Tag: bar mitzvah

Putting the Mitzvah Back in Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah: Creating Meaningful Mitzvah Projects (Part 2 of 2)

As I noted in my previous post, one of the pillars of Judaism is the notion of Repairing the World, or Tikkun Olam in Hebrew. In the Jewish tradition, it is customary for children preparing for their bar or bat mitzvahs to participate in a project in which they give back to the community. Some communities refer to this as the child’s “Mitzvah Project.” By doing a Mitzvah Project, children learn to take responsibility for the welfare of the community in which they live, and they often are reminded of their many blessings in the process.

I have the unique fortune to hear about many wonderful ways in which my clients’ children give back to their community. They range from helping animals to helping humans, from helping people in communities close to home to helping people on the other side of the world. Here is the second of two entries that describe a few of my favorite Mitzvah Projects that some of my clients have created to benefit others:


SUPPORTING THE ABAYUDAYA JEWS OF UGANDA

Gianna, from Woodland Hills, California, decided to help a group of people on the other side of the world: The Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. The Abayudaya are a tribe of people whose leader converted the whole community to Judaism over one hundred years ago. They strive to live in peace alongside their Christian and Muslim neighbors and are helping to increase the quality of life for all Ugandans. Under Rabbi Gershom Sizomu’s leadership, they now have a Medical Center open to everyone and around the time of Gianna’s bat mitzvah, were raising money to build a Community Center and Childcare Center.

Gianna had a special connection to the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. Their spiritual leader, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, did his rabbinic internship at Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills, California. Shomrei Torah is located up the street from Temple Aliyah, Gianna’s synagogue, and Temple Aliyah’s cantor, Hazzan Mike Stein, with whom Gianna and her family are very close, formed a close relationship with Rabbi Sizomu during his internship at the neighboring synagogue.

While the Abayudaya raised enough money for a physical building to hold their new childcare center, Gianna knew a building was not enough. As she wrote on an insert included with her invitation, “Children need a lot of activities to keep them busy and learning. My mitzvah project is to raise money to furnish toys, books, and playground equipment for the new Childcare Center in Mbale, Uganda.”

The childcare center serves Jewish, Christian and Muslim children so their mothers can work and contribute to the growing economy. Gianna was inspired to do this as her mitzvah project because both of her grandmothers were preschool teachers, and have always worked to promote peace. She wanted to honor them as she became a bat mitzvah by providing the Abayudaya with everything they need in order to provide quality childcare to Jewish, Christian and Muslim families in their community.

For more information about the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, click here: Abayudaya Jews of Uganda

For more information about the Abayudaya’s Synagogue and Community Center, click here: Abayudaya’s Synagogue and Community Center


ENHANCING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ETHIOPIAN JEWS

Yael and Akiva’s b’nai mitzvah project was inspired by their sister Rosa, who was born in Ethiopia. Being twins themselves, they twinned with an Ethiopian boy and girl in Israel to help sponsor their B’nai Mitzvah preparations. They worked with a charity called The North American Conference On Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ). In addition, they raised funds to help NACOEJ serve the larger Ethiopian community in Israel who have fulfilled their dream of reaching Zion, which is how they refer to Israel.

Many people in this vibrant community are thriving. However, many are still struggling. It is especially the children of these pioneers who need the help of NACOEJ and their programs. Often their parents speak little or no Hebrew and cannot help their children with school work. Even today, only half of Ethiopian-Israeli elementary school children reach grade level. To change this, the NACOEJ Limudiah Program provides intensive after-school education to about 750 children a year. NACOEJ also has sponsorship programs for Ethiopian-Israeli high school and college students.

Click here for more information about the NACOEJ, click here: North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ)


RAISING MONEY TO PROVIDE CAMP EXPERIENCES FOR KIDS WITH SERIOUS PEDIATRIC ILLNESSES

Weston and Lindsay are 17 months apart so they decided to share their b’nai mitzvah. As their special Tikkun Olam project, they chose to support a wonderful organization called Chai Lifeline, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families who are affected by serious pediatric illness. This organization is particularly near and dear to Weston and Lindsay’s hearts because Chai Lifeline has significantly helped a family that is very close to them. Chai Lifeline offers free programs and services that allow seriously ill children and their families to receive much-needed social and emotional support, therapeutic recreational activities, educational support, crisis intervention, and special camp experiences that give the children a vacation from illness and pain.

Weston and Lindsay chose to raise money to give the children of Chai Lifeline a special experience at Camp Simcha, where they can go to forget about illness and experience the joy of childhood.  Since Weston and Lindsay love music and theater arts, their goal was to raise $5,000 to fund a program called “The Show Must Go On” for the kids at camp. They asked guests to make donations in honor of their b’nai mitzvah. They also collected toys for the children of Chai Lifeline.

