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?
- 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.
- Shmuel 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.