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Connecting Generations of Family Long After the B’nai Mitzvah 
December 7th, 2023

Connecting Generations of Family Long After the B’nai Mitzvah 

Connecting Generations of Family Long After the B’nai Mitzvah 

By Drew Isserlis Kramer 

The modern American family is nuclear. A parent or parents live together with their children until the children leave the nest and often the state. Once upon a time, in a shtetl in Eastern Europe, extended families lived in tight-knit, close communities, collaborating in home and business life from cradle to the grave. As daily life became more global, extended families spread to far corners of the world, seeking freedom, fortunes and fulfillment outside the family unit. Leaving behind old traditions and old connections, modern Jewish families look to life course milestones to come together.  Today, a b’nai mitzvah is one of the few occasions in Jewish life for long-lost aunts, uncles, and cousins to resurface in celebration of life and family. After the blessings are read, the chairs are lifted and the dance party fades to the airline gates, many extended families wonder how to keep the magic of togetherness alive in our modern era of connected disconnection. Below is an overview of how many families strive to maintain the closeness in an increasingly distant world. 

Check out 100 Years of Bat Mitzvahs in America

The most obvious solution requires the Internet. Depending on the technological literacy of the group, choose a platform that will be accessible to the masses. A Facebook group, an Apple Photo Stream, or an email list serve might not be sexy, but it is an easy way to keep the generations in touch. Use the platform of choice as a forum to share photos and videos from the b’nai mitzvah, keeping the good vibes of the weekend alive once everyone is back in the swing of their regular lives. When the kvelling and kibitzing dies down, revive conversation by regularly sharing content. Surface old photos of relatives long gone but not forgotten. Tag relatives in amusing outtakes from the b’nai mitzvah event. Drive discussion of old stories and family legends. Engage in analysis of who from the youngest generation resembles Papa and Bubbie. May their memories be a blessing. 


When photo and text exchanges aren’t enough, turn to Facetime and Zoom for face-to-face interactions. Since Jewish tradition brought the family together in person, use the calendar of Jewish holidays to ensure a regular reason for deeper connection. Before beginning your offline family meal, all can log into Zoom for a collective blessing over the challah or wine. If your family’s observance allows for screens, Shabbat can become a weekly occasion for bonding. The Shabbat tradition has long been considered a mechanism for sustaining the 4,000 year-old religion. As the founder of cultural Zionistm Ahad Ha’am famously said, “more than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” Likewise, Shabbat serves as a regular pause for families to unite.


Other platforms exist to make sure that photos and stories remain alive. Use or to connect through family history. Use Storyworth to preserve and share family stories for generations to come. Gift gorgeous bound photo books of your event photos with Artifact Uprising. Today there are so many ways to keep memories, stories, and relationships alive, if you care to invest the time. 


If you want your extended family to stay connected long after your child’s b’nai mitzvah, take the lead and show them how it is done. Be the person who is willing to spend time making the plans, coordinating the schedules, implementing the technology, sharing the pictures, and cooking the meals. The Jewish tradition gives families numerous opportunities throughout the year to gather and remember, but without one member taking the initiative, momentum and relationships will be lost. If you are still reading, that individual must be you. Teach your family members to value their history, their faith, and their traditions by modeling this commitment. Now more than ever, in the wake of the terror attacks in Israel as worldwide antisemitism rages, family and tradition feel more important than ever. While it takes work to keep relations alive, the sense of stability and security that it promotes is worth the effort. The investment in family nurtures the soul, developing emotional well-being and a sense of identity and belonging that transcends time and place. 

Photo: Photo by Askar Abayev,

Going Up: An Aliyah is a B’nai Mitzvah Honor for the Whole Family
November 14th, 2023

Going Up: An Aliyah is a B’nai Mitzvah Honor for the Whole Family

Going Up: An Aliyah is a B’nai Mitzvah Honor for the Whole Family

By Drew Isserlis Kramer 

A b’nai mitzvah, the celebration of a child’s entrance into Jewish adulthood, is an important lifecycle moment for the entire community that raised the child to the tender age of thirteen. The b’nai mitzvah service allows for family and close friends to share in the simcha, or joy, with special acknowledgment at the bimah, or pulpit. Across all denominations of Judaism, an Aliyah is when a member of a Jewish congregation is called to read the blessings before and after the Torah reading. Aliyah specifically means “going up.” This refers both to the physical movement of the person to the bimah where the Torah is read and to the spiritual uplifting associated with participation in this honored ritual. At a b’nai mitzvah ceremony, the family is able to select the 4-6 honorees who will participate in the service. If you are planning a b’nai mitzvah for your child or received notice that you’re in the hot seat for an aliyah, below is an overview of all you need to know for this high distinction. 

Selection: The first and second aliyahs are easy to assign. The b’nai mitzvah will read, as well as the proud parents. The third is typically reserved for grandparents, while the fourth is a roundup for aunts and uncles. In very small families, the family can choose to honor friends and other relatives. In most synagogues, to have an aliyah, one must be Jewish and have reached the age of bar mitzvah. Traditionally, only men could be called for an aliyah, however, today women are also called to the Torah in non-Orthodox communities. 

