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Mitzvah Bar•Bat




DIFFERENCE Inside: Planning insight for parents from Northeast Ohio experts as well as the story of a Beachwood boy whose mitzvah project involved supporting at-risk Israeli children

Mitzvah North Bar•Bat

Ohio’s c east b’nai momplete it planninzvah resourc g e!

Mitzvah Bar•Bat

Spring•Summer 2016



8 Mitzvah Bar•Bat





DIFFERENCE Inside: Planning insight for parents from Northeast Ohio experts as well as the story of a Beachwood boy whose mitzvah project involved supporting at-risk Israeli children

Mitzva Bar•Bat

h Nort Ohio’s coheast b’nai m mplete itz planningvah resource !

On the cover: Taylor Hays on the occasion of her bat mitzvah Sept. 19, 2015 at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood. Photo courtesy of David Tavens,



Doing good works well


Editor Michael C. Butz discusses opportunities for turning mitzvah projects into social-action projects


Planning tips from Northeast Ohio professionals about catering, stationery, entertainment and photography


All Part of the plan Planning for a bar or bat mitzvah party well in advance is a recipe for success

Good sportsmanship For his mitzvah project, a Beachwood boy enlists help of local sports teams to cheer and support at-risk Israeli children in Cleveland’s sister city of Beit Shean


Ask a pro

Looking Back Well-known Northeast Ohioans remember their bar or bat mitzvah




Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

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Mitzvah Bar•Bat


Editor Michael C. Butz mbutz@cjn.og Art Director Jon Larson

t’s always inspiring to learn of young men and women who use their mitzvah project as a vehicle for tsedakah (charity). Especially when it involves a social action project, which often helps teach the responsibilities of Jewish adulthood and encourages the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world). In this issue of Bar•Bat Mitzvah, we share one such story by introducing you to Ethan Holz and his family. I don’t want to give away the entire story (it starts on Page 16), but Ethan paired his fondness for Cleveland’s sports teams (as well as the Ohio State Buckeyes, which this OSU graduate certainly appreciates) with an inclination to help others. What resulted – with a little guidance from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland-supported Youth Futures program – was the Beachwood boy helping at-risk children in Beit Shean, Cleveland’s sister city in Israel. (Thankfully for all involved, David Blatt was still coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers as Ethan’s project took shape late in 2015.) Anyway, when done purposefully, adding a healthy helping of tikkun olam to one’s simcha results in a recipe that will bring happiness and joy to more people than just the bar mitzvah boy or bat mitzvah girl – as was the case with Ethan and all his new Youth Futures friends. While Ethan turned his attention to Beit Shean, there are of course plenty of social action-minded mitzvah project opportunities here in Northeast Ohio. Volunteer opportunities abound in Greater Cleveland, including those through Federation’s Jewish Volunteer Network and at the Jewish Family Service Association (JFSA),


Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

Menorah Park Center for Senior Living and Montefiore – all of which, by the way, are listed on Page 81 of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company’s latest issue of SOURCE, the annual guide to Jewish living in Northeast Ohio. (Visit source for more information.) There’s also Friendship Circle of Cleveland’s Mitzvah Volunteer Program, which we wrote about in the last issue of Bar•Bat Mitzvah and where Rabbi Yossi Marozov’s team educates and prepares kids to better interact with those living with a disability. (If you missed that story, visit to read the fall/winter 2015 issue.) Yet more options include asking rabbis or other synagogue representatives about various opportunities, checking with school guidance counselors about peer-tutoring options, or finding a local food bank at which to spend time or donate resources. All of that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Whatever your b’nai mitzvah chooses as a mitzvah project, I hope it’s as distinctive and special as they are – and if it happens to be a project that helps a population in need, your friends and neighbors might read about it in a future issue of Bar•Bat Mitzvah.

Cleveland Jewish Publication Company President & CEO Kevin S. Adelstein Vice President of Sales Adam Mandell CJN Managing Editor Bob Jacob Controller Tracy DiDomenico Manager of Digital Marketing Rebecca Fellenbaum Events Manager Gina Lloyd Custom Publishing Manager Paul Bram Editorial Kristen Mott Jonah L. Rosenblum Ed Wittenberg Carlo Wolff Digital Content Producer Noelle Bye Advertising Marcia Bakst Marilyn Evans Ron Greenbaum Andy Isaacs Adam Jacob Nell V. Kirman Sherry Tilson Design Frida Kon Stephen Valentine Business & Circulation Diane Adams Tammie Crawford Abby Royer Subscriber Services 216-342-5185/ Display Advertising 216-342-5204/ VOL. 140 NO. 15 CLEVELAND JEWISH NEWS (ISSN-00098825) is published weekly with additional issues in January, March, May, June, August, October, November and December by The Cleveland Jewish Publication Company at 23880 Commerce Park, Suite 1, Cleveland, OH 44122-5380. Single copy $1.25. Periodicals Postage paid at Cleveland, OH., and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER and additional mailing offices. Send address changes to the Cleveland Jewish News, 23880 Commerce Park, Suite 1, Cleveland, OH 44122-5380




