About the Book
About the Authors
If you have a bar/bat mitzvah somewhere in the horizon,
this is a must read. Filled with inspiring ideas, Cohen and Weinrott
help bring balance to this meaningful Jewish milestone. When planning
a bar/bat mitzvah, it is easy to be paralyzed not knowing where to start.
This practical yet creative guide is a welcome tool.
This guide suggests imaginative ways to combine traditional
and personal values in the ceremony and the ensuing celebration. It
also presents practical suggestions for planning a bar/bat mitzvah as
well as serving as an idea book. The duo help families navigate and
plan the year preceding the bar/bat mitzvah, prepare for the myriad
elements of the bar/bat mitzvah and emphasize the meaning behind the
service and the traditions. They don't stop with the bar/bat mitzvah
year but also have suggestions for the post bar/bat mitzvah year with
appropriate mitzvahs (good deeds) as a class.
Part I is entitled "A Family Celebration." It
is broken down into sections concerning the service and how to make
it a memorable family event without falling into the peer pressure trap.
Ideas abound for all levels of observance and the author's are non judgmental.
Since it is inclusive, there is a wonderful section on adoptive families
as well as special needs families stating that "the tent of Judaism
today is very wide." They also address the elements of the service,
the blessings, honors and aliyot with helpful ways to prepare for all
honors. They cover ritual items for the synagogue and suggestions for
"making it a mitzvah" by purchasing handcrafted kippot from
needy artisans through Myriam's Dream which provides work for the elderly
around the world. Or for purchasing a beautifully embroidered tallit
bag made by Ethiopian Jews to benefit poor Jews survival in Ethiopia.
Throughout, the emphasis is on creating a mitzvah. On
most pages, there is a highlighted box with suggestions for mitzvah
projects such as participating in bar/bat mitzvah twinning programs
with bar/bat mitzvah kids in other countries. And then starting a clothes
closet of celebratory clothes that are expensive and outgrown to be
sent to needy students participating in the bar/bat mitzvah twinning
program in another country. Or organizing the bnai mitzvah class to
collect tableware, pots and pans to deliver to Jewish Family Services
for redistribution in order to share the collective celebratory meal.
The mitzvah ideas in this guide are quite good and would also be suitable
for any age level, school or organization . After the bar mitzvah year,
they suggest joining with kids from other synagogues and hosting a dance
marathon at the JCC to raise money for special needs kids. Or help kids
with disabilities by becoming a buddy in Little League or soccer.
There is also emphasis on traditional Jewish family values.
On many pages there is a highlighted box entitled "From Generation
to Generation" encouraging family traditions. One father took his
own father's tallit, removed strands from his father's tzitzit and had
it woven into the tallitot of other family members. "His wife embroidered
cranes, a Korean motif, into the mantel of their daughter's bat mitzvah
tallit in tribute to her Korean birth, and wove some of his father's
tzitzit in with her new ones."
Part II is entitled "The Festivities." They
have suggestions for the festive meal, decorations, entertainment, how
to's on contracting with caterers, florists, entertainment, invitations,
hotels, as well as original ideas for the home based celebration replete
with recipes and menu suggestions. They also provide clever ideas for
pairing with a timely Jewish holiday . They cover the joyously simple
to the creatively elaborate. Even when they discuss the festivities,
they emphasize the Jewish elements and ways to always have the traditions
constant. They provide fresh suggestions for a candle lighting, the
Ashkenazi chair dance, the hora dance (descended from a Romanian peasant
dance), the challah and blessings over the wine and bread. Or an Israeli
market, Purim Ball, or a Moroccan feast. While most are Ashkenazi based,
I would have appreciated more international or Sephardic traditions.
They emphasize "adding a Jewish flavor" with
such things as instead of numbering party tables, choose Judaic names
for them named after the "Twelve Tribes" or Jewish heroines.
Their philosophy is to provide a welcome fresh approach with ideas to
make the bar/bat mitzvah a more personal celebration rather than a canned
and trite event. "The goal is not to have guests remark, "Wow,
I never saw anything like that" or "That must've cost a fortune,"
but instead, "There was such a wonderful spirit at that celebration"
and 'What a great time I had."
The check list, time line, cost analysis, sources, web sites, are invaluable. The ideas for making mitzvahs and for bringing the family together in a meaningful way during the service and the celebrations are even better. The word "ideas" keeps surfacing but this book is indeed a bountiful idea book.