For more information about Chai Lifeline, click here: Chai Lifeline

For more information about Camp Simcha, click here: Camp Simcha

#BarMitzvah
#BatMitzvah
#BnaiMitzvah
#HelpingTheWorld
#MitzvahProject
#TikkunOlam
#Abayudaya
#UgandanJews
#NorthAmericanConferenceOnEthiopianJewry
#NACOEJ
#EthiopianJews
#ChaiLifeline
#CampSimcha
#PediatricIllness

Putting the Mitzvah Back in Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah: Creating Meaningful Mitzvah Projects (Part 1 of 2)

 

One of the pillars of Judaism is the notion of Repairing the World, or Tikkun Olam in Hebrew. In the Jewish tradition, it is customary for children preparing for their bar or bat mitzvahs to participate in a project in which they give back to the community. Some communities refer to this as the child’s “Mitzvah Project.” By doing a Mitzvah Project, children learn to take responsibility for the welfare of the community in which they live, and they often are reminded of their many blessings in the process.

I have the unique fortune to hear about many wonderful ways in which my clients’ children give back to their community. They range from helping animals to helping humans, from helping people in communities close to home to helping people on the other side of the world. Here is the first of two entries that describe a few of my favorite Mitzvah Projects that some of my clients have created to benefit others:


CRAZY SOCK PARTY TO BENEFIT JEWISH CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

For many years, ever since she was a little girl, Talia loved working with kids with special needs. Her mom found the Los Angeles Chapter of The Friendship Circle, a national charity that provides Jewish special needs children with a variety of experiences, from social and educational to recreational and Judaic. The Friendship Circle also offers a break for and support to parents of these kids as well as provides Jewish teens with opportunities to share themselves with the special needs community.

As her way to give back and demonstrate her gratitude for her own blessings, Talia planned two Crazy Sock Parties. One was the party for her own bat mitzvah. She asked her guests to wear crazy socks to the party and to bring extra pairs of crazy and funny socks to donate to the kids of The Friendship Circle. Then, a few weeks later, Talia planned a Crazy Sock Party for her Friendship Circle friends. She used part of the gift money she collected from her bat mitzvah to help pay for the second Crazy Sock Party and she gave each child a pair of their own crazy socks to wear. Talia was able to give these deserving special needs kids a similar experience to what she had a few weeks earlier.

For more information about The Friendship Circle and to find a local chapter near you, click here: The Friendship Circle.


DONATING HAIR TO LOCKS OF LOVE

Hannah decided at the age of 11 ½ that she wanted to donate her hair to Locks of Love as her bat mitzvah project. This was shortly after Hannah’s grandmother passed away from cancer. As part of her treatment, she lost her hair, and that’s what motivated Hannah to support Locks of Love, a nonprofit charity that makes hairpieces out of real hair for disadvantaged children under age 21 who lose their hair due to a variety of illnesses. Hannah’s grandmother inspired her decision because many of the children who benefit from Locks of Love are children who suffer from cancer.

For the next 18 months, Hannah did not cut her hair. But rather than simply cut her hair and send it to Locks of Love, which many people do, Hannah organized an entire event at a hair salon. She included information about her event in her bat mitzvah invitation so that people could participate if they chose to. Several friends and family members, including Hannah’s mom, donated their hair and several people made generous donations in Hannah’s honor. One family member generously donated a ponytail she’d saved for more than 40 years. It was Hannah’s willingness to donate her own hair to people less fortunate than her that motivated Hannah’s relative to finally part with the ponytail she’d saved for so many years.

The event was a huge success. Hannah collected a total of 7 ponytails and close to $1,000 for Locks of Love.

For more information about Locks of Love and to create your own fundraiser to support their efforts, click here: Locks of Love.

Read my next post for examples of more Mitzvah Projects.

#MitzvahProject
#BarMitzvah
#BatMitzvah
#TikkunOlam
#HelpingTheWorld
#TheFriendshipCircle
@TheFriendshipCircle
#LocksofLove
@LocksofLove

No Right Way or Wrong Way…Only YOUR Way

I am often asked “what’s the right way to…” followed by a question about how to handle a situation one might encounter when planning a party. My answer usually is “there is no RIGHT way or WRONG way…there’s only YOUR way.” I say this because every bride and groom, every bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah child, and every honoree is unique and their special event should reflect who they are. So while there are social conventions that can help guide you, there’s no reason why you can’t get creative and have fun planning your big event.

This is even true as it pertains to your invitations.

