will minimize your confusion and help you create a memorable event for your child, family, and friends — if you provide her or him with the input needed to make it meaningful.

Pick someone whose work impressed you at another event and get referrals. You never know what someone is like until you work with them, so interview a party planner the same way you would interview your personal assistant. Make sure the party planner is well-connected to local resources and has a good imagination, as well as respect for your values — and your dollars.

Select your theme so that invitations and acces-sories match. The theme can include the mitzvah that the bar/bat has chosen. For example, when you do a “green” theme, you can choose “rain forest” decora-tions that can be repurposed and centerpieces that can be planted in someone’s garden and make sure all papers are recycled.

Make your guest list and take a count of out-of-towners. They will need to be accommodated, and in Orthodox communities, they will need to be housed within walking distance of the synagogue. Home hos-pitality can be arranged with good neighbors or local hotels — and book accordingly. If you take a block of rooms, you may be able to get a discount for your guests, if you aren’t footing the bill yourself. You may also have to arrange for transportation — whether it’s getting Dad to get to the airport to pick up Uncle Joey, reserving plane tickets, arranging for shuttle service, or hiring a limo to take the bar/bat to his or her party in style.

parTY TimeSome party planners want you to ask your child where he or she wants to have their party. In the real world, most parents really don’t want to know what their child prefers — except for their favorite themes and colors. Parents should stay realistic and try to keep things on a level that shows their children they respect the dignity of the occasion.

However, once the ceremonies and rituals are over, a family can throw one heck of a fun birthday party for the kids who just went through all that hard work to commit themselves to Judaism. They do deserve a reward… and skating parties, boat rides, white water rafting, bowling, and even hang-gliding are great ways to have fun and celebrate an emerging teenager’s birthday. But such a party really has nothing to do with a bar/bat mitzvah — unless of course, you decide that the reception is formal and contains its own rituals, candle-lighting ceremonies, cake cuttings, and other ways to interact with and honor extended family members and guests.

The art of the inviteJeanette Friedman

beribboned envelopes, scroll styles wrapped in blingy cases, tux-edo cards, myriad die cuts, color schemes and themes, pop-up cards

and dvds — from the Bible chapter of the week to the latest fads, from the mitz-vah project theme to The X-Men, when it comes to creating the invitations for your child’s special event, the sky’s the limit. Anything is possible. One family dressed like royal messengers and hand delivered invites to people in their area — and the invitations refl ected that gilded elegance. For a jewelry-themed Bat Mitzvah, one family put the invitation and a strand of pearls into a jewelry box, wrapped that in a pretty white box and placed that into a shopping bag printed with the girl’s name. Getting it into the postal system was a major job, but totally worth it for that little girl.

On the other hand, there are par-ents who prefer the simple and tra-ditional route, with curved Hebrew lettering and simple type. Parents of multiple b’nai mitzvoth can decide if each child will get an invitation that reflects their individual personalities, and design accordingly, or put them all in one by using clever designs.

The invitation for your event makes an important impression on your guests, expresses your child’s personal-ity and favorite theme, and entices peo-ple to attend your child’s simcha. Today, there are lots of ways to get the message out and lots more “paperwork” to include in your printing budget. There’s more to it than a classic white folded card in a white envelope with a response card and envelope tossed in, and it is often necessary to think at least six months ahead, depending on how complicated your “print package” will be. The invitations should go out no later than six weeks before the big day, and the save-the-date should go out at least three months ahead of time.

That’s because of the huge numbers of children celebrating their b’nai mitzvoth, so the save-the-date cards give everyone a head’s up, and the folks you really want at the simcha can lock in your date. These postcards usually are designed with the theme that will be carried through on the rest of the printed matter.

Even the most complicated invitations require mundane response cards and today, some people, in addition to fancying them up a bit, also add an email address or use a net-based program like e-vites to tally up who is coming and who is not. You provide the postage on the response envelopes, and the Postal Service allows you to design your own stamps! You can use them on both envelopes, and remember, the more the invitation weighs, and the bigger the “package” the higher the postage. Take a complete set down to the post offi ce and have them tell you how much each will cost. That way, when you order your custom stamps, you can use just one stamp and not clutter the front. You design a different stamp for the response enve-lope, which is probably going to cost the normal rate for a regular letter.

For really large events, sometimes it makes sense

to mark the response card with a code so you know who sent it back…some people simply forget to write their names in! Put a number next to the name on your invite list, and write it on the interior of the enve-lope fl ap that goes into that invitee’s pack-age.

Then there are the escort cards — cards that let guests know which table number is theirs. In the old days, a sim-ple folded piece of pre-printed card-board would do. Today, escort cards come wrapped with party favors, from baseballs to bling-y bracelets, and everyone gets to take their favors home. For those who don’t mind the extra work, place cards are back in style, so in addition to fi guring which ten people will sit at a given table, you can now fi gure out who sits next to whom, dress up the place card, and put one at each setting on the tablescape.

In addition to all that, there are menus, programs, benchers, kippot, and souvenir-T-shirts, mugs, base-ball caps, handbags, umbrellas, green-friendly tote bags and everything in between. One mother created a whole book of photos, including her son’s essays and family history with an embossed coat-of-arms featur-ing her son the basketball player in the escutcheon. She used the “logo” on mugs and T-shirts, too. People loved it.

And above all, don’t forget the thank you cards. Your child will get lots of gifts and guests do need a for-mal thank you.

Here are some places you can check out to fi nd the invitation that suits your family best.

petite paperieSerina Canciglia31A Washington Street near CvStenafl y, NJ (201) 503-1221www.petitepaperieNJ.comStore hours 10-6 Mon.-Sat.Walk-ins ok, but it’s better to call ahead and make an appointment.

