By Ellen Malavsky
To do a program, or not to do a program? That is often the question when it comes to your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah service. When I started thinking about doing a program for our son’s Bar Mitzvah service my first thought was, nobody reads them. On second thought, it occurred to me that, everybody reads them. Let’s face it, during a Bar/Bat Mitzvah service we’re a captive audience. We read the program before the service begins, during the service to see what’s next, and toward the end of the service to see what’s last.
While some synagogues print their own programs with a line mentioning who is becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah that week, many families want something more personal so they create their own. Such a program can be as simple as a listing of the order of the service and the names of those who have aliyot, or as thorough to include a family history, information on the child’s mitzvah project, a summary of the Torah portion and even explaining what everything means for those who aren’t Jewish or don’t go to synagogue often.
Programs can be even more important when the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service is not held in a traditional synagogue and it doubles as a siddur.
For our family, the program was also our siddur because our son’s Bar Mitzvah service was held in a 200-year-old Quaker Meetinghouse. Our cantor provided the body of the siddur, including our son’s Torah portion. It was our job to customize it.
Since our guests were a combination of Jewish and non-Jewish family and friends, we wanted the program to be user-friendly for everyone attending the service.
Budget was definitely a consideration for us so we decided to design the program ourselves. We’re not really do-it-yourself type people, but we figured we’d give it a try. Basketball is our son’s passion and his Bar Mitzvah theme and the color scheme for his Bar Mitzvah was black and orange. To keep the cost down, we decided the cover of the program would be orange paper with a black and white photo and the body of the program would be white copy paper.
We wrote a heartfelt welcome as the introduction on the first page, which included sentiments about our son’s dedication to his Bar Mitzvah studies and a loving thank you to our family and friends for sharing this special occasion with us. We then listed the honors, including aliyot, dressing/undressing the Torah, blessings, poems, readings and speeches. The honors page was important because we wanted to include people who were significant to our son. Along with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, we honored two of our son’s nannies and his basketball coaches. These people were particularly special because they are not Jewish and we wanted to make sure they knew what an important role they played in our son’s life. We included a page with details of our son’s mitzvah project written in his own words as well as a memorial page. The back page had several quotes from inspiring basketball players and coaches such as Michael Jordan and UNC coach Roy Williams.
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. ~Michael Jordan
Our program was copied, collated and stapled by a local Staples Copy Center. It wasn’t fancy, but it was definitely made with love. Our son’s reaction when he saw it was “Wow, cool!”
Susan H. wanted the siddur for her daughter Mikayla’s Bat Mitzvah to be bright, colorful and reader-friendly. The covers were beautiful pictorial tributes to Mikayla, including recent photos on the front, and thirteen pictures of her, one from every year of her life. A professional designer created the siddur, complete with graphics of Mikayla’s masquerade theme throughout. The hot pink and black colors really popped off the page. The text was written in a large font for the elderly guests to read. “The flow of Mikayla’s program was easy to follow, said Susan. “We had Jewish and non-Jewish guests in attendance and we wanted everyone to feel comfortable. Transliteration of the Hebrew was on every page and there were several passages in English throughout. It’s a beautiful keepsake from a very special day.”
Vivian Singer of Custom Siddur said the majority of their business is siddurs for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs in a location other than a synagogue. “Israel is a popular destination but we’ve done many for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs on cruise ships, beaches and even ballparks.” Custom Siddur offers soup to nuts in terms of design, layout and printing. Included in their pricing is working directly with the rabbi or cantor to ensure that all of the information is correct. Clients can provide as much or as little as they want for the design of the siddur. “Sometimes we receive beautiful original artwork created by the child and other times we are asked to search for existing images that match the Bar/Bat Mitzvah theme. Either way, the final product is always unique and special.”
Designer Ana Dolan also creates elegant programs and custom siddurs for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Each design is suited to the individual child and she typically incorporates the theme colors and logo to the design. “A custom siddur for your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah not only provides guidance through the ceremony but is also an everlasting keepsake of that special day for you and your guests. I have met with several clients to discuss their ideas for a custom siddur and they will bring out a huge stack of past books they have kept and treasured over the years.”
Katie Fischer Design creates “all things paper” to capture the essence of what makes the Bar/Bat Mitzvah unique. From the traditional to a full illustrative story about the family, Katie says the program sets the tone of the service. In person or by phone, the initial meeting is important to the design process. “This is a chance for me to learn who you are and what you’re looking for,” she says. The process and timeline varies from family to family depending on the complexity of the design.
An alternative to a traditional program or siddur is a story writing service called Prequels. The writers at Prequels will interview your child and write their “life story” to create a booklet that also serves as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program or siddur. The beginning of the book lists the details of the service, and the body of the book is a retrospective in words and pictures. “The interview covers topics such as the teen’s fondest memories, favorite activities, dreams and goals for the future, as well as quotes from close family and friends,” explains founder Denise Oliveira. “The process is fun and results in an adorable keepsake for every guest.”
Clearly, programs and siddurs come in all shapes and sizes, from traditional to contemporary and everything in between. What’s most important is choosing a design and format that is right for your family. Whether you are a do-it-yourself type or not, the process of creating a program can be time-consuming so get with the program as soon as possible!
Custom Siddur, www.customsiddur.com, 440-725-2354
Invitations by Ana, www.invitationsbyana.com, 203-722-5231
Katie Fisher Design, www.katiefischerdesign.com, 917-714-2957
Prequels, www.prequels.net, 347-741-8225
This story is from the 2013 Mitzvah Market Magazine. If you would like to request a free copy, click here.