The Ultimate Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebration Book by Jayne Cohen and Lori Weinrott
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Book Reviews


The Jewish Week
November 9, 2004

Excerpts from
The Rite Stuff

By Sandee Brawarsky – Jewish Week Book Critic

Jayne Cohen and Lori Weinrott, the team of authors who wrote The Ultimate Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebration Book: A Guide to Inspiring Ceremonies and Joyous Festivities (Potter) are, respectively, a journalist and an event planner, and both are mothers. “Making it personal, but within the tradition — this is the essence of Judaism,” they write. “For unless we reinvent the customs so that they are meaningful to us, the ritual becomes stale and hollow.”

Their book is full of examples for personalizing the synagogue service and for designing a joyous and stylish celebration. Among their suggestions is the idea of planning floral centerpieces around a mitzvah; they tell of one family that created an Andy Warhol-like still life of Campbell’s soup cans (to be donated to a food bank) accented with little bouquets of red and white zinnias. They suggest resources for purchasing handcrafted kippot by needy artisans and for donating dressy clothes afterwards to be given another life as at a less fortunate person’s simcha.

For the party, they discuss budgets, menu planning, tips in working with caterers and creating an atmosphere of music and dance. In sidebars, they present examples of themed celebrations: a party in a butterfly garden, a celebration of Chanukah and the new moon and a reception for a 52-year-old bar mitzvah boy.

Linda Burghardt, a journalist who lives in Great Neck, first began thinking of writing The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Book: Joyful Ceremonies and Celebration for Today’s Families (Citadel Press) while her twin daughters were approaching the age of 13. She suggests putting the “why” before the “how” in terms of preparation and study, emphasizing values, education and the spiritual potential of this rite of passage.

Interspersed in the text are sidebars with information about gaining skills by computer, resources for writing a d’var Torah, questions for the “Mitzvah Maven,” like what makes wine kosher, and guidance in doing a bar or bat mitzvah in Israel. Burghardt also provides budget-stretching strategies, party planning schedule and choices to weigh about entertainment.

Her afterword, “Living Jewishly After the Bar or Bat Mitzvah,” includes a wide variety of resources and suggestions. “With a little luck, a lot of study, and a mind and heart open to the Jewish way of life [the bar or bat mitzvah] can be a door into the future all parents want for their children, a future that provides them with everything we hold dear: the love of the Jewish people, the wisdom of Jewish law, and the strength of Jewish tradition.”

The Ultimate Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebration Book
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