PsstGoing to a B’nei Mitzvah: A Guide for the Non-Jewish Guest

The Reading:  The clergy will show you where the Torah reading begins and ends. After you read or chant the first sentence, the congregation will respond with the second sentence. You repeat the second sentence and then continue the blessing. Follow the lead of the clergy. You will be fine. For families throwing b’nai mitzvahs, confirm whether your family will be reading Hebrew, phonetics, or an English translation. Make sure your aliyah honorees have a sense of what they are doing ahead of time.


Customs: In some congregations, the aliyahs will be called by their Hebrew names. Take the shortest route to get there, expressing an eagerness to approach the Torah. You may be asked to wear a tallit, or a prayer shawl. Traditionalists use the fringe of the tallit to kiss the spot of the Torah where the reading begins. After the blessing is recited, the b’nai mitzvah chants the Torah portion. During the portion, the aliyah keeps the right hand on the right handle of the Torah scroll. When the chanting is completed, the honoree “kisses,” the end of the portion that has been chanted, and recites the blessing after the reading. 


Honoring Interfaith Relatives: If a family wants to include relatives that are not comfortable reading Hebrew, many choose to have the relatives read a blessing in English. Speak with your clergy about ways to bring them into the ceremony in a way that feels meaningful. 


How to Exit The Bimah: Depending upon the custom of the congregation, you may shake hands or hug loved ones on the bimah and then return to your seat, or be asked to remain on the bimah while the next portion of Torah is chanted. After the aliyah, stand on the right side of the bimah until the end of the following aliyah (or, until the Torah is raised). When returning to your seat, do not use the shortest route, savor your moment. Upon returning to your seat, congregants may shake your hand and offer you the traditional greeting, “yasher koach,” done with strength.


To be given an aliyah is a great honor on any occasion. When the call to the Torah comes in support of a loved ones’ b’nai mitzvah, it possesses the additional honor of acknowledging the inner circle of Jewish adults guiding growth and identity from infancy to this moment. When the opportunity to extend or accept this honor comes, embrace its meaning and spiritual significance. By “going up” together, the family demonstrates its shared commitment to shepherding this child into adulthood with the values and traditions that give him a sense of belonging in this local community and among the Jewish people throughout the world. In this time of great uncertainty for the Jewish people, know that your inclusion in this ceremony elevates your contribution to the future of Judaism, handing down commitment to the covenant through declaration and action. 

Today’s B’nei Mitzvah Generation Reacts to Terrorism in Israel 
October 31st, 2023

Today’s B’nei Mitzvah Generation Reacts to Terrorism in Israel 


Today’s B’nei Mitzvah Generation Reacts to Terrorism in Israel 

By Drew Isserlis Kramer 

Growing up Jewish, children learn the complicated history of their people young. It begins in preschool, learning the origin stories of the holidays. Two year olds in Temple Early Childhood Centers understand that we celebrate Passover because Pharaoh was mean to the Jews. In some Jewish Day Schools, kindergarten-aged students start to learn about the Holocaust from the few survivors we have left. Others learn the horrific history later, as they approach B’nei Mitzvah, but the phrase, “never again” rings loudly in their ears before they can even begin to understand what that means.


Today, Jewish parents and educators grapple with a new difficult conversation. While the conflict over Israel is thousands of years old, the Hamas terror attack on October 7, 2023 brought global attention to new violence for being Jewish. Again communities must navigate how to include children in the discussion, while remaining age appropriate. At a certain age, it becomes difficult to shelter and filter this information. As tweens approach B’nei Mitzvah, they are accessing violent imagery on social media, facing friends with misinformation and learning of acts of anti-semitism here in the United States. Like Jewish adults, the children are scared.


Much has been written about how to talk to children of all ages at this sensitive time. Below is an overview of what it means to be a tween or teenager, coming of age in this inflection point for the Jewish people. The children are listening – and they have a point of view. 


Concierge Rabbi Rebecca Keren Eisenstadt educates children for B’nei Mitzvah in private one-to-one sessions. In her capacity as private Rabbi and teacher, she observes firsthand the weight parents and children are carrying as they prepare for the B’nei Mitzvah milestone during a moment of violence. Asked about her students’ reaction, Rabbi Eisenstadt reports that “parents and children want to talk about it.” To begin discussion, Eisenstadt reminds that “every child and family is different.” Some 8 year olds are extremely sophisticated. Some families have personal connections to people in Israel, while others do not feel as connected. She cautions that you “have to find the right on ramp to talk about it with each family, but every person needs facts.”


Everyone’s reaction to the truth is different. Some children want to go deep on information and activation, changing their B’nei MItzvah speeches from calls for peace to validating the need for defense. Kids who were not focused on current events, now feel they must discuss when they approach the bima as a B’nei Mitzvah. B’nei Mitzvah students shift their Mitzvah Projects from other respectable causes to raise money for Israel. Like adults, many Jewish children feel the need to act now. 


