THE CELEBRATION OF BAR/BAT MITZVAH
In his book, Putting God on the Guest List, Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin tells a story about a friend planning his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. When a caterer asked about the theme of the party, the rabbi’s acquaintance answered, “How about Judaism?”
If you keep kosher and observe Shabbat, you will take it for granted that these practices will be integral to the reception. Yet even if one does not regularly observe these mitzvot, it is certainly not hypocritical for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah party to be kosher and in keeping with the spirit of Shabbat! Planning the event in sync with Judaism makes a statement that this celebration is not just another party, but instead a moment of religious significance; it demonstrates a commitment to celebrate what is a religious event by any definition in a manner reflective of Jewish principles. The value of making this powerful spiritual statement to oneself and one’s child is well worth considering. In addition, a decision to hold a celebration at the Center supports the synagogue through the catering revenue it generates. In sum, when families utilize the synagogue as the venue for their simha, they strengthen the fabric of our Jewish communal life in many different ways.
Of course, it also helps that we are blessed with a superb facility and an outstanding staff, capable of handling everything from an intimate Shabbat dinner for thirty to an elaborate function for several hundred guests. Margo’s Catering, the exclusive caterer of the Jacksonville Jewish Center, enhances any simha with a singular combination of good taste, creativity and a genuine desire to make one’s celebration a truly memorable event. In so many ways the synagogue is an extension of home; there is special warmth that comes from sharing this important moment with loved ones at the Center that no other venue can offer.
Please note that Center policy precludes synagogue professionals from attending b’nei mitzvah held elsewhere which begin before the conclusion of Shabbat, and/or events at which non-kosher meat or seafood is served.
A typical Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekend includes a Friday night Shabbat dinner, a Shabbat morning kiddush or luncheon, and a Saturday night or Sunday party. In planning for these events at the Center, arrangements must be coordinated among the following:
- Synagogue Administrator, Lori Schoettler, discusses room availability and associated charges relative to the anticipated number of guests and party plans. Once a family’s needs have been ascertained and confirmed, the rooms are reserved on the calendar. Lori Schoettler will also review all contracts negotiated with the synagogue involving deposits. The Center requires a refundable deposit to be applied to breakage or damage that may occur during the weekend of the celebration. Please note that as a host the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family is ultimately responsible for the actions of its guests. All checks, including those for catering, should be made payable to the Jacksonville Jewish Center.
- Hazzan Holzerfurnishes family with information regarding the earliest time after Shabbat at which parties may start. Saturday night affairs can begin shortly after the conclusion of Shabbat. Please note that this time changes from week to week. Hazzan Holzer also checks invitations before they are mailed to ensure they reflect the correct start time.
- Margo’s Catering works within the Center’s administrative and religious policies to create menus and culinary themes reflective of family ideas, number of guests, time of day etc.
A child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah is always a joyous moment in our community’s life. Accordingly, families are required to sponsor a basic kiddush in honor of their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah with cookies and punch for all members of the congregation. Hazzan Holzer will furnish families and Margo’s Catering an accurate number of regular worshippers in addition to a family’s guests to ensure sufficient food for all in attendance. Families may sponsor a more elaborate kiddush luncheon with a variety of buffet-style offerings for congregants and invited guests.
Invitations to Classmates
We’re all familiar with the great sage Hillel’s saying, “What is hateful unto you, do not do unto others.” If your son or daughter was ever left out of a party that everyone else attended, then you already know how miserable it is to be an outsider. Planning a joyous celebration should not be the cause of another youngster’s hurt feelings. We strongly encourage you to invite to any party all students in both the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School and the Bernard and Alice Selevan Religious School, who are in the same school grade as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child. Lists are available through Hazzan Holzer. Please make sure you get updated lists before mailing invitations. This is a great opportunity to teach your child menschlichkeit and kindness by way of example!