For example, in years past, wedding invitations were very formal. They had inner and outer envelopes, the bride’s parents were listed as the hosts, and the envelopes were addressed with formal honorifics (e.g., Mr. and Mrs. John Smith). These days, however, not all weddings are such formal affairs. And even if they are, many young brides and grooms are not comfortable with the formalities associated with weddings of the past.

It’s now perfectly acceptable to mail wedding invitations in a single envelope. In fact, in the more than 20 years since I started designing custom invitations, I have never designed a wedding invitation with a double envelope.

Brides and grooms often address their invitations using guests’ first and last names without honorifics (e.g., Mary and John Smith). This reduced formality sits better with many millennials.

Brides and grooms often host their own weddings and send their invitations from them, not from their parents. And even when they aren’t paying for their own wedding, sometimes certain family dynamics call for brides and grooms to send the invitations in order to avoid hurt feelings. I have a current wedding invitation client who is doing just that. The groom’s father recently passed away and in deference to his mother’s feelings, they chose to word the invitation as though they were inviting everyone. Their invitation reads:

Together with our families
Jenna Marie
Daughter of Cynthia and Robert Morgan
and
James Edward
Son of Jennifer and the late Richard Jackson
invite you to join us as we exchange wedding vows

Instead of using a formal RSVP card with an envelope, many of my clients opt to use a postcard RSVP. We design the front with all of the requisite RSVP information (names of guests, accepts or declines the invitation, meal choices, and whatever other information they need to collect) and the back is printed with the return address. This not only saves the cost of the envelope, but the postage is less expensive and it doesn’t weigh as much.

One thing is clear, however, regardless of the formality of the event: a wedding needs a real invitation and a real response card. Weddings are special and while you may be planning an informal affair at an eclectic or non-traditional venue, sending a printed invitation is one tradition that still endures. But have fun with that tradition and make the invitation reflect YOU.

For assistance creating your perfect wedding invitation, bar mitzvah invitation or bat mitzvah invitation, contact Invitation Maven at info@InvitationMaven.com or visit our website at www.InvitationMaven.com.

Where do I start? The 3 most important things to know before you start planning your child’s bar mitzvah

You’re planning your son’s bar mitzvah. It’s your first time planning a party that’s this significant. Even if you’ve done this before, a million questions are swirling through your head (I know…I’ve been there. I’ve planned three!). But the most pressing one probably is: WHERE DO I START?

It’s common to feel confused and perhaps overwhelmed. You need to decide the venue, the food, the theme, the decorations, the invitations, the entertainment, and on and on. I assure my clients that the first decisions they make regarding their big event are the hardest, and the farther we get in the process, the easier the decisions become. But to make it easier, I’ve narrowed the millions of choices down to the three most important things you need to know first. The rest will fall into place.

ONE: THE GUEST LIST
The first and MOST important decision you make, the one that will really guide every decision that comes next, is WHO. WHO do you want to invite to share this incredible simcha with you? Do you want a small, intimate family gathering with only your immediate relatives and closest family friends, or do you want ALL of “your people” there, which might mean a few hundred guests? Either way, you’re making the WHO…the PEOPLE…the most important thing.

Once you decide WHO you want to invite, it’s nice to know how many to expect will actually attend. In general, these are my rules of thumb regarding attendance:

Under 50 invited: 10% decline
75–100 invited: 10% – 25% decline
100+ invited: 20% – 30% decline
150+ invited: 25% – 35% decline

As you can see, the more people you invite, the larger the percentage of people who can’t or won’t make it. If you think about it, this makes sense. With a smaller, more intimate affair, you’re likely limiting the guest list to the people you’re closest with. Those people tend to make more of an effort to attend special occasions such as this. As you expand the guest list to include more casual friendships or business relationships, those people tend not to make your event their priority. It’s not personal; it’s just life. But understanding these general rules can help you with your next decision: HOW MUCH.

TWO: YOUR BUDGET
The next thing you need to know is how much you can afford to spend. Put another way: What’s your budget for your event? The most effective way to do this is to prioritize. Start with the three most important things you want at your event. These can be things such as a specific venue, live music, a particular DJ or photographer, a special menu, etc. Creating this short list of priorities will help you focus your budget on the things that are most important to you.

One thing you should keep in mind as you’re preparing your budget is: will this work? My suggestion to you is to be realistic as you’re trying to figure out how much to spend as costs can easily get out of hand.

The best way to be realistic is to do some research. The internet is full of resources to help you get an idea of what things cost in your area. Create a spreadsheet for each of your priorities then add in other things you would love to have. Pretty soon, you’ll start to have an idea of what you can and cannot afford and can prioritize what’s most important to you.