Serina says make your own trend. Don’t rely on copying what others have done. Be original and cre-ative. They do everything — foil embossing die cuts — their specialty is creating a brand, a logo that is carried throughout the party, on the invitations, the T-shirts and party favors.

“It’s what we do best,” says Serina.They have a real shop, on the main drag in Tenafl y.

You can choose from a wide array of gifts and cards, candles, and boxed sets of stationery. Serina and her sister-in-law Phoebe comb the gift shows looking for the best of the best and end up neck-and-neck with

the Write Impression, teaneck

petite paperie, tenafl y

Suite paperie, NYC

Page 6: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

WINter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvahPriceless PossessionsJudaica

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Simone Wruble201.833.0404

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Oprah’s crew from O Magazine. They start from scratch and are inspired by clients and inspire them as well.

“We prepare a concept board for each client and get them thinking about what they want to do to bring that special personal touch to life,” she says. The shop has been around for more than a decade, and you will get professional service that will make your party fabu-lous.

suite paperieBecca Goldberg134 W. 26 St. between 6th and 7th avenuesNew York, NY 10001(646) 535-6240www.suitepaperie.comBecca makes house calls and will be happy to visit you at home in North Jersey or Rockland and will bring along the latest invitation designs. All her work is cus-tom, and she designs special projects after speaking to parents and the celebrated child.

She works with all kinds of budgets — from black tie to casual, and does various types of printing from foil stamping and die cuts, to special colors and letter press, true engraving and thermography. There are escort cards in varied styles, favor tags, paper party favors, and paper centerpieces. And of course, for the aftermath, the must-get thank-you cards.

Kids love her and will express their opinions, even if their parents didn’t expect them to. That way every-one gets what they want, and the guests are happy, too.

The write impression195 West englewood Ave. Suite 108 teaneck, NJ 07666 (201) 833-0404www.thewriteimpression.forparties.comwriteimpression@optonline.netThe Write Impression at “Party Plaza” in Teaneck has been serving the Bergen County community for 16 years. They offer a wide range of discounted invita-tions (bar and bat mitzvot, wedding, parties), statio-nery, place cards, wedding programs, party favors and an envelope addressing service.

Write Impressions can also print invitations on demand for the impulsive people who wait until the last possible moment to get things done. Good to know.

Hours are generally Monday-Thursday 11-5. Appointments are preferred, especially on Sundays, so call ahead for personal service.

cohen’s printingruth Cohen362 Cedar Lane #3teaneck, NJ 07666-3447(201) [email protected] Cohens take bar and bat mitzvah invitations seri-ously. “It is the first impression that your guests will receive and you want to make sure it’s a good one,” says Ruth.

“Elegant invitations for more sophisticated bar and bat mitzvot, using traditional colors, font styles, and minimal graphics or design elements, are a great way to show off your child’s sense of maturity for this once-in-a-lifetime occasion,” she says.

Laid-back and informal bar-bat invitations come in many colors, abstract designs or are in line with your theme, using fun fonts and keeping it simple and catchy. Ruth suggests blending tradition and modern with invitations that incorporate classic ideas and traditions with a more modern view. You can choose a background, Jewish symbols, a specific font style, font

size, ink color, and font effects to customize your spe-cial invitations.

“As long as you keep your child’s own style and personality in mind when choosing their invitation, you can’t go wrong,” says Ruth.

party plus studioCaryn Sherry/Jennifer Maraldo108 engle St.englewood, NJ 07631(201) [email protected] malls necessary! Teachers gifts, hostess gifts, and holiday gifts are all available at Party Plus Studio. Free gift wrapping is available with purchase, and free park-ing is available around the back of the store. New mer-chandise arrives daily, and there are lots of designer invitations to choose from.

priceless possessions22-24 Morlot AvenueFair Lawn, NJ 07410(201) 797-1818https://www.facebook.com/pages/priceless-possessions-Judaica/188326919419Brians’s Judaica gift store sells invitations for wed-dings, bar-bats and other simchas. Any invitations you choose from a sample book are 25% off, includ-ing response cards, escort cards, informals, thank you cards, direction cards, and whatever you need for your party package. They offer Checkerboard, Birchcraft Studios, Carlson Crafts, and Indelible Ink. There’s a wide selection of Hebrew and English fonts, paper stocks and envelope styles. The shop is open Monday-Wednesday from 10-5:30, Thursdays until 8, Fridays until 3, and Sundays from 11 to 5.

Visit their Facebook page to learn about specials and hostess gift sales. They also sell personalized kip-pot and other items, like benchers. There’s also a selec-tion of gifts for your child’s rabbi, tutor and other people who have helped make your simcha a success.

You’re so invited!260 Westwood AvenueWestwood, NJ  07675(201) 664-8600http://www.youresoinvited.comThis shop, conveniently located in the heart of West-wood, carries a full line of designer invites, including Crane, Vera Wang, Checkerboard, Arlene Designs, C’est Papier, Inc., Stacey Claire Boyd, The Lemon Tree.

They offer hundreds of different font styles and sizes, paper and ink colors, so that you can design your invitation to suit your child’s personality and chosen themes.

The shop’s original centerpieces feature flowers, fabrics or balloons, or other objects for tablescapes. They run from princessy pinks for the royal bat mitz-vah girl, to basic baseball or other sports themes that so many bar mitzvot go for.

You’re So Invited also offers additional services like computer and hand-done calligraphy for envelopes and collateral materials, like escort cards and place cards. They will not type in your guest lists for address-ing envelopes, but they will print them out for you, and will remind you to proofread everything in the file before you send it to them.

