Inspiring Projects for Your Child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah

'Father and son' photo (c) 2006, Sagie - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/The best tip I heard for planning a bar or bat mitzvah is to hope to have an average one. Of course, no one wants average or ordinary. But when you start off with the expectation that your bar or bat mitzvah is going to be special, you set yourself (and your child) up for failure. By lowering your expectations, you remove pressure and reduce stress.

With careful planning and a positive attitude, your celebration will be both successful and memorable.

Many families planning a bar or bat mitzvah these days want more than just a party. Long before choosing the bar mitzvah invitations, parents and kids are searching for a meaningful charity or study project. The projects usually culminate with a moving speech or video, which the child presents at the party.

Finding the right project can take time and patience. Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • What are my child’s particular interests or skills? If the child feels that you are imposing your own project on her, everyone will end up frustrated.
  • What can family members contribute to the success of the project?
  • Will I need to enlist  help from outside the family?
  • How much time, effort, and cost is required? Be realistic, and allow for flexibility.
  • How will the project reflect your Jewish values and your personal values?
With the help of online friends, I compiled a list of some unusual bar and bat mitzvah projects:
  • Billy used a flip camera to film himself interviewing residents of a nursing home about their lives. He edited the film and charged admission to a showing and donated the proceeds to the home.
  • Emory started a used book drive, collecting 2000 books for a “book bank” that lends out books to disadvantaged children.
  • A bat mitzvah girl, who suffered from migraines, started a foundation to research migraines in children.
  • Noa decided to get gifts for children in the local hospital, and got her classmates to help. You can see this video she made about the project:

  • The father of  bar mitzvah boy Ofer had some training in Jewish calligraphy, so with some guidance from a sofer (scribe), he prepared his son’s tefillin (phylacteries). In the months leading up to the bar mitzvah the father and son learned the Jewish laws of tefillin, shopped for parchment in Bnei Brak, put the scrolls into boxes, and experienced the entire process. The video they showed about it was amazing.
  • Rebecca taught her son Akiva to sew. He made mini-quilts that were later donated to the NICU where her twins had stayed after they were born.
  • A more traditional project, easily adapted to a child’s interests, is study of Jewish texts. The child may choose the parshat shavua (weekly Torah portion read in the synagogue on the week of their birthday) or a longer text that can be studied over the months and years leading up to the bar or bat mitzvah from the Bible, Mishnah, Talmud or other Jewish source.
  • Bar mitzvah bencher wedding illustration of couple under chuppahShmuel Yehuda loved to work with the modeling clay known as Fimo. So he molded figures and had them professionally photographed, using them to illustrate a Shabbat song book that was distributed at the Bar Mitzvah party. The production and marketing of the book became a family project.
  • Genealogical projects are popular. The child researches the family history and reports on what he or she found. Sometimes the family takes a trip to the “old country.”

With a project like these, your guests, your family, and especially your child will create meaningful memories that will stay with them long after the  bar or bat mitzvah thank yous have gone out.

Have you or someone you need made an interesting bar or bat mitzvah project? Please share in the comments.

 

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Comments

  1. Wish I’d had some of these great ideas for my bat mitzvah rather than a poofy dress and a guy on the synthesizer! 🙂

  2. for one son and one daughter we did tiyulim for their friends.the girls did a bike ride near beit shemesh and then my daughter gave a talk about the history of the area.for my son we took the boys rapelling near haifa and then to the beach for some different kinds of races on the sand.my older daughter volunteered packing food for poor people(shachen tov–if anyone is interested) and we did a break fast for my younger daughter whose bm was shabbat nachamu and tish’a b’av was on thursday.

  3. My girls had to include some sort of chessed project at their bat mitzva parties. YB baked 200+ cupcakes ahead of time, then I taught various cake decorating techniques to the girls. The decorated cupcakes were delivered to chayalim at checkpoints the next day. EA had a quilting bee – each girl designed a quilt square, cut fabric, and pinned it. I sewed it all together, and made 3 small quilts, which were donated to a family who hosts foster babies until they are placed. AH’s friends filled boxes with basic toiletries and wrote encouraging notes, donated to a local shelter for abused women and their children.
    It is not that I am so creative, as so many claim. I think that’s a cop-out. We sat down, months ahead of time, and discussed populations that need stuff. We spent time at the shabbos table, debating the pros and cons of various possibilities. There are tons of organizations out there, and even more people who just need help. This is an amazing opportunity to show your kids that anything is possible, and they CAN make a difference.

  4. DD wanted to support a particular tzedaka that helps sick kids and their families.
    The tzedaka suggested a project we did with the girls from her class at the party. We assembled “build your own bear” kits in little gift bags, that therapists and counselors can use with the sick kids they help. Each girl added a little note.

  5. My son is collecting new and recently expired coupons, which he sorts and then will send to U.S. Airforce bases in England. There, families on military bases can use them to save money when they buy groceries and toiletries at the base commissary. He is getting a lot of donations for coupons!

  6. Those are all wonderful ideas! I especially love the idea of interviewing people in nursing homes. It makes the interviewees feel valued and the kid probably gets quite an education that would be impossible to duplicate in school or in books.

  7. Nice ideas. I believe Shmuel Yehuda has on occassion done a treasure hunt in conjunction with his pieces which would be appropriate for bar mitzvah groups. I have also seen some nice projects taking advantage of children’s abilities such as by creating illustrated Haggadot/Megillot with commentaries.

    I am going to include a link to your post on my blog- i have a bunch of blog posts that are useful for planning bar/bat mitzvahs and other smachot. These may be of use to your readers. For instance:
    About arevut bnai mitzvah video contest – http://birkatchaverim.com/wordpress/?p=543
    Doing a clothing swap- http://birkatchaverim.com/wordpress/?p=125
    Other ideas for Bat Mitzvah – http://birkatchaverim.com/wordpress/?p=946
    in addition to a variety of general craft ideas which are fun to make in a group and can be made both to take home and as donations for appropriate organizations. I’m always looking for new ideas so thanks for the post.

  8. great ideas, good to share with friends and kids at school so the focus can be on values

  9. start a Jewish Girl scouts and teach them outdoor skills.

  10. teen in america says:

    I learned mishnayos Seder Nezikin for my bat mitzvah.

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