By Sheri ArbitalJacoby
Money or gifts? That’s the big question guests often face when invited to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Sure, most young people today would love a chunk of cash from beloved friends and relatives to spend on something they’ve been craving—or to put away for college, but many guests prefer giving something more personal and meaningful.
It’s been that way forever. “Not once did I look around a college classroom and think how grateful I was for the cash Bat Mitzvah gifts” that helped pay my way, reminisces Amy Budish. “Decades later, I still wear jewelry that I received as gifts, and think about the special relative or family friend who gave it to me.”
Jessica Jade Benoit, will never forget her favorite present: “I received a bouquet of a dozen red roses with a hundred dollar bill curled into one of the flowers. It was signed ‘from a secret admirer.’ To this day I still don’t know who sent it, but it made
quite an impression on a 13-year-old girl!”
When Danielle Schlass Saliman had her Bat Mitzvah in the ’80s, she received every color Swatch watch imaginable. These days, the hot timepiece is a mechanical skeleton watch that enables you to see all the moving parts through its clear covering.
Speaking of time, a sensational way to spend some precious moments with the B’nai Mitzvah, is to score tickets so the two of you can see a show, concert or sporting event together. If the teen has another passion, get him or her a gift certificate for hobby supplies. The best gifts come from knowing something about the person you are giving them to.
“In my day, the standard was always a personalized Cross pen,” says Lori Yaspan, Temple Sinai of Roslyn’s gift shop manager. “Nowadays, most kids want money, or gift certificates for electronics.” She believes, “the more personal a gift, the better.” Popular presents from the shop include B’nai Mitzvah photo and memory albums, picture frames and framed art, jewelry, tallit clips and mezuzahs. “We also carry small Torah scrolls in acrylic boxes that can be rolled to the B’nai Mitzvah’s portion, yads (Torah pointers), shadowbox frames to display the invitation and tallit.”
Still baffled by what to give? Mitzvah Market has unearthed lots of unique items in various price ranges. Here are some suggestions:
When my own daughter, Hallie, was born 14 years ago, we commemorated the occasion with a gorgeous Joan Michlin necklace of assorted geometric shapes (joanmichlin.com), which has become my signature piece. As a Bat Mitzvah gift, it seemed fitting to have earrings in two of the shapes made for my daughter. The jewelry makes us feel more connected. One of Hallie’s best friends, Talia Rosen, had a similar experience. “My favorite gift was a necklace my great aunt gave me that looks almost exactly like the one my mom wears everyday,” she says.
Jewelry and technology converge with Ringly (ringly.com), making it the prefect gift for the girl who can’t be without her cell phone. Ringly.com rings connect to an iPhone or Android via Bluetooth using the corresponding app, and buzz for incoming texts, calls, emails, calendar reminders or app notifications. Set in 18-karat gold plating with a matte finish, the ring features a rectangular-cut, semiprecious or precious stone in black onyx, pink sapphire, rainbow moonstone or emerald ($195.)
Patricia Locke asymmetrical geometric Multicolor Austrian Crystal Pewter Hamsa Necklace in rich jewel tones blends exquisite contemporary design with heirloom overtones ($195, Hamakor Gallery, jewishsource.com)
This sterling silver, cubic zirconium Two-in-One Star of David necklace can be worn as a Jewish star or opened into a whimsical zigzag butterfly design ($57; save $5 by joining their email list, traditionsjewishgifts.com)
“When a niece or nephew is having a B’nai Mitzvah, my gift of choice is either a Torah pointer that they can use up on the
bima, or haftorah portion bookends,” says renowned Judaica artist Gary Rosenthal (collectgaryrosenthal.com). “The B’nai
Mitzvah usually thinks it’s really cool that their portion is silkscreened on a bookend.”
Adorn the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child’s bedroom door with an ornate mezuzah handmade by Israeli born New York artist Michal Golan (michalgolan.com), whose pieces combine an antique look with a modern fashion sensibility—or frame it until
they’re ready to hang it outside their first apartment.
