MitzvahMarket | Author Archives
How to Host a Gender Inclusive Bar/Bat Mitzvah
June 16th, 2022

How to Host a Gender Inclusive Bar/Bat Mitzvah

By Vered Ornstein

By the time teens reach bar/bat mitzvah age, many of them have already begun to explore their identity and self-presentation by experimenting with clothing, hair and makeup styles, and other means of expression. Whether your teen identifies as genderqueer, nonbinary, or nonconforming, or if they simply wish to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, there are many ways to incorporate gender inclusivity into their big day. Here are some simple tips to get you started:

Use Gender-Neutral Language

Hebrew is an inherently gendered language. For a teen who does not feel completely comfortable identifying as either male or female, having to use gendered terms like “bar” and “bat” may feel alienating or awkward. The term “b’nai mitzvah” is traditionally used when multiple people are having their ceremonies at once, such as for a set of twins. Because of that, it can be seen as the Hebrew equivalent of someone using they/them pronouns, and it is a great option for an alternative title to bar or bat mitzvah.

Additionally, some synagogues have done away with the traditional Hebrew terms altogether in recent years, choosing to simply call all ceremonies “B-Mitzvahs”. Some other non-traditional titles could include “simchat mitzvah” (meaning a joyous celebration), “brit mitzvah” (a celebration of the covenant), or even a “they mitzvah”. This subtle change in terminology may seem small, but it can have a huge impact on a teen’s level of comfort and confidence as they celebrate their journey into Jewish adulthood.

 

Gift Unisex Party Favors

Party favors and swag are one of the most fun parts of attending a party, but being gender inclusive can feel tricky when clothing and sizing comes into play. Instead of having “boys” and “girls” options for party swag (for example, having tank tops for girls and t-shirts for boys), instead pick something that is uniform in cut and sizing, like a sweater or a baseball cap.

If you choose to have variations of swag, let the guests choose for themselves what type of clothing they’d like to take home, rather than assuming what they might want. Having open-ended options for gifts will make sure your party is one to talk about for years to come.

Ask for Pronouns

A person’s pronouns may differ from how they present and dress themselves, so it’s important to never assume what one’s might be. An easy way to make sure you know your guests’ preferred pronouns is to have a spot for them on your RSVPs. If your teen uses pronouns different from the ones they were assigned at birth, ask them if they’d like for that to be included in the invitations as well.

If you’d like to take pronoun inclusion to the next level, incorporate guests’ pronouns wherever their names are written (with their permission, of course). This could include seating chart cards, the service program, and anywhere else names might come up. If your party includes something unique, like a crafting station, consider having pronoun pins as one of the crafts.

As pronouns are a very personal part of one’s identity, it’s possible not everyone will feel comfortable sharing theirs with a large group of people. If this is the case, don’t sweat it! What matters most is that your guests and your teen are comfortable and having fun.

Check Your Venue’s Accommodations

Having to choose which restroom to use can potentially cause a nonbinary or gender nonconforming person stress and anxiety. If possible, always check with your synagogue and party venue if they have an all-gender restroom that is easily accessible for guests to use. This ensures that everyone feels safe, comfortable, and welcome when they come to celebrate with you!
While planning a bar/bat/b’nai mitzvah is a daunting task, making it gender inclusive doesn’t have to be! Allowing a teen to be their authentic and genuine self is a huge part of making their mitzvah a special and memorable day. For more information on gender, sexuality, and Judaism, check out Keshet, an organization dedicated to promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Jewish community.

Bat Mitzvah Project Spotlight: A Project Helps Animals in Ukraine
May 13th, 2022

Bat Mitzvah Project Spotlight: A Project Helps Animals in Ukraine

Bat Mitzvah Project Spotlight: Morgan Sohmer Helps Animals in Ukraine

By Mia Salas

Bar and Bat Mitzvah projects are an incredible opportunity for kids to develop their leadership, research, and communication skills. But at their core, these projects are about compassion– understanding, learning, and loving others. We’re always on the lookout for Mitzvah projects that do just that, so when we heard about Morgan Sohmer’s efforts to save animals in Ukraine, we knew we had to share.

Morgan’s Bat Mitzvah Project stemmed from her love for animals and her impressive global awareness: “Anyone who knows me is aware that my Boston Terrier, Ruby, is my life. After hearing about all the atrocities happening in the Ukraine, I couldn’t help but think about the animals left behind,” she says. 