Instructions on how to send your files to You’re So Invited are on the website, so it becomes easy for you to provide them with what they need to make your invitations perfect.

Experience the Elegance

Celebrate your Bar or Bat Mitzvah in our elegant ballroom and stately lobby, set amidst lavish gardens and the historic homes of Rockleigh. Our unsurpassed personal service

and custom menus enhance the magic of your special day.

26 Paris Avenue • Rockleigh, New Jersey 07647 • Tel. 201-768-7171www.therockleigh.net

JewStd_Bar_ad_080109.indd 1 2/22/08 3:43:33 PM

Page 7: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

size, ink color, and font effects to customize your spe-cial invitations.

“As long as you keep your child’s own style and personality in mind when choosing their invitation, you can’t go wrong,” says Ruth.

party plus studioCaryn Sherry/Jennifer Maraldo108 engle St.englewood, NJ 07631(201) [email protected] malls necessary! Teachers gifts, hostess gifts, and holiday gifts are all available at Party Plus Studio. Free gift wrapping is available with purchase, and free park-ing is available around the back of the store. New mer-chandise arrives daily, and there are lots of designer invitations to choose from.

priceless possessions22-24 Morlot AvenueFair Lawn, NJ 07410(201) 797-1818https://www.facebook.com/pages/priceless-possessions-Judaica/188326919419Brians’s Judaica gift store sells invitations for wed-dings, bar-bats and other simchas. Any invitations you choose from a sample book are 25% off, includ-ing response cards, escort cards, informals, thank you cards, direction cards, and whatever you need for your party package. They offer Checkerboard, Birchcraft Studios, Carlson Crafts, and Indelible Ink. There’s a wide selection of Hebrew and English fonts, paper stocks and envelope styles. The shop is open Monday-Wednesday from 10-5:30, Thursdays until 8, Fridays until 3, and Sundays from 11 to 5.

Visit their Facebook page to learn about specials and hostess gift sales. They also sell personalized kip-pot and other items, like benchers. There’s also a selec-tion of gifts for your child’s rabbi, tutor and other people who have helped make your simcha a success.

You’re so invited!260 Westwood AvenueWestwood, NJ  07675(201) 664-8600http://www.youresoinvited.comThis shop, conveniently located in the heart of West-wood, carries a full line of designer invites, including Crane, Vera Wang, Checkerboard, Arlene Designs, C’est Papier, Inc., Stacey Claire Boyd, The Lemon Tree.

They offer hundreds of different font styles and sizes, paper and ink colors, so that you can design your invitation to suit your child’s personality and chosen themes.

The shop’s original centerpieces feature flowers, fabrics or balloons, or other objects for tablescapes. They run from princessy pinks for the royal bat mitz-vah girl, to basic baseball or other sports themes that so many bar mitzvot go for.

You’re So Invited also offers additional services like computer and hand-done calligraphy for envelopes and collateral materials, like escort cards and place cards. They will not type in your guest lists for address-ing envelopes, but they will print them out for you, and will remind you to proofread everything in the file before you send it to them.

Instructions on how to send your files to You’re So Invited are on the website, so it becomes easy for you to provide them with what they need to make your invitations perfect.

Experience the Elegance

Celebrate your Bar or Bat Mitzvah in our elegant ballroom and stately lobby, set amidst lavish gardens and the historic homes of Rockleigh. Our unsurpassed personal service

and custom menus enhance the magic of your special day.

26 Paris Avenue • Rockleigh, New Jersey 07647 • Tel. 201-768-7171www.therockleigh.net

JewStd_Bar_ad_080109.indd 1 2/22/08 3:43:33 PM

Page 8: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

Winter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvahs-12 Jewish Standard, Jewish Community news, rockland Jewish Federation reporter WINter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvah

The gift of meaningtheSe ideaS For bar and bat mitzvah preSentS aren’t JuSt Fun

maSada siegel

every few months, we find ourselves behind the newest gadget. That’s why gifts of technology are a huge hit for bat and bar mitzvah gifts. But while those gifts are useful and fun, perhaps the

best gifts — especially in the spirit of the bar mitzvah — are those that are meaningful.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University, explains, “The whole idea behind a bar and bat mitzvah is not about a fancy party, but about using this moment as an occa-sion for parents to help their child realize that each one of us can have our own unique relationship with God.”

While material gifts are often fun and fabulous, there is a trend of focusing too much on the individual and not on the spirit of the event that celebrates enter-ing into adulthood and a greater community.

“Society too often focuses on the ‘I’ — it’s the iPad, iPod, iTouch,” Brander says. “Even the game Wii is spelled with two I’s. Today we design our own music, our own coffee, everything. A bar or bat mitzvah young person needs to realize life is about more than ‘I.’ There is our Jewish community and larger society and by giving we grow and feel a sense of purpose.”

Myra Schindler, program director of the Bureau of Jewish Education in Scottsdale, Ariz., who has worked directly with kids for 35 years, agrees.

“Though difficult in today’s world, kids like physi-cal contact; a pat on the back, hand shake, hug, or kiss on the cheek, if appropriate,” she says. “They also want an opportunity to be heard. We need to ask about things they are interested in, pay attention, and then ask about those things again when you meet up the next time.”

Here are a few ideas for meaningful gifts. They are just some of the ways you can allow your bar or bat mitzvah to engage with the depth of the experience.

Take a trip to Israel. One of the most powerful connections to Judaism comes from spending time in Israel. It is the ultimate way to connect with your roots and watch history come alive. There are also a plethora of trips to choose from.