For other children, the bombardment with information is overwhelming. Even with efforts to shield children, they do not live in a vacuum. They see images of hostages on posters. They get email alerts about security risks. The police presence on school campuses is palpable. They know that parents are on high alert. They know more than you think. In Rabbi Eisenstadt’s practice, one child locked herself in the bathroom to avoid religious instruction. Through text message, Eisenstadt was able to glean that “the child felt anxiety and overload with information about her Jewish identity.” She just couldn’t do it. 


Outside of adult earshot, many Jewish middle schoolers relate to the tragedy of the moment through activation. One Westchester thirteen year-old described the current climate among her peers as proactive. Asked how her generation reacted to the terrorist attack on Israel, she notes, “people want to contribute and do whatever they can. My friends are making and selling bracelets to support Israel.” In a school district where a third of the population is Jewish, “kids want to show their peers they stand with Israel.” Proudly wearing their bracelets and posting support on Instagram, today’s B’nei Mitzvah students understand the magnitude of approaching Jewish adulthood at this inflection point in the Jewish story. She adds, “becoming a Jewish adult and taking on more responsibility in the Jewish community feels more significant now. We want to feel connected.”


Across town at the district’s high school, another student considers the youth response to the Israeli conflict. Isabel Block, a junior raised within the town’s close knit Jewish community, reflects on her lifelong relationship to Judaism, beginning her studies at the Reform temple preschool and continuing through her B’nei Mitzvah and confirmation. While many of her generation do not continue with Jewish learning past the B’nei Mitzvah milestone, she remains an active participant, serving as a youth liaison on the temple’s social action council. She concedes that many of her friends don’t know of her continued commitment to Jewish life. She points out, “after B’nei Mitzvah, many families become distanced from the temple,” moving on onto more secular commitments as teenagers shift focus to college aspirations. Following the attacks, Block notices a “silent conversation happening on social media.” Among her peers, she sees alliance with Israel, with many posting “I stand with Israel” to their Instagram stories. Although a considerable Jewish community exists, “it can feel risky to discuss the attack.” Jewish teenagers understand that the history of the region is complicated and fear inciting conflict at school. Isabel describes a “sense of isolation” in her generation of Jewish youth. Turning to social media for information, she describes the climate of fear: fear of news sources spreading misinformation; fear of the hurtful antisemitic rhetoric spread by celebrities; fear of the celebration of atrocities on college campuses. With wisdom beyond her 16 years, she adds, “people are so quick to turn on the Jews.” 

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Recently she felt encouraged by a poster at her high school messaging open hours with a Rabbi for students seeking Jewish community at this time. At the same time, B’nei Mitzvah students organize car wash fundraisers. Preschool children decorate cards to support Israeli soldiers. College students solicit home Rabbis for advice in increasingly hostile university environments. Families long delinquent in lighting shabbat candles are showing up for services in record numbers. In a climate of fear and confusion, people young and old return to Jewish institutions to feel connection. There is safety in numbers. There is power in perseverence.

Grieve for Israel with Jewish Joy: A B’nei Mitzvah Story
October 24th, 2023

Grieve for Israel with Jewish Joy: A B’nei Mitzvah Story


Grieve for Israel with Jewish Joy: A B’nei Mitzvah Story By Drew Isserlis Kramer

The Jewish people are in mourning. The world is in conflict. Since Hamas attacked Israel on  October 7, 2023, the atmosphere hasn’t felt very celebratory. In the United States, Jewish Americans must grapple with how to grieve and cope with anxiety, while still embracing everyday life. For those who have been studying and planning for a B’nei Mitzvah, the celebration of entrance to Jewish adulthood, families ask themselves how to embrace joy in this tragic moment. 


In Judaism, our sacred texts offer guidance on how to grieve. According to Amanda Kleinman, Senior Cantor from Westchester Reform Temple (WRT) in Scarsdale, NY, families grieving a loved one are instructed to “avoid public parties and large celebrations for a period of time following the death.” However, “the community is instructed to continue in its joyful Jewish observances.” She offers the example of Jewish festival holidays. When a death overlaps with celebratory milestones in the calendar year, “the shiva is either postponed or canceled entirely, depending on the circumstances of the death.” She explains that this is because “we are commanded to rejoice during our festivals, and that commandment takes precedence.” To Kleinman, this tradition reinforces the importance of observing meaningful Jewish milestone moments as a way to bring strength to our community.


In that spirit, Jewish people across the diaspora have taken to social media to showcase their commitment to living a beautifully Jewish life. Shabbat candles sparkle through content feeds, declaring that our light will not be extinguished. Likewise, as families choose to move forward with their B’nei Mitzvah plans, parents announce their commitment to Judaism in the face of violence and antisemitism, the way they have for generations. 


At WRT, the temple and families discuss the opportunities to pray and acknowledge the significance of the moment. If you are hosting a B’nei Mitzvah in this complicated time for the Jewish people, Cantor Kleinman has a few words of advice to feel the poignancy of the moment, while preserving the joy of the occasion for the family and child. 


  • Include a prayer for Israel as part of the B’nei Mitzvah service.
  • Add a Mi Shebeirah prayer for healing in the service or another prayer for peace.
  • Take an opportunity to acknowledge those killed as a part of the Kaddish prayer for the dead and grieving.
  • Incorporate Israeli melodies into the service and celebration.