And Morgan’s right– according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), animals are neglected in times of war: “We know from our rescue work around the world that animals are often the forgotten victims of conflict and war,” IFAW states on their website. Impact is, of course, an important part of a mitzvah project, but perhaps more incredible is when a project draws our attention to something that otherwise would have slipped through the cracks. Animals have rights too, and right now they need our help in Ukraine. 

For my Bat Mitzvah Project, thanks to the guidance of Cantor Elena at Temple Sinai of Roslyn, I have partnered with a local animal shelter in the city of Dnipro in Ukraine. They are working tirelessly to care for these animals, many of whom are sick and injured,” explains Morgan. 

Shelter Pegasus Dnipro is caring for animals who were abandoned or injured amidst the horrors of what is currently happening in Ukraine. “It breaks my heart to see the photos they post, but I am inspired by the devotion of the staff to do my part to help these animals,” says Morgan. And her Bat Mitzvah project encourages us to do our part too. 

By donating to the shelter, you’ll help them take care of the animals in the best way possible so that these furry friends can be nursed back to health. Animals’ lives are lives too, and Morgan’s project prompts us to recognize that.  To donate, venmo @Samantha-Sohmer any dollar amount. You can also email [email protected] to arrange another form of payment.

Out of the Box Mitzvah Party Places   
May 5th, 2022

Out of the Box Mitzvah Party Places   

 

 

Out of the Box Mitzvah Party Places   

By Gail Siegel 

Covid forced us to think outside the box —and the ballroom—when planning our child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah party celebrations. Indoor parties gave way to pool parties, backyard soirees and even public park gatherings complete with basketball court dance floors and makeshift lighting. The trend isn’t showing any signs of letting up as more and more families are enticed by multi-faceted party spaces that offer more than just a place to dine and dance. Here are some of our favorite Mitzvah spots that will take your party to (literally) the next level. 

THE ADVENTURE PARK AT LONG ISLAND 

The Adventure Park in Wheatley Heights, New York is a forested recreation spot that offers activities including zip lining and rope courses on aerial trails. There are fire pits where guests can make s’mores and even a “Glow in the Park’ night time adventure where the trees are lit up with LED and fairy lights to give guests a glowing experience. The park typically hosts smaller mitzvahs with around 50 guests but an entire park rental is available for private events (capacity is 300 guests) which allows you to bring in your own DJ, games and food trucks. Book at least six months in advance to secure your preferred date. Alcohol is not allowed at the park. For more information, visit myadventurepark.com.

SPIN  

The so-called ‘original ping pong social club’, Spin (which has nine locations from New York City to Boston to Toronto) is a one-stop-shop for Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties. Packages include everything from in-house catering to DJs, audio/visual equipment and of course ping pong tables which can be moved around to create a customized dance floor. Spin’s staff are pros at hosting mitzvah celebrations (they book at least 15-20 per year in each location). Guests are ‘served’ locally sourced and sustainable cuisine including mushroom and short rib tacos, wagyu brisket burgers and red velvet brownies (menus may vary by location). Customizable paddles and ping pong balls are available with your child’s unique party logo. There is even a bathtub filled with pong pong balls in Spin’s NYC location for a fun photo op. Prices vary by date, location and party package. Contact wearespin.com for more information.

DAVE AND BUSTERS   

This beloved full-service restaurant and video arcade chain (there are 145 locations in the United States and Canada) has it all. From state-of-the-art games to massive HDTV screens  (perfect for viewing photo montages) to tasty bar food like bruschetta and pretzel dogs, children (and adults alike) will have a (skee) ball! Typical mitzvahs here begin with an hour of game time for the kids while adults enjoy cocktail hour. Then guests head over to one of the facilities’ numerous private party rooms to dance, mingle and celebrate. If you host a morning party you can even upgrade to a delayed opening so your family and friends can enjoy the game room to themselves. Location buyouts are also offered. Fun-and delicious-upgrades like candy carts, ice cream bars and even a donut wall are available. The Long Island locations are currently offering an all inclusive package which has everything you need (food, DJ, photographer, balloon centerpieces, private security and much more) for under $20K.

Visit daveandbusters.com for more information. 

SKY ZONE TRAMPOLINE PARK 

Wall-to-wall bouncy surfaces at this indoor trampoline park will have your guests literally jumping with joy for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child. Dodgeball, sky slam basketball, open jumping, foam zone will keep guests busy for an hour or two (whatever you choose) before the party goers head to a private party room for montage viewing, food and cake. Alcohol is prohibited in the parks and children under age two require adult supervision. Sky Zone allows party hosts to bring in a catering company of their choice (or you can choose to serve the park’s pizza and soda). DJs are also allowed if you rent the entire facility. Visit skyzone.com for more information and to find one of the hundred Sky Zone locations closet to you.