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Spring•Summer 2016 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 7


Well-known Northeast Ohioans remember their bar or bat mitzvah Left: A young Mendy Alevsky reads from the Torah at his 1998 bar mitzvah. Right: Beachwood Mayor Merle S. Gorden, left, and Alevksy’s father, Rabbi Leibel Alevsky, bracket the bar mitzvah boy. Rabbi Mendy Alevsky

RABBI MENDY ALEVSKY Co-director, Chabad at Case Western Reserve University in University Circle By Carlo Wolff


abor Day 1998 was a big day for Rabbi Mendy Alevsky, who became a man that Monday. The service at the old Chabad House on South Green Road in Beachwood lasted about an hour and drew about 100, the late-morning brunch at the Heights Jewish Center on Cedar Road in University Heights a little longer. There was circle dancing, there was food, there were gifts.

But what Alevsky remembers most about his special day, following a Friday night Shabbat dinner in New York, centers on an intangible: his own attitude. And the lessons he learned there have stuck with him. “I didn’t fumble the Torah reading, I fumbled the blessing,” he recalls. “I worked so hard on the Torah reading and knew it so well I’d forgotten to practice the blessing before the Torah reading. No one said anything. I just remember being really embarrassed.”


Aside from the fumble, what stands out in his memory? “That we decided for some reason I wouldn’t give a speech, but I really wanted to speak, really felt it was important,” he says. “I very much wanted to speak at the bar mitzvah; I wanted to give a speech, share a meaningful message.” That opportunity came – often – years later, when Alevsky became a rabbi. But on that day, at the brunch attended by family, friends and other community members numbering 250 to 300, Alevsky instead

Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

delivered, by heart and word for word, a three-chapter discourse in Yiddish and Hebrew on the cabalistic meaning of tefillin. He and his parents had settled on that discourse after deciding he wouldn’t give a speech. The morning of his bar mitzvah, Alevsky regretted that decision. After his Torah reading, on the way from the bar mitzvah itself to the brunch, they “ran home to find another topic that I would actually speak in English about becoming bar mitzvah.” In the end, at the brunch, he did speak twice, with the memorized discourse and thoughts in English, at the Heights Jewish Center. And even though he fumbled the blessing, he never felt scared. “I think I was a little bit of a cocky kid,” says Alevsky, who was already studying at a Chicago boarding school. “I felt pretty confident.” While his parents wouldn’t let him keep the monetarty

gifts, which went to defray bar mitzvah expenses, Alevsky did get to keep the “brick-andmortar gifts,” including books that helped him build a Jewish library for himself. And despite the blessing snafu and the demands of the day, Alevsky suggests he never lost his poise, never got rattled. He also came away with intangibles such as learning the value of patience and not biting off more than you can chew. “What I learned from that, what I always relive, is that false sense of confidence thinking of things you think you know well but you didn’t take time to prepare for,” he says. “That’s had an effect on me until today, because as a rabbi, there are so many things you think you know, but you have to take time to sit and think through what you’re going to say. And to take time to think about whom you’re talking to and what their needs are.” BM


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Spring•Summer 2016 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 9

Rabbi Matthew Eisenberg, from left, of Temple Israel Ner Tamid with his son, Teddy, and his father, Rabbi Frederick Eisenberg at Teddy’s bar mitzvah in 2006. New Image Photography

Rabbi Matthew Eisenberg with his parents, Helen and Rabbi Frederick Eisenberg, after his bar mitzvah in 1971. Rabbi Matthew Eisenberg

RABBI MATTHEW EISENBERG Rabbi, Temple Israel Ner Tamid By Ed Wittenberg


abbi Matthew Eisenberg of Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights was still 12 years old when he celebrated his bar mitzvah Dec. 10, 1971, at Temple Emanuel, a Reform congregation in Grand Rapids, Mich. Eisenberg turned 13 five days later, so it would have made sense to have the bar mitzvah Dec. 17. But that date fell during Chanukah, and a Chanukah family service was scheduled, he recalls. “You can’t really move the Chanukah family service from Chanukah,” he says. “A bar mitzvah, you can move a little. But it was just fine.” Eisenberg’s father, Rabbi Frederick Eisenberg – now rabbi emeritus of Temple Israel Ner Tamid – was the rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids and officiated at the bar mitzvah. Later in December, the Eisenbergs moved to Cleveland Heights, as Frederick Eisenberg was named assistant rabbi at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood, starting in January 1972. “I didn’t feel any extra pressure (as the son of a rabbi),” Eisenberg says. “My parents were always