For Hailey Genicoff, a Long Island teacher and mother to a recent B’nei Mitzvah, canceling her daughter’s B’nei MItzvah scheduled for October 14, 2023 was not an option. While the decision to move forward with the milestone came with some guilt, the family decided to move forward with their plans. On October 13, 2023, with the Hamas call to followers for “a day of rage” against the Jewish people, guests felt some anxiety to attend the Friday night service that traditionally precedes the Saturday morning service. While some gave in to nerves that evening, everyone came to celebrate the milestone moment and Jewish joy on Saturday. During the ceremony, the clergy acknowledged the conflict in Israel. Both Jewish and non-Jewish guests alike appreciated the call for peace and prayers for hope. Despite the guilt and apprehension that preceded the event, in hindsight, Genicoff says, “what better time to celebrate Judaism than now. 


Without an end to the conflict in sight, the Jewish people and its leadership must help Jewish youth find meaning and purpose in the now. In their mentorship of students now preparing for B’nei Mitzvah, both Cantor Kleinman and concierge Rabbi Rebecca Keren Eisenstadt encourage them to think about supporting Israel as part of their Mitzvah project. One child decided to contribute a percentage of her monetary gifts to an organization supporting Israel.  In response to the crisis, WRT’s B’nei Mitzvah students opted to develop bake sales and car washes to raise money to help their sisters and brothers living in the Jewish homeland. 

Now more than ever, the B’nei Mitzvah milestone is an opportunity to strengthen ties with Israel. Sadly, for families organizing a pilgrimage to Israel for a B’nei Mitzvah, many will change their plans for safety. In Rabbi Eisenstadt’s busy international practice, she observes many families pivoting from celebrations in Israel to meaningful locations with calmer shores. 

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In the current climate, the messaging and destination might shift, but, as Rabbi Eisenstadt puts it, “you don’t stop praying.” There is no greater resistance to terrorism than continuing on with simcha, or joy. At Jewish weddings, we remember destruction when we break glass under the chuppah. For thousands of years, the Jewish people combated struggle with joy. The B’nei Mitzvah is a precious moment that we won’t let anyone take from us.

Going to a B’nei Mitzvah: A Guide for the Non-Jewish Guest
September 27th, 2023

Going to a B’nei Mitzvah: A Guide for the Non-Jewish Guest

Going to a B’nei Mitzvah: A Guide for the Non-Jewish Guest

By Drew Kramer

By Paperless Post or letterpress, you have been chosen to bear witness as a child becomes an adult in the eyes of the Jewish people. If you are not Jewish and unfamiliar with the customs of the milestone, it can be an intimidating but meaningful experience to share. Below is an overview of everything you need to know to act as the Romans do on this joyous occasion celebrating life.  

What is a B’nei Mitzvah?

The first recorded bar mitzvah occurred in 15th-century Europe. It was a simple coming-of-age celebration that honors the transition from childhood to adulthood, giving the youth the responsibility to live by the commandments and the right to participate in Jewish rituals as an adult congregation member. While the norms of the ceremony and celebrations differ between generations, sects of Judaism, and geographic regions, in modern American Jewish life, this life cycle celebration takes on certain norms.

What to Wear

Typically, the invitation will announce the formality of the occasion. While some parties are black tie affairs, most are casual events inviting guests to wear “cocktail attire.” Typically, men will wear a suit to temple. Women will wear long sleeves or a shawl to keep their shoulders covered while in the temple. For the party, depending on the event’s formality, women wear dresses and men can get away with khakis and dress shirts, or even jeans if the invitation calls for a more informal event. Some families opt for a kid-oriented affair at a sports space, which would make athleisure fair game. Keep an eye out for the cues on the invitation. For a deep dive on b’nei mitzvah fashion trends, we have a guide for that. Spoiler alert: get cool sneakers.

The Ceremony

A B’nei Mitzvah typically occurs during Saturday morning services but can also occur on Friday night. When you arrive at the synagogue to attend the ceremony, a man should take a yarmulke or kippah from the basket available in front of the sanctuary. Even if not Jewish, covering the head with a kippah is a non-denominational act of respect for God in a space of worship. Typically, the b’nei mitzvah family creates custom kippahs for the ceremony. Take it home with you as a keepsake of your experience. 

As you make your way into the sanctuary, take an available seat with the congregation. Typically the front rows are reserved for close family. The rest of the seats are fair game. 

As the ceremony begins, the clergy will call the b’nei mitzvah recipient and family to lead morning prayers. Together, they will open the arc, undress the scroll and present the Torah to the congregation. The b’nei mitzvah will publicly read the weekly Torah portions for the first time. There will be occasions to rise from your seat, or read together from the prayer books in front of you. The clergy will inform the congregation to rise and sit, but if confused, do as the Romans do. Maintain decorum, turning your cell phone to silent refraining from photography, texting, and conversation. 

After the B’nei Mitzvah chants the prayers, the celebrant will give a speech that relates the meaning of the Torah portion and relates its teachings to the challenges and triumphs of youthful experience. It is in this speech that the b’nei mitzvah accepts the responsibilities of the covenant with God and expresses gratitude to the family, clergy and friends that share in the joy of this moment.  