Sculpted from brass, copper, steel and glass, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Bookends by Gary Rosenthal display a boy or girl holding a scroll on one side and your choice of a haftorah portion on the other ($120; can be personalized with a brass plate containing two lines of text for an additional $20).
These mixed-media Yads by Gary Rosenthal, available in cranberry, pink, turquoise and blue, add a creative touch to rehearsals and the big day ($100 including a yad stand; can be personalized with a brass plate containing two lines of text for an additional $20).
This large Star of David Mezuzah by Michal Golan is handmade from brass, sterling silver and Swarovski crystals ($105). It also comes in a small pink version crafted from brass, electroplated with 24K gold and decorated with enamel, Swarovski crystals and opal ($100).
“The best present is a gift from the heart,” says Carol Konigsberg. “On my daughter Jamie’s big day, she received so many handmade gifts from friends. They included collaged stools, benches and mirrors. Jamie’s friend Alex brought an actual
cocktail table that was smothered with photos and her other best friend plastered a mannequin in pictures. It was truly amazing!”
Fine jewelry designer Annie Fensterstock’s niece had her Bat Mitzvah this year, “which meant I got to make the gifts for all of her friends!” Lucky for the rest of us, she created a reasonably priced Mitzvah line (anniefensterstock.com). (Pieces from her regular collection, which blend a mastery of ancient goldsmithing with dynamic contemporary design, can cost in the neighborhood of $10,000.) Since each Mitzvah creation is handmade, pendants can be designed with an initial or a name.
The “Zoe” Necklace from Annie Fensterstock is sterling silver and available with an oxidized background, as shown, or in bright silver ($250 to $300 depending on the number of characters, up to eight).
Protect your favorite Bar/Bat Mitzvah child’s Android, iPhone or iPad from dust and scratches while adding color and individuality with a Collage Devise Case. Design it yourself with up to 30 pictures or give the teen a gift card so he or
she can create it themselves (from $39.99, collage.com).
A perfect extra gift for a girl to give her friend: customized Glitter Nail Polish. Design and name a color for your BFF and pair it with a check or an IOU for a mani-pedi date ($10-$15, starrily.com).
Some kids get caught up in the party and forget what the Mitzvah is really about. To remind them, mark this special simcha with these meaningful gifts:
After hearing an injured Israeli soldier’s story, designer Orna Simkhai was inspired to create Shema necklaces and donate a portion of the profits to soldiers and other worthy social causes that help make a difference in people’s lives.
The first verse of the Shema can be worn on a necklace with the Shema-Or Stainless Steel Uri-Ya.
His/Hers pendant ($50, shema-or.com).
Link the B’nai Mitzvah to a child who perished in the Holocaust by having the teen’s name, hometown and simcha date, plus the name and home country of a young Shoah victim, inscribed on a glass tile in the Jewish National Fund’s B’nai Mitzvah Remembrance Wall in Jerusalem, and a plaque will be sent to the recipient ($1,800 donation, jnf.org; click JNF Store/B’nai Mitzvah Remembrance Wall).
Create a lifelong link to Israel by having the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child’s name inscribed in the Sefer Bar/Bat Mitzvah book in Jerusalem. The recipient will receive a certificate and a copy of HOMELAND: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel ($54, jnf.org; JNF Store/Occasion Certificates).
Teens love the latest devices—iAnything (apple.com) plus accessories, such as a LifeProof phone case (lifeproof.com), tablet
or laptop case and charging station, cameras including a retro Polaroid (bhphotovideo.com) and cool gadgets from Sharper
Image (sharperimage.com), Brookstone (brookstone.com) and Hammacher Schlemmer (hammacher.com).
Joanmichlin.com * Traditionsjewishgifts.com * collectgaryrosenthal.com * Shema-or.com * JNF.org (click JNF Store/B’nai
Mitzvah Remembrance Wall or click occasion certificates) * Michalgolan.com * Jewishsource.com * Anniefensterstock.com
* Ringly.com * Collage.com * Starrily.com * Apple.com * Lifeproof.com * Bhphotovideo.com * Sharperimage.com
* Brookstone.com *Hammacher.com
This story is from new 2014 Mitzvah Market Magazine. If you would like to request a free copy, click here.