very good at not putting any extra pressure on me. It worked out well.” A friend of Frederick Eisenberg’s – the Rev. Don Strobe, who served as pastor of the United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids – gave the blessing over Eisenberg and his parents in front of the ark. “He was about 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-6, a sweetheart of a guy,” Eisenberg says. “In my dad’s office, before we went in for the service, I asked Rev. Strobe, ‘How is it you’re going to bless me? You’re so much taller than I am.’ “And he said to me, ‘Matt, we’re all the same height in G-d’s eyes.’ Of course, he shared that with the whole congregation. It got a big laugh, and as a kid, it’s good to have a big laugh.” Eisenberg’s family had some Israeli friends who attended the bar mitzvah.

10 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

“After the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israeli military went into cooperation with Lear Sigler (Inc.), which had a big office in Grand Rapids,” he says. “When my mom and dad found out that Israelis were coming to Grand Rapids, they went to the airport, and they met these Israelis.” The crowd of about 250 people also included “a couple rows” of Eisenberg’s friends from junior high school, he says. Eisenberg says the service went well. “I remember, of course, being relieved and satisfied when it was over, and I remember my mom and grandmother did a lot of baking for the oneg Shabbat, and the goodies were delicious,” he says. “If it had been a disaster, I probably would remember more. But I felt I did a good job.” For the party the next day, Eisenberg and his guests went to the home of a family friend who had a farm. They played records,

enjoyed food and punch and went on a hayride. “It was appropriate for a 12- or 13-year old,” he says. “We had a great time. As a rabbi, I encourage people to keep the celebration joyful, but appropriate to the age.” Eisenberg, 57, succeeded his father as rabbi at what was then Temple Israel of Greater Cleveland in 1996, and he played a key role in that temple’s merger with Temple Ner Tamid of Euclid in 1997. “My father was my first role model,” he says. “If he were not a rabbi, I don’t know that I would have thought to become a rabbi.” Eisenberg, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Miami University in Oxford, was ordained as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in 1991. He and his wife, Pat, live in South Euclid. They have a son, Teddy, 22, and a daughter, Maya, 17. BM

Spring•Summer 2016 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 11

Orange Mayor Kathy Mulcahy holds a Torah at her bat mitzvah in 2009. Orange mayor’s office

KATHY MULCAHY Mayor, Orange Village

By Carlo Wolff


hen Kathy Mulcahy was growing up, it wasn’t that common for Jewish women to become bat mitzvah at age 12, so becoming bat mitzvah as an adult seemed natural to her. Participating in such a ceremony with a group of other adults not only felt good to Mulcahy, it felt right, deepening the Orange mayor’s connection to Judaism and generating long-lasting friendships. “I had my bat mitzvah in 2009 with Rabbi Rosie Haim at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, and it was a fascinating experience,” Mulcahy says. “I was motivated by a few reasons. I was not expecting some of the benefits that came of it.” The June bat mitzvah “was a wonderful event, and it was quite thrilling to be reading

out of the Torah, (and feeling) a sense of accomplishment, a sense of achievement, a sense of camaraderie,” says Mulcahy, who grew up in Shaker Heights. “We continue to do reunions; sometime in 2015, we had one. So six years later, we still feel like a group, and I made some, I think, lasting connections through the experience.”

12 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

The notion of continuity underlies Mulcahy’s bat mitzvah journey. Her great-grandfather was a rabbi in Kansas City, Mo., she attended religious school at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple through confirmation, so she was comfortable being Jewish. But Mulcahy craved a deeper understanding of Jewish ritual, and experiencing anti-Semitism in 1995 in her first run for mayor only fortified her in that mission. “Having married a nonJewish man when I was 21 years old, I’d taken his name, and I don’t have stereotypical Jewish features,” she says. Encountering anti-Semitic comments going from house to house, when planes were being hijacked and terrorists were singling out Jews, rattled her: “This was an ‘aha’ moment for me.”