Former archaeologist Danny Herman, (www.dannythedigger.com), is known for his private tours, which focus on ancient Jewish heritage sites. He even personally participated in some of the excavations. Herman explained “I also conduct various ‘extreme’ activities, such as segway tours, but all in all aim to develop affiliations with the Jewish people and the land of Israel.”

A tour that mixes action and education might be perfect to suit the varying needs and interests of a fam-ily.

If you are willing to wait a few years for the gift of Israel, one of the most meaningful trips is the Alex-ander Muss High School in Israel program. AMHSI is a nonprofit, study abroad program for high school students. For eight weeks, students learn by traveling to the actual site where history took place. Israel itself becomes the classroom.

While students would have to wait a few years to participate in this program, it has received rave reviews. A recent participant, 16-year-old Talya Ehren-stein, explains: “This experience was a great way for me to learn more about my Jewish roots and make

many new friends, as well as see historical sights and have a lot of fun along the way. It changed my view of Judaism and makes me want to go back!”

Tikkun Olam: Every bar or bat mitzvah has differ-ent interests, and there are many areas of need in the

world. Discuss locales across the world in which your child may have a particular interest, and then find a program where you can volunteer together as well as plan some fun activities on the side. Many programs offer the opportunity to spend time building homes or schools, while also touring the country and getting to know a new cul-ture.

Fixing the world can be completed in myriad ways. YU’s Brander explains: “Each child is different and through dialogue with them we will find a spe-cial way that the year or months leading up to the bat/bar mitz-vah can be a time in which our bar/bat mitzvah child can begin to realize their potential in liv-ing a spiritual and meaningful life — a life of connection.”

Donating to an organiza-tion does not have to be a mere money event — it can be an interactive learning and growing experience of understanding the power of giving and its positive effects.

Many organizations have “mitzvah projects.” The

A young girl celebrates her birthday as part of the Birthday Angels Birthday party project. ruthie Sobel luttenberg.

Archaeologist and tour guide Danny herman takes his tour groups to ancient Jewish heritage sites, many of which he had a part in excavating. courteSy of Danny herMan

Page 9: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

Jewish Standard, Jewish Community news, rockland Jewish Federation reporter s-13Winter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvahWINter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvah

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American Friends of Magen David Adom, for example, have a program called the “Red Bag of Courage.” The Red Bag is a replica of the paramedic’s kit which is used by all MDA volunteer “first responders” when racing to the scene of a medical emergency.

Participants raise $1,000 — which is the price of a fully outfitted red first responder’s bag filled with emergency equipment that is used to save lives in Isra-el. The organization thanks the participants by send-ing them their own monogrammed red bag.

We teach our children, “If you have saved a life you have saved the world.” So why not start by saving lives in Israel?

To many young adults, a celebratory party is an important part of the occasion. A way to spread the joy is to ask for gifts for others. Birthday Angels Birthday Party Project is a non-profit organization that provides underprivileged children in Israel with their own birth-day party (www.birthday-angels.org). Only $36 will buy the party kit necessary to celebrate the child’s birthday.

Director Ruthie Luttenberg explains: “A $36 dona-tion puts a million dollar smile on the face of a child. There are not a lot of charities that make your dona-tions go as far as this one. Our Circle of Giving is designed to make a far-reaching difference in the lives of literally thousands of children at a tiny cost! Because we mass produce our party kits and recruit volunteers to give the party, we bypass the most expensive costs entailed in throwing a party.”

Celebrate their Interests: The interests of chil-dren are as varied as those of adults. Focus on their strengths and introduce them to a new skill. If a child is artistic, buy them a camera, but also enroll them in a class on how to use the camera in different ways.

If a child is interested in sports, find a class, a coach or a role model in the field, and go together to hear them speak or watch them play. Schools such as the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy, which is located on both coasts, has many classes for kids. At just about every ice rink in the country there are “learn to skate” programs. It’s just a matter of Googling your child’s interests and finding a location near you.

Give the gift of adventure experiences like flying in a wind tunnel, swimming with dolphins, or learn-ing to surf, figure skate or swim. Even money can be an interactive gift if you teach your child the art of wise investment. Find a stock, and watch the investment grow and fall. Discuss why. All of these experiences are fun and will give the skills and education that will last a lifetime.

New skill sets build self-esteem and self-confi-dence, and when parents, family, and friends actually spend time with a young adult to foster their talents and creativity, it makes a world of difference.

Brander explains: “It’s not about the gifts, it is about creating a legacy — which is the greatest gift a parent can give — a legacy of fulfillment and empow-erment. Long after they are on their own and we are no longer physically around to guide them this legacy beginning with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will help our chil-dren navigate the tumultuous times in their lives.”

Masada Siegel can be reached at [email protected].

JointMedia News Service

Page 10: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

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big bucks and pink thrones The most over-the-top bar/bat mitzvahs in recent historya ChoColate FaCtory, a $27,000 gown, and ‘mitzvahpalooza’

alina dain sharon

Young Benjamin Fiedler just returned from a lav-ish Titanic-themed party held logically, though maybe with a note of morbidity, on a cruise ship. This was simply the bar mitzvah of his

friend Arnie Stein. As Benjamin also prepares to turn thirteen, he can barely read his haftorah while trying to figure out what it means to become a man. Mean-while, his parents nearly drive themselves crazy in an attempt to outdo Stein’s event by renting Dodger Sta-dium for Benjamin’s party. The ensuing events result in hilarity.

If this sounds familiar, it is either because it’s the plot of the 2006 film “Keeping Up With The Steins,” or it rings all too true with your personal observa-tions. Simple synagogue gatherings or house parties with bubbe as the caterer are now a thing of the past. Most bar and bat mitzvahs fit more comfortably in the “extravaganza” category, but in recent years, some have blown the rest right out of the water.

