It started in the fall with the arrival of several large and elaborate custom stamped envelopes. Bar and Bat Mitzvah season. For my Jewish Day School kids, Bar/Bat season was a yearlong invitation to the ball. Every weekend, a new location, and for the girls, each party required a new dress and shoes, preferably something your parents would raise their eyebrows about.
“I heard that so-and-so used the same invitation company that Beyonce and JayZ used for their wedding invites,” people whispered, when an embossed leather box showed up via special post. The only thing missing was a footman to deliver it.
Every weekend we shuttled back and forth between synagogues and home, home and country clubs or hotels. Some weekends were extra busy with two affairs. At every drop off, a peek inside. Afterwards, we’d get the full report. There was a candy bar, but the DJ sucked. There was dancing but the food was terrible. Someone’s parents got too drunk and started grinding but OMG thank G-d they didn’t do anything truly terrible. Like try to twerk. We’d review the intagram pictures.
By December, the kids were as well versed about the venues as any local party planner. They rolled their eyes about anything too near the airport. They dissed caterers. They debated what color schemes and themes were so last season. Post event, they dissected the swag. Oh the swag. Everything from sunglasses and inflatables to custom hats and tees, Starbucks cards and personalized “Beats” style headphones.
One day my daughter brought home a Fender guitar from a Bar Mitzvah. A $250 electric guitar.
It was the guitar that sent me over the edge. She was coming of age and into a community that felt nothing like home to me.
“What do you think about doing your Bat Mitzvah in Israel?” I asked.
“Hmmm.. OK.” She thought about it. ” As long as I get to have some kind of a party here, for my friends,” she said.
A deal was struck and I filed away the “some kind of party” under TBD. In the meanwhile we had a lot to plan in a little time.
Conveniently a cousin was having a Bar Mitzvah the same week in Jerusalem, and while we’d be having separate ceremonies and parties, the festivities would be somewhat shared.
It would be an epic family vacation, a family reunion in Jerusalem, and most of all, a chance to make this rite of passage unique, meaningful, and our own.
At that point, I had no idea how much work it would be. I had no real idea what the budget looked like compared to the budget for a stateside reception. I was about to learn! First call: A Rabbi who assists with Bar/Bat ceremonies in Jerusalem, who came highly recommended by friends.
(to be continued)