Now that you’ve decided WHO to invite and HOW MUCH you’re willing to spend, you can start to think about WHERE to have your party.

THREE: VENUE
One reason why the first two steps are so important is because you don’t want to book a venue with a maximum capacity of 75 if you’ve got over 150 people on your guest list. Conversely, venues with high minimums may not be worth the cost if you’re only inviting 75 people. But once you “pencil in” your guest list and you know how much you’re willing to spend, you can start looking for venues that will fit your budget.

The venue you choose will eventually dictate the rest of the details of your bar mitzvah. For example, a large hotel ballroom with lush carpeting and decorative drapes and wall treatments will require different décor than venue at a local summer camp. Similarly, a venue on the beach with large windows overlooking the ocean will provide a very different feel than a venue at a local bowling alley or other kid-friendly locale.

There are two ways to narrow down your search for an appropriate venue: by LOCATION and by TYPE OF VENUE.

If, for example, your bar mitzvah service is at the synagogue near your home, you may want to consider a venue that’s a short distance away so your guests don’t have to travel too far between locations. However, if you’re having the ceremony and party at the same venue, you could venture a little farther away.

Regarding the type of venue, are you having a banquet with a meal and dancing or a kids’ party where the location can be more informal?

The easiest way to find potential locations is through an internet search and by asking your friends for recommendations. Blogs of local event professionals are also a great place to search for ideas because many of them write about local venues and post pictures. That way you can get a feel for the venue as it is being used. Finally, schedule a site visit. But before you go, find out as much as you can before you go so you don’t waste your time looking at a place that won’t fit your needs.

Once you nail down these three elements, the rest of the details of your party will quickly fall into place. To help you get started, get my FREE “BIG PARTY GUEST LIST SURVIVAL GUIDE: How to stay sane when 100 or more people are celebrating with you!” by clicking here: FREE SURVIVAL GUIDE.

#GuestList
#Budget
#Venue
#EventPlanning
#EventPlanningTips
#BarMitzvah
#BatMitzvah
#BnaiMitzvah
#Wedding
#PartyPlanning
#InvitationMaven

Number One Event Planning Tip: Enjoy the Process

Planning a special event can be a daunting task, whether it’s a small, intimate gathering of friends to celebrate a milestone birthday or a large life cycle event such as a wedding, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. There are thousands of choices to make and a myriad of details to keep track of. Sometimes, the details can become overwhelming, especially when you already have a full time job.

Many people search out advice about how to do this or that. But those lists leave out the most important piece of advice I give each of my clients: enjoy the process, because sometimes, the things that go wrong will become your funniest and most memorable stories.

But what does “enjoy the process” mean?

Events are usually planned months in advance and it takes time and effort to decide what to serve, who to invite, how to decorate, who to hire, etc. Clients often spend hundreds of hours or more planning every detail of the party. This process can often be very stressful. And with all the planning, the actual event itself is over within a matter of hours. So the reason why I tell my clients to enjoy the process is because if you don’t, you will miss out on opportunities to make memories. And if things go wrong, either on that day or in the days leading up to your special event, if you’re not enjoying the process, these mishaps can ruin your entire experience.

I’ll share an example from a client I had a few years ago to illustrate my point.

I designed some bar mitzvah invitations for a client (I’ll call her Julie). We were just about ready to go into production. She had just emailed me her signed proofs when she got a call from her venue saying they’d had a major flood and needed to close the venue to make repairs. They informed her that they could not guarantee that the venue would be ready in time for her event, which was then only 10 weeks away.

Well, anyone who knows about planning a large party knows venues book months and sometimes a year or more in advance. Finding another venue that could accommodate Julie and her 200+ guests at that late date would be challenging, to say the least. But rather than be discouraged, Julie called several local venues and was able to find a place that was available on her date.

While those first few days following the news of the flood added some unneeded stress, Julie recalled my advice and realized that although unexpected things sometimes happen, she couldn’t have planned for that, so she might as well make the best of it. She maintained her positive attitude and friendly disposition and as a result, was able to negotiate more for less, and ended up at a superior venue. And now, two years later, because she enjoyed the process, it’s a funny story she can recall with fondness, not anger.

So I’ll give you the same advice I give all my clients: enjoy the process!

And to help you get started, get my FREE “BIG PARTY GUEST LIST SURVIVAL GUIDE: How to stay sane when 100 or more people are celebrating with you!” by clicking here: SURVIVAL GUIDE.

#EventPlanning
#EventPlanningTip
#Wedding
#BarMitzvah
#BatMitzvah
#BnaiMitzvah
#PartyPlanning
#InvitationMaven