RPM RACEWAY FARMINGDALE    

Guests can zip their way around the race track at one of RPM Raceway’s three Tri-State locations including Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. Rent one race track for a handful of friends for a smaller celebration or purchase a buyout of the entire facility for a more private affair. Every party is customizable as there is no package pricing. Aside from the race track, RPM is essentially a large open-space warehouse that you can turn into whatever you like and decorate with any theme your child wants. There is however no kitchen on site but RPM allows you to bring in a caterer and DJ. The mitzvah child can participate in a special entrance by driving solo around the track as a party entrance or by waving the starting black and white checkered flag at the beginning of the races. Children and adults from ages 8 to 80 (and up!) can race (adults can’t drink alcohol until after they are done racing). For more information, visit rpmraceway.com/parties-events.

 

Round up your friends and family for a mitzvah celebration at Topgolf, where guests will enjoy golfing in dozens of high-tech, climate-controlled bays while celebrating the Mitzvah child. Shuffleboard, pool tables and video game consoles are also available as is a surprisingly delicious chef-crafted menu of flat breads, burgers and wings. DJs and karaoke are available upon request. Topgolf’s in house party planners are ‘pros’ at ensuring an amazing par-tee ( their motto after all is ‘no work, no stress, no mess’ ) so party hosts can focus on celebrating while the staff makes sure your party goes off without a hitch. Capacity varies but most of the 70 locations across the country can host up to several hundred guests. Contact topgolf.com for more information. 631-977-7640.

Parents Share Their Mitzvah Planning Tips
April 14th, 2022

Parents Share Their Mitzvah Planning Tips

By Gail Siegel

Planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah for your child can be both an exciting and stressful time. From dates to decor and many details in between, there are so many things to consider. We asked some parents who went through the process already for their favorite suggestions when planning their child’s special day. Here are some of the their best tips.

  • When deciding on a budget, consider putting aside extra cash for a few private Hebrew tutoring sessions before the big day in case your child needs some brushing up. Even one or two sessions can reduce stress and boost your child’s confidence before they step up on the bima. 

Check out why Bar & Bat Mitzvah Celebrations Are Bigger Than Ever !

  • Make sure to include tips in your budget for vendors. They add up quickly. Bring cash or checks the day of the party or consider giving tips out the day before to ensure stellar service. 
  • If your child wants a small celebration, go with it! Don’t feel pressure to have a big party even if most of your child’s friends are having them. A family vacation or intimate brunch is just as special and memorable. 
  • Place the adult bar next to the dance floor! It keeps the adults around the action and makes for a livelier party.

  • When surveying potential venues, take notes about the furniture in the room and adjust accordingly. A bench outside the bathroom will encourage children to hang out there instead of where you want them—on the dance floor! Ask the venue to temporarily remove it for your event. 
  • Five Below has great and affordable ‘swag’ the DJ can give away to the kids on the dance floor. You can also get inexpensive flip flops or slides from Old Navy.  
  • If you are using lighting as decor, pick out the exact shade you want in advance in person while standing inside the venue. There are so many variations of each color and it takes time to find the perfect hue so don’t wait until the day of the party. 

 

  • If your child goes to a summer camp or program, ask him or her for a list of their favorite summer songs and have the DJ play those songs at the end of the party when the kids get tired. When they hear them, they will jump right back on the dance floor. 
  • Have a list of photos you want taken in advance (child with grandparents, cousin pic, etc.) so you make sure you don’t forget anyone. 
  • Order thank you notes at the same time as your invitations. As your child receives gifts, have them write a thank you note right away. Don’t wait until they have dozens of notes to write all at once. Don’t forget to have your child write personal thank you notes to the Rabbi and the Cantor. 
  • If you are showing a photo montage, instead of watching it during the party, watch your child’s face light up as he or she sees the photos of their loved ones though the years. You can watch the montage anytime. 
  • If you have out of town guests and you are making them welcome bags for their hotel room, consider adding a Covid test in their bags. 
  • Check the school calendar to make sure there are no conflicts on your date. It’s also a good idea to check for big sporting events/concerts. 
  • Professional party planners are expensive and not realistic for most. If you can swing it, it might be worth investing in a ‘day of’ event helper for a fraction of the price so you can relax and enjoy your party and he or she can handle any problems that arise.
  • If you are hosting your Mitzvah at a hotel that allows payment by credit card, consider opening a credit card that offers double or triple points at hotels and settle your bill that way. 