Here are the top five most ridiculous bar/bat mitz-vahs in recent years:

5. doompiTY dooFor a child that was particularly into “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” a re-creation of the factory itself is what he got. Pat James, a New York City event plan-ner, recalled in a 2005 Washington Post interview, “We had a purple suit made for him, and we hired these people to be Oompa Loompas and they came out and danced. We had these trees with candy all over them, with signs that said ‘Do not eat.’ It was fantastic.”

4. a bar miTzvah on lockdownFinancial scam artist Tuvia Stern hosted a bar mitz-vah party for his son — get this — from behind bars. He used his own kosher caterer to feed 60 guests and entertained them in the jailhouse gym. “It’s outrageous what transpired,” said at least one objecting official according to the New York Post. And yet corrections officers were actually paid overtime for the extra hours it took to “supervise” this party.

3. mixing business wiTh bar miTzvahConsider the Ridinger family. Bat mitzvah girl Amber wore a $27,000 Dolce & Gabbana gown and 100,000

Steven tyler and Joe perry from Aerosmith allowed David Brooks’ nephew a turn at the drums during his cousin’s bat mitzvah. Daigooliva.

Alina Dain Sharon is the Assistant Editor of JointMedia News Service.

Page 11: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

Jewish Standard, Jewish Community news, rockland Jewish Federation reporter s-15Winter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvah

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crystals at her party at the Miami Beach club the Forge, reported MTV. The guests walked into the venue on a pink carpet and partied to musical entertain-ment by Ja Rule and Ashanti. The club’s cellar was transformed into a “candy land” with chocolate colored drapes.

“Well, diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” Amber Ridinger said. Let’s not forget that every party can be a business opportunity. The eighth-grader took care to debut her line of club clothes, Gossip, and her commercial perfume, Amber No. 13.

2. bar miTzvah TweeTsJeff Zucker, former CEO of NBCUni-versal, got Drake to sing at his son’s bar mitzvah for a relatively “reasonable” price in comparison to the $1 million Zucker almost shelled out for a perfor-mance by Kanye West. Clearly, every-one has limits. From sushi and rack of lamb to asparagus and smoked salmon, this feast was a culinary heaven, the New York Post reported. Zucker enter-tained his guests with a photo booth, a bracelet-making lounge and an iPad station where everyone could tweet to the world about the greatest party on earth in real time. It’s an event guests

will remember every time they trot out in the pair of customized Converse sneakers they received as gifts.

1. miTzvahpaloozaIn an event that had jaws dropping across the country, multimillionaire Long Island defense contractor David H. Brooks booked two floors of a ban-quet facility for the more-than-lavish bat mitzvah of his daughter in 2005, the New York Post reported. Dubbed, “Mitzvahpalooza,” Brooks had a stage built, brought in Jumbotron giant TV screens, and installed special carpeting for a concert most people would die for.

Names in the lineup included Ste-ven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith, The Eagles’ Don Henley and Joe Walsh, Fleetwood Mac’s Steve Nicks, Tom Petty, and — so the younger crowd could recognize a few names too — DJ AM, Ciara, and 50 Cent. Kenny G serenaded the guests on sax during cocktail hour. Apparently Tyler and Perry even tried to humor Brooks when he jumped on stage and demanded to let his nephew play the drums. Guests left the event with iPods and digital cameras in goodie bags.

The total cost for the blowout? A cool $10 million. Five years later, Brooks

was found guilty of insider trading and committing $185 million fraud — using his company, DHB Industries, to pay for his personal expenses. At least his daughter reaped some of the benefits?

Whatever kind of bar or bat mitz-vah suits your style, one thing is for sure: It is definitely fun to see how it’s (occasionally) done.

JointMedia News Service

rapper 50 Cent recently graced the stage at a bat mitzvah that made all others pale in comparison. alex conSt.

Page 12: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

s-16 Jewish Standard, Jewish Community news, rockland Jewish Federation reporter WINter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvah

JaCob kamaras

“Fluffy” Shindler barks when he sees Friday night can-dles and understands that on Shabbat it’s quieter than

usual around the house. It was only nat-ural, then, for the Shindlers to throw Fluffy a “bark mitzvah.”

About eight years ago in Mon-sey, N.Y., the perceptive Bichon Frise donned a yarmulke and placed his paw on a Chumash (Bible) before 10 kids and a few neighbors at the Shindler

household. The menu included cake for the crowd, and for Fluffy, a cookie deco-rated like a Torah scroll.

“We didn’t do a big spiel, but it was cute,” Wendy Shindler told JointMedia News Service.

While Fluffy’s bark mitzvah was low-key affair, some bark mitzvahs have rivaled the extravagance of their human-focused counterparts. That was the case in December 2004, when New York cabaret singer Mark Nadler

All dogs go to… synagogue?Some Jewish pet owners throw a “bark mitzvah” to celebrate their canine’s coming of age

treated his dog, Admiral Rufus K. Boom (“Boomie”), to a party that included a chopped liver sculpture, bartenders and a lavish buffet in his Riverdale, N.Y., home.

According to the New York Times, Boomie’s bark mitzvah featured yarmul-kes for guests with the dog’s name and the date printed inside, as well as “many checks” written for $50 or more as gifts — though some attendees gave Boomie rawhide chews. The party invitations, sent to dozens of friends, said the bark mitzvah’s purpose was “to share a spe-cial day in our lives when my dog, Admiral Rufus K. Boom, will celebrate his bark mitzvah in the tradition of our ancestors.”