The Kiddish

Unless the celebration is immediately following the service, there is typically a Kiddish luncheon in the synagogue for congregation and family and friends to grab a bite. Expect a generous spread of bagels, lox and schmears, coffee and dessert. 

The Party

After you’ve feasted at the Kiddish, hold your snacking because another meal is coming your way. Whether cocktail style or a seated dinner, you will leave stuffed. The good news is that no Jewish celebration is complete without dancing. Shake off the gluttony of the day by participating in the happiest dance on earth – The Hora. The Hora is a traditional dance at Jewish milestone events. Whether you want to clap in the back or get in on the action in the center of the circling, the Hora invites the entire room to clasp hands in a unified display of delight. Want a deep dive on the do’s and don’ts  of the Hora. We have it here. Once the party is in full swing, prepare to leave full, happy and with a new wardrobe of swag that declares you partied hard at this b’nei mitzvah. 

Final Thoughts

There are few moments in life that give cause to bring extended family and old and new friends together. No matter one’s faith, the b’nei mitzvah is a profound and emotionally charged event that celebrates the miracle of growth and the bittersweet joy that comes with age.

100 Years of Bat Mitzvahs in America
September 19th, 2023

100 Years of Bat Mitzvahs in America


Getty Images

100 Years of Bat Mitzvahs in America

By Drew Kramer

The first reported bar mitzvah occurred in the 15th century. It was a simple coming of age celebration, marked only by calling the bar mitzvah boy to make a blessing over the Torah and deliver a public speech thanking his parents and guests.  As the Jewish people spread from their concentrated areas in Europe into North America in the 18th and 19th centuries, the importance of the bar mitzvah ceremony expanded from their fear that assimilating Jews would lose their connection to their history and their faith. 


Early in the 20th century, as the suffrage movement championed women’s rights in the United States, so too did the women’s role in American Judaism. In the 1920s, as women took on the right to vote, they likewise demanded the obligations and responsibilities of Jewish adulthood via the bat mitzvah. On March 18, 1922, two years after women received voting rights, a young girl named Judy Kaplan became the first official bat mitzvah. In this radical moment of Jewish and American history, the religion acknowledged that a girls’ coming of age is significant too. 


In 1922, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan bat mitzvahed his daughter at New York City’s Society for the Advancement of Judaism. Rabbi Kaplan joked that he began the ritual for women because he was blessed with four daughters. That a ceremony happened at all was revolutionary in its day, but the pomp and circumstance did not rise to the level of that of boys. Judy Kaplan did not read from the Torah or stand on the bima as the young men of her era enjoyed. Instead, she read a blessing from the floor of the temple, since reading from the bima would have been considered a masculine space.


Bat mitzvah ritual evolved slowly from there, often happening at summer camps far removed from congregational politics. By the 1950s, ceremonies began to enter houses of worship, championed by congregational rabbis willing to push for their own daughters to be heard in their home shul. 


As the second wave of feminism spread in the 1960s, women demanded full rights in Jewish communities. Girls wanted to read from the Torah and to count in a minyan, the quorum of ten men over the age of 13 required for traditional Jewish public worship. Although she may not have known it at the time, in 1968, Robin Davis Tartarkin became one such woman. As a young girl growing up in a Conservative Jewish community in Syracuse, New York, keeping Kosher, lighting the candles on Friday nights and attending Temple every Saturday morning with her brother and grandfather was the foundation of her youth. After years of study in Hebrew school, on Friday, April 26, 1968, Robin felt “profoundly ready to step up to the bima to become a woman.” Unlike the lavish celebrations of today, Robin recalls a festive Oneg (an informal gathering for food and drink after Shabbat) for family and the congregation. The event launched Robin’s adult commitment to Jewish philanthropy and tradition. While at 13 she may not have considered herself a religious renegade, her call to the bima helped transform the role for women in synagogues across America.  


In the years that followed, new ceremonies, like baby namings, evolved to honor milestone moments in Jewish womanhood. Sally Priesand became the first ordained American female rabbi in 1972. As women shattered glass ceilings on the bima, a new generation of girls grew up seeing themselves in their clergy and community leadership. 


Today, Reform and Conservative tween girls across America expect to read from the Torah on the Saturday morning of their Bat Mitzvah without necessarily understanding the fight it took to  get her there. While the feminist movement in America reshapes the vision for equality in American Judaism, inequality across all organized religions, including Judaism, still exists. In some sects of Judaism, women still struggle for equal rights in marriage and divorce. In those same circles, women are still overlooked in the count for miniyans and positions of Jewish leadership. There is still work to be done to achieve equality and inclusion in our modern world where gender is a spectrum. No longer bound by the binary of male and female, religious institutions must create room and rights for all beings across the diverse range of human experience.    

