The Harrison Weiss Family Bar Mitzvah Spotlight

The Harrison Weiss Family Bar Mitzvah Spotlight

The Harrison Weiss Family Bar Mitzvah Spotlight


The Weiss family from Cobleskill, New York celebrated their son Harrison’s Bar Mitzvah on April 13, 2013 at Temple Israel in Albany, New York. After the ceremony, there were two very different celebrations.

Harrison did not want a “traditional” party but instead wanted to celebrate at his temple and do something memorable with friends…all in the same day! The solution was a formal Kiddush luncheon with a chess theme, followed by fun at the Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park in Lake George, New York.

Cobi Creek Photography photographed the Kiddush luncheon and the rest of the vendors are listed at the bottom of this spotlight.


Pictured L-R: Bar Mitzvah boy Harrison, Mom Elise, Sister Madelyn and Dad Marc.







 The service and Kiddush luncheon were held at Temple Israel in Albany, New York.



Harrison holding the Torah

Harrison Weiss reading from the torah
Opening the Torah with his parents on either side of him

Weiss kippot

Harrison is a chess player, so they found yarmulkes with chess pieces

Weiss fun

 This red wagon, a gift from Harrison’s aunt when he was born, held candy which was thrown after the service. Harrison’s service program is next to it 




The modern invitation with black, white and red colors set the tone for the Kiddush luncheon.


Weiss invite

The RSVP email address was included on the bottom

Weiss invite

The “Splash Pass” card was for the 2nd part of their celebration





Harrison wanted the Horah to be part of his celebration. Being part of a conservative/orthodox shul, there could be no music on a Saturday afternoon, so the Weiss family got creative. They hired a collegiate A Cappella group, The Earth Tones, from the University of Albany. They provided the music during the Horah and sang with the cantor during the luncheon as well! 



Weiss horah

Harrison being lifted in the chair during the Horah


The Earth Tones entertaining during the luncheon




Since they could not light candles, this family came up with a creative alternative for their candle lighting ceremony. They chose to do a “Wine Pouring” ceremony in which they honored family and friends by having them add a cup of happiness, love, friendship and wisdom into a large “cup of life.”


Weiss candle lighting

The table set up for the “Cup of Life” ceremony

Weiss candle lighting

Each cup had its own sign

Weiss candle lighting

Harrison with his grandmother

Weiss candle lighting

After each guest helped pour in one of the ingredients for a “recipe for a good life,” Harrison took it all in





The black, white and red color palette seemed great for a chess theme. Mom Elise bought chess magnets and used them as part of their place cards.



Weiss place cards

She spray painted the large magnetic chalkboard black and hung the place cards which welcomed guests as they walked into the luncheon

Weiss place cards

Plus, the magnets served as a souvenir since she put a little sticker on each that read, “Harrison’s Bar Mitzvah,” with the date on the back 

Weiss Obama letter

The Weiss family invited President and Mrs. Obama, who unfortunately couldn’t make it, but sent back a nice congratulatory keepsake




Mom Elise bought glass chessboards from a local store which were incorporated with balloons to become part of the centerpieces.



Weiss decor
Mom Elise cut out the cardboard chess pieces that decorated the tables

Weiss decor

Photofetti, something Mom Elise found on Mitzvah Market, decorated the tables and was a great way to display pictures of Harrison at different stages in his life

Weiss decor

 Chess pieces decorated the buffet

Weiss favor
Mom Elise decorated hospitality bags with chess pieces for the out-of-town guests



When it was time to head off to the Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park, a private coach bus pulled up to the temple and all the kids (immediate family and some friends) boarded the bus.



Weiss fun

Harrison and his sister Madelyn boarding the bus

Weiss friends
Harrison’s friends take a few minutes from all the action to pose for a picture

 Weiss fun

Four hours of lazy rivers and slides

Weiss fun

And a surfing area

Weiss celebration
Dinner was at Johnny Rockets in the hotel



One of Mom Elise’s favorite elements of the day was when she, her sister, mom and daughter put on their matching black and diamond studded t-shirts at the water park that read: “Bar Mitzvah Mom,” “Bar Mitzvah Aunt,” “Bar Mitzvah Grandma,” and “Bar Mitzvah Sister.”


Weiss style

 The women got plenty of attention and the best part… worries about what to wear! 




 The favors, from were towels- perfect for a water park! 



Weiss favor

The slogan “Instant Fun….Just Add Water” with Harrison’s name, the date and clip art of a swimmer 

Weiss favors

They were rolled up like big tootsie rolls and passed out on the bus on the way home   






Harrison has been swimming competitively for years and was able to combine his love of swimming with his Mitzvah Project. The summer before his Bar Mitzvah, he organized a swim-a-thon with his local swim team and called the event, “Just Keep Swimming.” His whole team swam laps, and Harrison swam 112 laps himself.  They found sponsors that donated flat rates and money per lap. Together, they raised over $1,700.  The money saved the annual championship meet which was in danger of being cancelled and supported local pools damaged by recent hurricanes. 



Some advice from Mom Elise:
“It is hard to stray away from what we know as ‘traditional’ in terms of a Bar Mitzvah celebration. However, it is important to listen to your child and help him/her create an event that represents him/her.  Remind yourself that it is your child’s day and tailoring it to what he/she loves is the most important thing.  My son was so happy and thoroughly enjoyed his Bar Mitzvah. Also, living in a small town where Bar Mitzvahs are far from the norm, it was important to plan early and help our guests understand the special meaning of the celebration.  Everyone was on board and genuinely excited for the day!” 




The following vendors helped to make Harrison’s celebration special. If you give any of them a call, please let them know you read about their services on

Service/Kiddush Luncheon:
Temple Israel, 518-438-7858
Party Venue: The Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park, 518-824-6060
Photographer: Cobi Creek Photography, 518-231-4479
: UAlbany Earth Tones at [email protected]
Towel Favors/Special T-Shirts:  WaDaYaNeed, 800-958-4332
Invitations and Yarmulkes: Caryn Poskanzer, [email protected]
Balloons: Linda, Flowers Forever By Linda, 518-482-5086 
Confetti: Photofetti, 866-496-3168
Welcome Board magnets: CafePress
Suits and dresses: Macy’s
Transportation: Brown Coach Company, 518-843-4700





Posted in Mitzvah Spotlight, Family