In response to one guest who claimed Boomie “doesn’t look” Jewish, Nadler responded “he chanted his arf-tara this afternoon,” a play on the haf-tara portion read at traditional bar mitz-vahs, according to the New York Times.

In August 2008, David Best, CEO of The Doctor’s Channel, organized a $10,000 bark mitzvah for “Elvis” and 100 guests — including celebrity sex thera-pist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, according to Fox News.

Footage of Elvis’s bark mitzvah on YouTube (http://bit.ly/js-bark) shows the canine motioning on the bimah in a synagogue sanctuary, flanked by two men serving as the gabbaim and stuffed dogs “watching” in front as a human reads the “arf-tara” in sync with Elvis’s movements.

“He has a great personality and everyone loves him,” David Best said of Elvis, according to Fox News.

The bark mitzvah routine, however, isn’t always jovially received. Respond-ing to a New York Times article in 1997 — the year when the term “bark mitz-vah” was first used — Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff of Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, wrote a letter to the editor expressing that the practice is “nothing less than a desecration of a cherished Jewish tradition and degrades some of the central principles of Jewish life.”

“I enjoy a good time as much as the next person,” Kroloff wrote, “but not at the expense of religious traditions that need strengthening, not desecrating.”

California-based author Shari Cohen told JointMedia News Service that she was “exceptionally aware” of the concerns surrounding bark mitz-vahs when writing “Alfie’s Bark Mitzvah” (Five Star Publications, 2007), a chil-dren’s book on the subject. She con-sulted with Conservative rabbis on the

“elvis” Best performs his “arf-tara” at a bark mitzvah in 2008. Molly kravitz

project, asking them if bark mitzvahs were too much of a “boundary pusher.”

Most of the rabbis were enthusias-tic about the idea of the book or at least open to it, Cohen said, but a select few “told me what I already knew — ‘maybe you should not go in this direction.’” Therefore, Cohen said she was extra careful before finalizing the book, re-working it several times with publisher Linda Radke.

Cohen, a longtime dog owner her-self, said the goal of “Alfie’s Bark Mitz-vah” is to teach kids about traditional bar mitzvah themes in a fun and differ-ent way. The book comes with a CD of songs by Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, who along with Cohen continues to promote the book at fairs and synagogues five years after it hit shelves.

“I wanted to do [the book] not only with warmth and humor and teach-ing, but also with song,” Cohen said, explaining that she gave Alfie human-like senses such as the nerves a bar mitzvah boy feels before reading his Torah portion.

The People for the Ethical Treat-ment of Animals (PETA) slogan says ani-mals “are not ours to eat, wear, experi-ment on, or use for entertainment,” but PETA does not condemn the bark mitz-vah practice. On a webpage titled “Let’s Have a Dog Party!” (http://features.peta.org/DogParty/photos.asp), PETA asks “Did Bingo get a bark mitzvah?” and encourages users to “show every-one how to throw a bash to bark about” by uploading their party photos.”

Fluffy Shindler, now 9 years old and living in Bergenfield, received his bark mitzvah at the age of 1 and a half, but most male dogs have been known to celebrate the occasion at either 13 months or 13 years (the equivalent of 91 in dog years) old.

Despite Fluffy’s usual perceptive-ness when it comes to Jewish tradition, he merely barked and “didn’t under-stand anything” at the party, Wendy Shindler said. It was more about simple fun than anything else.

“We thought it would be very cute to do this for him,” Shindler told Joint-Media News Service.

JointMedia News Service

Page 13: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

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The Mirth of the Bar MitzvahStephen whiTField

Think of what might happen to the Jewish cal-endar if literary scholars got their hands on it. Tisha B’Av would be classified as a tragedy; Tu Bi-Sh’vat would come under the heading of the

pastoral; and Yom Kippur could serve as a soliloquy. But what would the bar mitzvah ceremony be? The answer is obvious: a comedy.

There is something inherently amusing about the rite of passage by which a 13-year-old dares to assume the formal status of adulthood. There is some-thing risible about that presumption, which is why novelists like Philip Roth, with Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), and Mordecai Richler, with Joshua Then and Now (1980), find such rituals irresistible. Satirists also seize an opening when this ceremony encourages the most extravagant and prosperous among us to exhibit excesses of spending and consumption.

Not that weddings have been spared the vulgari-ties of indulgence and ostentation. But the statistical possibility is high that nuptials may not inaugurate a happily-ever-after union. They might also be a prelude to divorce, acrimony, alimony, bitterness, and pain. By contrast, the advantage of the bar mitzvah is its invita-tion to the pleasure of youthfulness and unimpeded promise, before frustration and failure will take their toll. The onset of adolescence offers parents a chance to demonstrate the lavishness of their love and their hopes. And the ceremony gives their sons and daugh-ters a chance to demonstrate the learning — and maybe even the interpretive prowess, eloquence and wit — that a community famously devoted to educa-tion prizes.

Nor has the exuberance marking such religious

occasions escaped the rest of America. By the begin-ning of this century, about eight decades after the first bat mitzvah ceremony (1922), the Wall Street Journal reported that young gentiles in Dallas wanted to have the parties their Jewish friends enjoyed. One girl even told her Methodist parents that she “wanted to be Jew-ish,” and was willing to study Hebrew, “so that I could have a bat mitzvah” (January 14, 2004).

Filmmakers have not been far behind. The plot of “Keeping Up With the Steins” (2006) is devoted entirely to the competitive yearning to provide a truly memorable, truly extravagant bar mitzvah celebration, with pop star Neil Diamond risking self-parody by providing the entertainment at the climax of Scot Mar-shall’s satiric film. In “A Serious Man” (2009), the Coen brothers made their Job-like protagonist — coming up for tenure even as his family is coming apart — pose existential problems for feckless rabbis even as his son prepares for his big day, which somehow proves a tri-umph after all.