Spotlight: Emelie in Paris
September 7th, 2023

Spotlight: Emelie in Paris

Spotlight: Emelie in Paris

Emelie enjoyed a special trip to Paris with her family, loving everything about it. When it was time for her bat mitzvah, she knew she wanted to include Paris as a theme for her party. With inspiration from the popular TV show, Emily in Paris, Melisa Imberman and her team at The Event of a Lifetime created an ‘Emelie in Paris’ bat mitzvah, complete with stunning details and profound design choices.

Held at Manursing Island Club in Westchester, The Event of a Lifetime transformed the beach club into the streets of Paris. Guests were greeted with a large Eiffel Tower surrounded by flowers, trees, and a lamp post, outdoor cafe-style seating and street entertainers.

Throughout the space, The Event of a Lifetime paid careful attention to details where guests viewed a variety of custom images that incorporated Emelie’s name from the Eiffel Tower to a street scene to a cafe scene to a postcard to chat noir/black cat in French, paying homage to Emelie’s nickname kitty. There were also French phrases that incorporated her initials.

Guests enjoyed dancing, an airbrush artist, a giant Lite Brite (a nod to the city of lights), photobooth & street performers. In following the Parisian theme, the entertainers wore berets. The sign-in was inspired by Paris’ Love Lock Bridge.

The adult lounge transported guests to the streets of Paris. This includes outdoor cafes with small tables with umbrellas and park benches decorated with flowers and trees. An accordion player serenaded guests with French songs.

The kids’ lounge was equally chic, with furniture dressed up in a French flare, logo pillows, stunning drapings, and Café Emelie for kid-friendly refreshments. Emelie’s custom artwork was also a part of the event decor that was fitted to each frame on the wall. 

There was also an artist who created a live painting of the party that the family took home as a special memento. 

Guests also enjoyed capturing memories in the photo booth with a custom backdrop of the streets of Paris augmented with trees and a park bench and fun props such as scarves, scarves, and signs with French phrases.

The cake was stunning, featuring the Eiffel Tower spanning on its three tiers. Details included the bottom tier with Emelie’s street scene cafe painting as well as gorgeous purple and pink sugar flowers placed throughout the cake.

The dance floor was lively and fun, wrapped with an image of a postcard. As guests danced the night away, many participated in fun giveaways where they wore; trucker hats, t-shirts, cell phone wallets, and a black cat stress ball, all customized with Emelie’s logo or tagline. The last hour of the celebration really heated up with a Blacklight dance party.

As the party ended, The Event Of A Lifetime team walked around with trays offering the adults herbal supplements to prevent a hangover.

At the end of the party, everyone visited the Laduree Shop & Cart, where they got to snack on and take home Macarons in custom logo boxes along with custom labeled drinks. Kids received a reusable tote bag with Emelie’s tagline and a sweatshirt with Emelie’s Eiffel Tower logo. 

Guests who traveled received a reusable tote bag adorned with a French phrase when they checked into the hotel. Inside the bag, guests enjoyed a variety of sweet and savory treats, a custom cookie, a custom water bottle, custom sleep mask, and a hangover kit along with a special note from the family and the weekend’s itinerary.

The Event Of A Lifetime, Inc.’s creativity and attention to detail created a bespoke celebration for Emelie and her family. The exquisite details brought Paris to Westchester for a truly unforgettable experience. 


Photography by Chad David Kraus Photography. 


August 30th, 2023

September 2023 Torah Portions: A B’nei Mitzvah Interpretation

September 2023 Torah Portions: A B’nei Mitzvah Interpretation

September 2023 Torah Portions: A B’nei Mitzvah Interpretation

By Drew Kramer

The Torah includes the Five Books of Moses. The story is divided into 54 separate portions, which links to a specific week in the calendar. As part of the B’nei Mitzvah ritual, children are asked to study and discuss the particular Torah Portion that falls on the date of the ceremony. On the bima, the child makes a speech connecting the lessons of that week’s portion to his or her own adolescent life. The speech unites the ancient religion and the modern experience of growing up. Below is an overview of the September Torah Portions. In this season, synagogues across the world consider the late chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of the Hebrew Bible (AKA the Christian Old Testament). 

The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ final sermon to the Jewish people before they enter Israel. Moses reminds his people of their last forty years spent wandering the wilderness. He urges them to follow the laws of the covenant with God. If you are gearing up for a September B’nei Mitzvah, below is an overview of the weekly portions that will set the tone for a new year and a new phase of life. 

Psst5 Bar Mitzvah Movies that Tells the Next Generation Jewish Story

Ki Tavo, Deu 26:1 – 29:8; September 2, 2023

The title of this Torah Portion translates to “When You Enter.” The reference is to the Jewish people’s entry into Israel, the Promise Land, after 40 years of wandering. This title feels significant for a B’nei Mitzvah because the child has been wandering through childhood, growing and regressing until this moment marking the entrance to adulthood. 

In this Torah Portion, Moses is at the end of his life, making a sermon to the Jewish people. He instructs the Israelites, upon entering the promised land, to offer the first fruit of their harvest to God as an acknowledgement for removing them from slavery in Egypt. This section calls out the need to honor God for bringing the Jews to the land of “milk and honey,” as well as a call to give to the less fortunate. In his call for gratitude and generosity, Moses reminds the Israelites that God will bless them for living by the commandments. If they stray from the covenant, they’ll endure the wrath of God’s discontent. This section, famed for its firstfruits call to action, is ripe for acknowledging the child’s appreciation for the abundance of resources and love enjoyed in childhood and the future commitment to Jewish values, particularly tikkun olam, or healing the world.

