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Having a wonderful experience at someone's Bar / Bat Mitzvah.

Over the years I have been asked numerous times about an appropriate gift to give when being invited to a Bar Mitzvah ( for a boy,) and Bat Mitzvah (for a girl.) A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a coming-of-age ceremony for Jewish boys and girls when they reach the age of 12 or 13. This ceremony marks the time when a boy or girl becomes a Jewish adult. This means that they are now responsible for their own actions and can decide for themselves how they would like to practice Judaism.

Living in a region of over 3 million Jewish people, it is likely that you have been invited to one, and likely, you will at some point. So, after receiving a couple of calls this week I thought it would be an opportunity to help others.

Now what?

Knowing what to expect ahead of time will ensure that your experience is a comfortable and positive one. Keep in mind that services (and service lengths) vary widely from congregation to congregation, depending on a synagogue’s denomination (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform etc.), its leadership, and its unique customs or traditions. There is also the gravity of the occasion: a once-in-a-lifetime rite of passage.

Add to that, the recipient is 13, an age when a person’s interests and tastes are in flux and when anything an adult says or does can seem completely out-of-touch and uncool. Plus, we are often invited to this occasion not because we are close to the bar/bat mitzvah child and know his or her tastes. Then again, it is likely your children's friends are Jewish. Perhaps you are extended family or are friends of the child’s parents.

One of the core tenets of Judaism is tzedakah (charity). Making a donation in honor of the bar or bat mitzvah is a meaningful way to incorporate the Jewish (and universal) value of helping those in need. You can personalize this type of gift even further by donating to a cause about which the bar or bat mitzvah feels passionate. Better yet, give a “gift card” that can be used to fund a project of their choosing. He or she can choose among thousands of projects helping people in developing countries and give them micro-loans.

Other options such as CharityChoice, and Israel Gives, sell gift cards that can be redeemed to make donations to hundreds of organizations. Cash is undoubtedly convenient for all involved and can be used for something the bar/bat mitzvah child wants right now or socked away into savings accounts. Checks are traditionally written out in $18 increments, marking the Hebrew letters for the word life (chai), which are numerically equivalent to 18. That said, no one will be offended if you give them a more rounded number, like $50 or $100 — or whatever you can comfortably afford.

Meanwhile, Israel Bonds’, Mazel Tov Bonds, and eMitzvah Bonds support the Jewish state and can be redeemed in five years, when the bar/bat mitzvah is approaching college-age. We’ve also heard of giving Israeli currency, as a way to encourage the recipient to visit Israel at some point. I also encourage you to check out your local Judaica shops and bookstores that are plentiful throughout this region.

To be sure, get ready for a wonderful experience to let the love of Yeshua, Jesus shine. Count it as a privilege that you are invited, and get ready for a wonderful immersion into Jewish culture and life. You will have an opportunity to honor and respect your Jewish friends and neighbors, and hopefully, leave a lingering taste of Messiah upon their lives.

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