Flowers should be discussed with Administrator Lori Schoettler. Please keep in mind that they cannot obstruct access to the bimah or the congregation’s view of it. Florists must coordinate with the Assistant Administrator to ensure delivery before Shabbat.
The Mishnah teaches in the name of Rabbi Elazar of Bartota, “Give God what is God’s, for you and yours are God’s” (Avot 3:8). This dictum reminds us that whatever we receive in life is a gift. As children of a beneficent God we are commanded to share with those who are less fortunate. It is essential we teach our offspring this lesson as well.
Parents can teach the lesson of tzedakah by setting an example and giving to a worthy organization in honor of their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Choosing to create non-perishable food basket (or baby care items, children’s books etc.) centerpieces for donation instead of or in addition to purchasing flowers is one way to connect the celebration to the concept of tzedakah. Another idea is to contribute to our local “Feed a Needy Neighbor” (FANN) food pantry sponsored under the auspices of Jewish Family and Community Services, or to MAZON, an organization that fights hunger. MAZON suggests a contribution to feed the hungry equal to 3% of the reception’s cost. It can also provide you with literature and place cards for your celebration to promote awareness of its worthy aims. For more information write or log-on to MAZON’s website:
MAZON: A JEWISH RESPONSE TO HUNGER
1990 South Bundy Drive, Suite 260
Los Angeles, California 90025-5232
B’nei Tzedek Program
To demonstrate understanding of the responsibility that is integral to becoming an ethical and sensitive Jewish adult, every Bar/Bat Mitzvah should also give tzedakah from the monetary gifts s/he receives. The amount of the donation is far less significant than the reality of its occurrence. Our children may appreciate the fact of our generosity in the abstract; only when they experience a sense of personal investment will they truly grasp the moral imperative of tzedakah in a meaningful fashion
B’nei Mitzvah are strongly encouraged to register for the B’nei Tzedek program, a superb way to promote the habit of tzedakah among youngsters. Children consent to donate $125 of their gift money to the Jacksonville Jewish Foundation, which then establishes a charitable trust in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s name. This sum is matched by an equal contribution from the Jacksonville Jewish Federation, and then matched yet again with a $250 gift from the Gottlieb Family Foundation. An annual meeting is held at which B’nei Tzedek participants meet to allocate the interest income from their respective charitable trusts to the various Jewish institutions of the Jacksonville community. For more information about the B’nei Tzedek program as well as other opportunities for charitable giving, contact the Jacksonville Jewish Foundation directly at (904) 394-0720.
Joan Levin Gift of Israel
The Joan Levin Gift of Israel helps families give their children the gift of a trip to Israel, surely one of the most important and formative of Jewish experiences. Administered by the Jacksonville Jewish Federation, parents of B’nei Mitzvah open a special savings account and deposit $175 per annum for a minimum of four years toward the cost of an Israel trip. Federation then provides an annual dollar match up to a maximum of $700 by the end of four years. The total of $1,400 may be used anytime before an individual’s 24th birthday toward the cost of any trip to Israel sponsored by Federation or myriad other Jewish organizations, including the Conservative Movement’s own USY Pilgrimage, Ramah Israel, Nativ, or USY High in Israel.
Families may also choose to deposit additional money to the account. Those who do not utilize their funds for Israel travel may withdraw the money at any time without penalty, but do forfeit the matching Federation grant in its entirety. For more information about the Joan Levin Gift of Israel, contact the Jacksonville Jewish Federation directly at (904) 448-5000.
B’nei Mitzvah Honors Program
Currently in formation, the B’nei Mitzvah Honors Program is a voluntary program for those students and families who are interested in a more in-depth bar/bat mitzvah process. We have added to the already varied menu of requirements additional study and worship opportunities. We have also added important commitments to future behavior – a commitment to further participation in worship as a leader through our Chaizman Trophy program and further commitment to education as a young adult in our MAKOM Hebrew High Program.
The Honors Program is outlined in Appendix B: B’nei Mitzvah Commitments