Nitzavim, Deu 29:9 – 30:20; September 9, 2023

Nitzavim translates to “You Are Standing.” As Moses continues his last sermon, this section highlights some of the most fundamental principles of Judaism. He reminds his people that they are standing before God, making a commitment to preserve the Covenant of God so that God may deliver on the promise to bless his people in the Promised Land. Like the Jewish people entering Israel for the first time, the B’nei Mitzvah asks the child to make a promise upon entering adulthood. As the child matures, the child is responsible for his or her actions or inactions. This moment is a promise to God that he or she will live in accordance with the covenant. As a Jewish adult, the child is now responsible for upholding the values set forth for the Jewish people, as well as accepting the consequences of going astray. On the bima, the B’nei Mitzvah has the opportunity to express this commitment to Judaism, and emphasize the values that are already serving as a guiding light. 

Vayelekh, Deu 31:1 – 31:30 September 16, 2023

Vayelekh, or “And He Went,” concludes Moses’ final sermon. God tells Moses that he will not pass into the Promised Land. Moses is 120 years old. It is now time for him to lie down with his ancestors. God tells Moses to anoint Joshua as the leader who will bring the Jewish people into Israel and predicts that this people will forsake the covenant and face the consequences. Moses shares God’s song with Joshua and instructs him to teach it to the Jewish people, “Be steadfast and strong! For you are to bring the children of Israel to the land that I have sworn to them, and I will be with you.”

In God’s prediction that the Jewish people will stray from their covenant with God, there is a promise that the covenant shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their descendants. In this prophetic passage on faith and commitment, God reminds the Jewish people that he will be with them. As children become a B’nei Mitzvah, they begin to take ownership of their Jewish identity. In everyone’s life, good and bad will come, causing moments of commitment and questioning to ebb and flow. Here, the children on the bima can affirm that in their own struggles and at every crossroads, God is with them.

Ha’azinu, Deu 32:1 – 32:52; September 23, 2023

Ha’azinu, or “Listen,” is the second to last book of the Torah. It includes Moses’ final message, a moving cry from his heart.

After a retelling of the story of God as the savior, the covenant and the warning to remain true, Moses shifts his language. Rather than warning of God’s powerful wrath, Moses strikes a more gentle chord. In poetic language that compares the Torah to the rain and wind that challenges, but nourishes the Earth, Moses suggests that God helps us grow, but also tests us to make us stronger. He reiterates the power of God as the creator, connected to all existence and remaining with us forever. Here, Moses reminds us to live with a deeper and broader purpose, to recognize the goodness and love within the universe and radiate the same to the rest of humanity. As a B’nei Mitzvah, the child can connect to the experience of God through that of a parents’ eternal love. This comparison of the creator’s everlasting commitment ensures the continuation of Jewish faith and values and the future of the Jewish people then and now.

Drew Kramer is a writer, performer, and the founder of Lady and The Floofs.

August 23rd, 2023

Tween Fashion Trend Report: What to Wear to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah


Tween Fashion Trend Report: What to Wear to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah 

By Drew Kramer

When Jewish children reach tweenage years, their weekend social calendars can become stacked with bar and bat mitzvahs. The celebration of the transition from childhood to adulthood requires a new uniform that will take them from the temple to party. However, bar and bat mitzvah parties come in all forms these days: from casual, kids-oriented parties at sports complexes to swanky nightclub settings. The invitation will indicate the formality of the attire. While athleisure is a simple answer to the call to attend a sports party, the dress becomes more complicated when the party goes after dark. If your fall calendar is clogged with haftorah mornings and hora nights, below is the skinny on how to look cool in middle school:

Score Some Jordans

Forget Mary Janes or the age appropriate two-inch heels of yesteryear, today’s teens are looking to street style for footwear inspiration. Nike Air Jordans are the shoe of the moment. Launched in 1985, Air Jordans shaped pop culture as we know it today. Today, the shoe is a status symbol in sneaker culture and shul. Across the gender spectrum, cool kids are surfing the internet to acquire rare color combinations that solidify their sneakerhead credibility and individuality.   

Mini Dresses

Hightops paired with a form fitting, often rouched mini dresses announce to the world that the 13-year old girls are not babies anymore. Toned down with the sneakers and made temple-appropriate with a zip up hoodie. Brands like Princess Polly and Katie J outfit the lewk for under $100. 

For the bat mitzvah girl herself, custom dressmakers like Blue by Christina and  Nina Bauer Shapiro create strapless mini dresses that flare from the waist. The look is reminiscent of Dior’s new look, but with sparkle and sneakers.

For 13-year-old girls like me who don’t do dresses, I encourage personal style. For my 90s bar and bat mitzvah season, I rocked pants suits and lady tuxedos. Today’s relaxed dress codes make for even more options. Seize the silhouette of the moment, donning wide leg trousers like a boss. Throw caution to the wind with a jumpsuit that requires help in the bathroom. When you have the guts to go your own way, style knows no limits! 