  • Believe it or not, some of the prettiest floral arrangements are from the in-house florist at the local grocery store chain—and for a fraction of the cost of a fancy florist. 
  • Create a timeline of the party from start to finish and talk it over with your caterer and venue in advance. Your party probably won’t go exactly as planned but it will definitely help.
  • Make sure you clarify with every vendor you work with if you do not want them to post any pre- party ideas/ decor on social media. 
Why I Had A Bat Mitzvah As An Adult
April 6th, 2022

Why I Had A Bat Mitzvah As An Adult

 

As told to  Gail Siegel

I grew up on the Upper East Side of New York City in the 1950s. Most of my friends were Jewish and we all attended Sunday school at the reform synagogue we belonged to down the block from my apartment. My younger brother had his Bar Mitzvah when he turned thirteen but girls were not given the option to have a Bat Mitzvah at the time. We were confirmed (a ceremony where you make a commitment to the Jewish religion), but we weren’t asked nor were we expected to have a Bat Mitzvah. Nobody ever questioned why— that was just the way it was and it never occurred to me to ask. 

That is, until my oldest daughter turned 12 and began to study for her own Bat Mitzvah. My husband and I had just moved our growing family down to South Florida from New York. One of the first things we did after we settled in was to join a reform synagogue similar to the one I grew up attending. My husband was raised attending an Orthodox synagogue on the Jersey shore but we decided to raise our children in a reform temple. I was looking forward to bringing my older daughter to her first Hebrew lesson. I was so thrilled for her to take part in the Jewish ritual many girls before her -including me- weren’t able to have. After my other two daughters had their Bat Mitzvahs services a few years later, I decided it was finally time to experience my own Jewish rite of passage. 

I felt lucky times had changed and Bat Mitzvahs were finally acceptable for girls. I also felt so fortunate to be living in a country where we are free to do what we want. My temple had recently started offering adult education courses. I recall feeling if you don’t take the opportunity to do something so special when it is offered to you, it was just wrong. It was a big commitment to learn to chant from the Torah, study the haftorah and analyze the relevant torah portion. Because of that, I didn’t take it on until all my girls were in college and I had more time to focus on learning Hebrew and all the prayers necessary to becoming a Bat Mitzvah. It’s very hard to learn a foreign language to begin with, especially as an adult, but I was very determined. The class I signed up for had 12 other adults in it (all but one were women). We became so close to each other over the year and a half long class and the rabbi who led the class was so encouraging. 

When the big day finally came, the congregation was filled with friends and family of my fellow classmates. I remember feeling so proud of my accomplishment as I stood on the bima in my black and white suit looking out at the congregation. My family and grown daughters came to my service and we celebrated with a kiddush with my fellow students at the temple and then a celebratory brunch at my house afterwards. I didn’t get to wear a big party dress like my girls but that’s not what’s really important. My service was so special and meaningful. My husband gave me a beautiful gold Star of David necklace that I now wear for all the Jewish holidays and it serves to remind me of my achievement. I wish my parents could have been there to share in my service but I know they would have been so proud of me too. 

I think it’s very important to teach your children and grandchildren about Israel and the history of the Jewish people and I wanted to set an example that hard work pays off and if you feel strongly about something you go after it. Now, when I attend Shabbat services on Fridays at my temple throughout the year and especially when I attend synagogue during the High Holy Day services of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I feel even more connected to the rabbi and the cantor and I understand more about the prayers and their meanings and what we are celebrating on each holiday. The more you know about something, the more you can appreciate it. As the saying goes, it’s never too late to do something or learn something new and I am so glad with my decision to further my jewish education.

Bar & Bat Mitzvah Celebrations Are Bigger Than Ever
March 10th, 2022

Bar & Bat Mitzvah Celebrations Are Bigger Than Ever

 

We all remember what bar & bat mitzvah celebrations were like pre-COVID, right? While these celebrations certainly continued during the pandemic on a smaller scale, we’re finally starting to return to their full grandeur and magic! From huge venues to professional photography to elaborate party-planning themes, bar and & bat mitzvahs are as lively as ever. If you’re looking to plan a bar or bat mitzvah for your kids, we’ve got the scoop on what you can expect when it comes to party planning in 2022. Read on to find out why Bar & Bat Mitzvah Celebrations Are Bigger Than Ever and  how these amazing vendors are more than ready to make your celebration spectacular. 