When “A Serious Man” was first screened at Brandeis University, both the leading actor (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Aaron Wolff, who plays his son, fielded questions afterward. When asked about the cinematic choice of the Torah portion, Wolff revealed that it was what he actually recited in his own bar mitzvah cer-emony. The young actor did not want to learn a new portion. And in the British comedy directed by Paul Weiland, “Sixty Six” (2006), even Helena Bonham Cart-er got into the act, playing the mother of a bar mitzvah boy in London.

Sometimes the occasion prefigures the career of the adult. In 2008, obituary notices for Irvine Rob-

Directors and producers Joel (left) and ethan (right) Coen pose for photographs with actor and cast member Michael Stuhlbarg on the red carpet as they arrive at the screening of their film, “A Serious Man,” during the 4th annual rome Film Festival, oct. 22, 2009. ePa/guiDa Montani.

Page 14: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

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bins, the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins, noted that, along with Burton Baskin, he started their spectacularly successful business with money he had saved from his bar mitzvah. At the party after his own bar mitzvah, Alan Stewart Konigs-berg did a competent Al Jolson imita-tion. Roughly a decade later, as Woody Allen, he would be launched on a multi-faceted, multi-talented show biz career that would exemplify, even more than Jolson’s, the ambiguities of assimilation in American Jewish life.

Or take Norman Mailer’s bar mitz-vah speech, which recorded its author’s ambition to stand in the line of “great Jews like Moses Maimonides and Karl Marx.” And while the future novelist and New Journalist famously resist-ed, as he wrote in “The Armies of the Night” (1968), the “fatal taint” of iden-tity as “the nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn,” Mailer cer-tainly resembled those earlier heroes in his proclivity for making trouble.

The parents of Carl Bernstein were politically so far to the left that the FBI copied down the license plate numbers of the guests at his bar mitzvah. So there is something fi tting about the effectiveness of Bernstein’s reporting, while covering the Watergate cri-sis for the “Washington Post” with Bob Woodward, of the abuse of power. How apt as well that the fi rst girl at the Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York to be asser-tive and articulate enough to demand a bat mitzvah turns out to have been a future Supreme Court justice, Elena Kagan.

But the oddities and paradoxes from which com-

edy springs are most evident in the gap between the awkwardness of youth and the responsibilities of adulthood. Humor is often about discrepancy, because an erudite and solemn adult was once a pisher who stood on the bima and pretended to be a grownup. Those who manage to carve out lives of dignity and sobriety, of achievement and eminence were once, after all, only thirteen years old. Because oaks were once acorns, such differences can come across as funny. We know that Rabbi Leo Baeck spoke at the ceremony of the future Princeton philosopher Walter Kaufmann, and we know that Rabbi Max Kadushin officiated when the future Columbia critic Lionel Trilling became bar mitzvah. But to imagine what such academic luminaries were

like as kids is to experience a shock of recognition — they too went through the same motions — that makes us all kin.

The late Harvard sociologist Daniel Bell went one better by telling a bar mitzvah joke on himself. Shortly before he underwent the ritual of assuming manhood, Bell confessed to the rabbi a disbelief in God. The rabbi is supposed to have replied: “Tell me something, Danny. Do you think God really cares?”

JointMedia News Service

Stephen J. Whitfield holds the Max Richter Chair in American Civilization at Brandeis University and is the author of In Search of American Jewish Culture (University Press of New England, 1999).

it’s never too late: adult bar and bat mitzvahsBar and bat mitzvah celebrations aren’t just for kids anymore, and haven’t been for quite sometime. There are many older folks, who for one reason or another were never able to be b’nai mitzvah. Perhaps bat mitzvot were non-existent or not per-mitted when a woman was a girl, and perhaps a boy, like a child Holocaust survivor, never had the chance to celebrate his. In Orthodox Jewish circles, men often celebrate a second bar mitzvah on their 83rd birthdays, because Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, says that the life expectancy of a male is 70, so if you get past the next 13 years, you are celebrat-ing a new life.

If you are an adult who has come back to Juda-ism and wants to make a public commitment, if you

want to recommit to Judaism, or if you are someone who was prevented from having a ceremony as a child — and you would like to have a bar/bat mitz-vah — think about your budget and style, talk to a rabbi you are comfortable with and fi nd out how you can make your event special for you.

Many people like to go to Israel, to the Kotel, to celebrate. Others may want to go back to Europe and the places of their youth to celebrate theirs. Still others want quiet, rather informal ceremonies at their favorite congregations. All that prevents you from making your bar/bat dream come true for you is you.

-Jeanette Friedman

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Page 15: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

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a bar or bat mitzvah is a beautiful and powerful time in a family’s life. A child has reached adult-

hood, and it’s one of the few occasions when family and friends come from across the country (or world) to celebrate together.

This time can also bump up against the stress of party plan-ning.

If you have always envi-sioned a beautiful bar or bat mitzvah for your son or daughter, but have been dealt a blow by the current economy, there are still ways to achieve your vision.

There are many components that make up a bar/bat mitzvah party, but only a few that are really crucial: décor, music, venue, and food. I’ll go through each to discuss some great money-saving techniques. The main thing to remember is that if you are planning a bar/bat mitzvah on a budget, be pre-pared to be significantly involved.

décorYou first need to find a specific piece to work around, something thematic. If your child has a particular passion (music, sports, etc.), that may inform your theme. I personally subscribe to the mantra that “bigger is better.” A few larger pieces that have great height, color, and dimension fill space better than lots of little things. So I usually tell people who are on a limited budget to do a couple of “wow items” and not get

caught up in minutiae that will not pack a punch.