Classy in Khakis

While the options for menswear are more limited than the female side of the gender spectrum, the more casual celebrations of today give boys more room to play. When a bar or bat mitzvah event signals “cocktail attire,” boys default to the uniform of khakis and a button down (and sometimes even jeans). Adding sneakers takes khakis from accountant to hip. In a sea of khakis and blue and white button downs, sneakers give the wearer comfort and cool factor.

However, when it comes to the bar mitzvah boy, the casualization of the American dress code does not always extend to the temple. Even if the child changes for his party, most families select a more traditional suit and tie for the service to honor the formality of the occasion. But with sneakers. 

Although the spirit of the occasion honors tradition, Judaism supports enhancement or beautification of its rituals through the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah. Hiddur Mitzvah means that Jews must do all we can to make the fulfillment of commandments and performance of Jewish rituals as beautiful and special as possible. Choosing an outfit that makes the wearer feel special and stylish elevates the occasion and spiritual significance of the moment. In Judaism, fashion meets faith at the b’nei mitzvah bimah, and we are here for it. 

Drew Kramer is a writer, performer, and the founder of Lady and The Floofs.


August 23rd, 2023

5 Bar Mitzvah Movies that Tells the Next Generation Jewish Story

Bar Mitzvah Movies

By Drew Kramer

Across every major religion, participation in houses of worship is in decline. For Jews, this reality is no different. It is surprising that in a landscape where religious affiliation is shrinking, new films depicting Jewish life appear in today’s zeitgeist. In the last decade, numerous films featuring Jewish tradition, particularly the b’nei mitzvah, indicate a culture still conflicted about its roots and where it is going.

Below is a roundup of the top five modern bar mitzvah movie moments that ask American Jews to consider their relationship with their history, as well as a framework to explore the universal experience of growing up.

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Keeping the Faith (2000)

A Catholic priest, a Rabbi and a hot blonde walk into a bar. So the story goes in the new millennium’s religiously charged romantic comedy starring Ben Stiller, Ed Norton, and Jenna Elfman. Two childhood friends become religious leaders that seek to create a more modern, interfaith-friendly approach to worship. All is kumbaya until both the rabbi and the priest fall in love with the same girl that got away.

The Rabbi is conflicted about getting serious about someone who isn’t Jewish, while the Priest must consider giving up his vows to follow his heart. In the film’s bar mitzvah scene, the bar mitzvah boy’s voice cracks as he chants his haftorah. His awkwardness, while his parents look on with pride, provides comic relief, but also affirms the ritual’s significance to the Jewish people as a right of passage. Even as attitudes relax about interfaith relationships, parents will still kvell at their child’s b’nei mitzvah. 

A Serious Man (2009)

A Serious Man is The Coen Brother’s quirky tribute to growing up Jewish in a Minneapolis suburb in the 1960s. In this critical look at Jewish culture, the Coen Brothers explore how their Jewish heritage clashed with mainstream American life in the times. The movie includes the story of the protagonist’s son, Danny, half-heartedly preparing for his bar mitzvah. An American teenager of the times, he is more interested in listening to rock and roll and getting stoned. Choosing to get high before his long-anticipated bar mitzvah, Danny’s blurry view from the bimah indicates his disconnect with his parents’ pride and joy in the achievement of this moment. 

Cha Cha Real Smooth (2022)

Andrew, a lost 22-year old recent college graduate, begins working as a bar mitzvah party starter for families in his New Jersey hometown. At one party, he befriends the single mother to a teenager who has autism, Lola. Falling for the mother, Andrew explores his own transition to adulthood in the confusing time after college when you are supposed to be an adult, but still figuring it out. While Andrew is not a Jewish protagonist, his own struggle to adulthood juxtaposed with the Jewish milestone supports the thesis that the coming of age ritual has become a common backdrop to explore the challenge of growing up.

13, The Musical (2022)

This 2022 musical film based on the hit broadway show follows young Evan Goldman as he moves from New York City to Indiana with his mother after his parents’ divorce. Disrupted from his life in New York and his Bar Mitzvah preparation, Evan grapples with change as he learns the complicated social hierarchy of his new diverse school community. With its High School Musical-ish bubblegum charm, 13, The Musical sings and dances the themes of teenage angst.

You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah (2023)

Adam Sandler’s new Netflix feature film, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah is the latest cinematic exploration of the growing pains and party planning angst that can arise when a girl reaches Jewish womanhood. This hilarious and heart wrenching look at adolescence, covers friendship betrayals, body changes and first crushes through the lens of the Bat Mitzvah. The film highlights the struggle to understand oneself as she takes this first step towards womanhood with humor and love.

In an era of reduced interest in religion, Hollywood continues to honor the universal experience of crossing from childhood to adolescence through the lens of the B’nei Mitzvah. Whether these modern films depict the past or present, all demonstrate an ongoing consideration of what role religion plays in shaping our identities as we mature.

Drew Kramer is a writer, performer, and the founder of Lady and The Floofs.