Venues 

Location, location, location! The place you decide to have your bar or bat mitzvah is, in some ways, the most important part. Recently, venues have seen a huge increase in the number of attendees. “We are slammed right now,” said Heather Conover, event planner at Bacall’s Family Steakhouse. The NYC restaurant also functions as an event venue. Over the past few months, they’ve held a few mitzvahs at Club Blue, the downstairs area that has a dance floor for the kids in the front and a bar for the adults in the back. “We are getting more and more inquiries every day,” explained Conover, “Previously it was for 100 or less. I’m getting inquiries now for up to 200. I think people are ready to party.”   

For bigger venue spaces like Bacall’s, COVID actually didn’t impact their business drastically because they were able to space people out. Mitzvahs persevered during the pandemic! But as COVID restrictions loosen up, families and friends are ready to fill those venues up again so that everyone can be included in the celebrations. 

Invitations, Party Favors, Place Cards & More

We all know that there’s a lot more that goes into planning a mitzvah than just choosing a venue. That’s where vendors who do customized text and embroidery come in. Many of these vendors have been extremely busy as celebrations get back into full swing. “Business has absolutely started picking up,” said Jody Kramer, VP of Trans Trade Promotions. “We have been doing both invitations and favors and the quantity of each is steadily increasing. People are excited to get back to life and they are ready to party.” Trans Trade Promotions has everything you may need when it comes to imprinting and embroidery, from personalization invites to special party favors. 

Some of these vendors have not only noticed an increase in business, but a greater intentionality and interest in clients. Gotham T-Shirts, an over 15-year-old business that makes custom apparel, does all of their designs in-house– meaning they don’t depend on anyone else to make the product for them. And given the long shipping delays and significant inventory issues during COVID, customers now really want to make sure that their apparel will arrive on time. “The market is becoming smarter,” explained Howie Zwang, owner of Gotham T-Shirts. “I think people are recognizing who the better vendors are.” 

The best part about mitzvah celebrations today is that they haven’t just returned to pre-COVID days– they’re bigger than ever! “We’re getting a lot more calls than we’ve ever seen,” said Zwang. “People want to celebrate and everyone’s glad to get back into some sort of normalcy.” Of course vendors such as Zwang are happy that sales are booming, but perhaps more importantly, they are inspired by their customer-based communities and passionate about their missions to make celebrations the very best they can be. Looking ahead to the next few months, Zwang said: “We’re excited to help people make their parties phenomenal. We’re excited to create and make fashion forward items for the kids to wear.” You can reach Zwang at 516 669-1400 to chat with him about your upcoming party apparel needs.   

But we also want to note that COVID isn’t over, and some custom text vendors have actually developed new products to adjust. “We have a few customers still buying the logoed masks we make,” added Kramer. Parties are back, but we’re still staying safe. 

Psst..check out Third Time’s a Charm for One Bubble Tea Lovin’ Bat Mitzvah Girl

Video & Photography 

As celebrations become more extravagant, a stellar photographer or videographer is essential for any bar or bat mitzvah! Especially as COVID restrictions loosen and venues can hold more people, you’re going to want a photographer who can capture all of the many friends and family that are invited to the big day. Jon Fischer Photography is known for their beautiful storytelling through photos that will forever remind you of the special day. We also recommend checking out Montages by Erica to highlight your child’s special moments in life leading up to their bar or bat mitzvah. Erica works with you to put memories in motion with effects, transitions, and music. 

Social media was already super popular before COVID, but it’s become even more prevalent, especially TikTok. Not only are celebrations getting larger, but people are sharing more about their mitzvahs. Make sure that you have meaningful photos and videos to look back on and share with friends and family via social media!     

Entertainment 

Nothing says celebration like entertainment. We’re finally back to the large-scale entertainment that we saw pre-COVID: dance floors, DJs, lights, and more! As you’re ramping up for your child’s bar or bat mitzvah, you’re definitely going to want to look into entertainment vendors to get your guests moving and grooving. These vendors have certainly seen business rise over the past few months, because people miss singing and dancing with each other to commemorate special days like mitzvahs. If you’re looking for an entertainment vendor that truly does it all, check out the EK Event Group. They have everything from DJs to games to lighting and special effects to make sure that your mitzvah is fun and exciting for all guests. 

Need more inspiration for your upcoming bar or bat mitzvah? Check out these Mitzvah Party Ideas!