Many clients tell me that their child is a typi-cal 13-year-old with many interests, but no particu-lar passion. In that case, color is a great tool. You can get a lot of play by taking a room and using color strategically. Light-ing works well to change the ambiance of a room

in an inexpensive way. A white wall instantly becomes hot pink, a stark room becomes a winter wonderland in ice blue.

There are also some clever ways to decorate a room by “doing it yourself,” thereby saving money on a decorator. If I’m looking for a little pop, I’ll cover a table with shiny black linen and throw silver Hershey kisses down the center of it. Simple, and it looks great.

A lot of people are interested in giv-ing back, and you might organize your centerpieces around the theme of tze-dakah. For example, throw a burlap fab-ric, or otherwise very textural linen on the tables. Go apple picking with your family, and fill your bushels to the brim with different kinds of shiny apples. This makes a beautiful centerpiece, and you can attach a note to the effect of, “In honor of my bat mitzvah I will be donating these apples to the local food pantry.”

I also once had a mother and daughter bake cakes together. Each table was then topped by a cake as the

the right lighting and one or two “wow pieces” can transform a room relatively inexpensively. tiffany White

event planner Janie haas. courteSy Janie haaS

Bar and bat mitzvah on a budgetwant to plan that beautiFul bar or bat mitzvah you’ve been dreaming oF, without breaking the bank? thiS guide will Show you how to Create a party to remember.

centerpiece. It was adorable, and a great way for the family to infuse the event with its personal touch.

The bottom line: People tend to make the mistake of spending a lot of money on smaller items, then see their bill and are forced to backpedal. First identify a theme, and then think of the one or two items that will be your “wow factor.” You can then use the smaller items to illustrate that and drive the theme home.

musicA really talented DJ is of paramount importance. A DJ who keeps the kids engaged and dancing all night long is going to give them a really fun evening. You don’t need much else if the DJ is talented and experienced. He will do games and contests, or teach the kids a dance. So if you don’t have the extra

money to add kids’ activities, make sure you choose a wonderful DJ.

Local talent is always less expen-sive than bringing in people from other locations, so look for DJs or bands in your area. If you are really on a bare bones budget, have a friend put togeth-er a great playlist on a solid iPod sys-tem, or do it yourself, but you’ll have to arrange for a player and speakers.

venue/FoodEach venue comes with its own quirks and deals. When looking for a venue make sure to find out if it has a food and beverage minimum, and what that buys you. Sometimes it’s not a great pack-age, and it would be wiser to bring in a caterer.

Many temples have function spac-es and charge very little. On the other hand, don’t rule out hotels. If it’s off-

Page 16: jewish standard bar / bat mitzvah supplement winter 2012

s-20 Jewish Standard, Jewish Community news, rockland Jewish Federation reporter WINter 2012 Bar/bat mitzvah

Mazel Tov to all The Bnei Mitzvot!

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season and a hotel has an empty ballroom, you may be able to negotiate a low-cost package.

When it comes to food, you should be realistic about the format for a party. Think luncheons, food stations, or buffet — not a four-course meal. There are many interesting ways to present food. You can get a lot of mileage out of fun street food — pizzas, a noodle bar, burgers. The kids will love it, and it will cost you less.

Finding a venue that is closer to home — school gym, town hall, or college — as well as a local vendor, will always save you some money.

Quick TipsAfter 35 years in the party-planning business, there are a few tricks you learn:

Get a planner: Although it may seem counter-intuitive, a planner can actually help you save money. A good and experienced planner will help you stay on budget, or let you know that what you want is not realistic for your budget. A planner can help you estab-lish priorities, within your number, and comes with a working knowledge of what that number will buy you. A planner will also have a Rolodex of different vendors at different prices and know whom to call.

Remember the hidden costs: A lot of people forget about extra costs. There is a 7 percent tax on food in Massachusetts, 18-20 percent gratuity, and everyone — from the DJs to the chef — might expect a tip. Fac-tor this in when planning.

Use the Internet: The web is a great resource, especially for favors. Edible favors are the least expen-sive, and you can create custom labels or wrappers to make it fun and personal. There are also a multitude of promotional items, like t-shirts or drawstring bags that you can find online now. Depending on the time of year, there are frequent promotional sales, and things will likely be cheaper when bought in bulk.

The imporTance oF “branding”If you are really looking to have a lower-budget party, make it less formal, and make it all about the kids.

You can do a simple and lovely lunch, and a kids’ party at night. They don’t really need much to have a great time. Still invite your friends and family, but the message should be: This is for the kids. With that comes a very different expectation.

At the end of the day, your family and friends are there to celebrate and share in your joy. You have to be true to who you are, and to your child. You have to know your child well.

An expensive party is also not necessary to wow the guests. I recently saw a candle lighting that blew me away. There was no cake, but each guest received a light-up wand. Guests were called up in groups, and instead of being asked to light a candle, lit their wands. At the end, there were 210 twinkling lights; there wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t have a lighted wand. It was beautiful and inclusive.

Bar and bat mitzvahs can often be so generic that the “wow factor” becomes what you do to make the event meaningful. Identify the little thing that people take away that is unique to your event. That, you can do on any budget.

JointMedia News Service

Janie Haas, the founder and president of Janie Haas Events, has been in the event planning business for over 35 years. She specializes in events that do not follow a cookie cutter formula, and has worked with a variety of clients, including the high profile.