Such doorway campaign meetings led Mulcahy to dig in her increasingly Jewish heels. “I wanted to feel more comfortable in and understanding of what the service process was and what I was participating in on Friday nights,” she says. “Now I know what the service means, I know the functionality of a service; the real honor was being able to read out of the Torah. I never got to touch a Torah before.” Becoming bat mitzvah, Mulcahy stood on the bimah with her parents, proud and fulfilled, fully grasping ritual details – and reading Hebrew, the latter a temporary talent. “I don’t think I could do it today,” she says of her time-bound linguistic foray. “I stood up, I read it, I knew what it meant at the time. Today I feel a better connection to the process of worship, to the meaning of a service, and more comfortable with being at a service and knowing what I’m saying and why I’m saying it. And this is years after my three daughters were all b’not mitzvah at the right time. “I had come to the conclusion that being Jewish is how you feel from the inside out and not what others perceive from the outside in.” BM



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Spring•Summer 2016 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 13

Philip Wasserstrom’s original bar mitzvah speech handwritten in Hebrew and typed in English. Michael C. Butz

PHILIP WASSERSTROM Retired architect/member of the Maltz Museum board of directors By Carlo Wolff


he only record of Philip Wasserstrom’s bar mitzvah is the speech he delivered at the little shul in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood where he became a man on Aug. 11, 1943. As the Pepper Pike resident puts it, no pictures of that landmark gathering on Parkwood Drive exist because it took place “before they invented the camera.” What stands out in Wasserstrom’s mind is the speech itself – not the content so much as the versatility he exhibited in crafting it. “I gave a speech in English and in Hebrew,” recalls Wasserstrom, who’s kept the precious original these many years. “It was the usual type of speech where you thank your parents, you thank the rabbi, and afterward there was a small oneg reception in the shul. As far as I can recall, that was it. There wasn’t any event. It was just, from our standpoint, a family service, a celebration,

an acknowledgment of my becoming a bar mitzvah.” His speech certainly attested to an appetite for learning. Not only did the boy attend “regular school,” aka Glenville High School on Parkwood Drive, during the day, four days a week he took the streetcar to Beit Midrash L’Morim, a Hebrew school that “had a wonderful, wonderful teacher called Mordechai Medini, whom I wanted to study with.” Beit Midrash, the Hebrew teacher training school, was in a house on East 105th Street

14 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

at East Boulevard near what is now the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. By the time Wasserstrom took the streetcar home, it was dark, “but so what? I liked to be able to do all these things on my own. It was a different time. We felt safe in our neighborhoods and in going around and doing whatever we had to do.” Wasserstrom also took music lessons, playing “the violin, like every Jewish boy, and you walked wherever you went. It was a full life. It was interesting. We also played sports around the neighborhood. “We weren’t deprived of anything except television.” Which, he might add, hadn’t been invented yet. As for his bar mitzvah, all Wasserstrom could remember is that the shul was near his grandparents’ house on Hampden Street. His family attended the bar mitzvah except for his

brother Sanford, who’d just joined the Army. Further details? ‘That was in 1943,” he says. “My goodness, I’m pleased that I’m here. All I remember was that it was an old, old congregation that my grandfather used to walk to and it was a Saturday morning service and I happened to be part of it.” Bar mitzvahs used to be affairs for the immediate family, not the big business they are today; there was no large party after Wasserstrom’s. “It was not a big deal for anyone,” he says. “It was just part of what you did at that time; it was a much more simple time, I think. It was simply a ritual, something that you did when you were 13. I’m sure that would resonate with a lot of people. “We weren’t fancy people. We simply were Orthodox in the sense of the word that we did what most families do.” BM




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Spring•Summer 2016 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 15


For his mitzvah project, a Beachwood boy enlists help of local sports teams to cheer and support at-risk Israeli children in Cleveland’s sister city of Beit Shean By Ed Wittenberg

Ethan Holz, far left, celebrated his bar mitzvah at Robinson’s Arch, adjacent to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Other members of his family, from left, are his father, Mark; his sister, Raya; his brother, Jude; and his mother, Leslie. Yitz Woolf 16 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016


n Beit Shean, Cleveland’s sister city in Israel, there’s a room in a center for a children’s program called Youth Futures, decorated with sports memorabilia from Cleveland professional teams and The Ohio State University.

The children have Ethan Holz to thank for that. Ethan, 13, of Beachwood is a big fan of the Cleveland teams and Ohio State, and he chose to have the room decorated in this fashion for his bar mitzvah project. He became a bar mitzvah in Jerusalem Dec. 24, and he and his family traveled to Beit Shean the following week to complete his project. “We wanted to do something kid-related,” says Ethan’s mother, Leslie Holz. “We got help from the (Jewish Federation of Cleveland).” Julie Jaslow Auerbach, the Federation’s former senior associate in international operations, connected the Holzes with Youth Futures, a Federation-supported program that provides professional mentors for about 200 atrisk Israeli children between ages 6 and 13 each year in Beit Shean and Valley of Springs. It’s a collaborative project of the Jewish Agency for Israel, local authorities and private Israeli donors from the business world. Youth Futures staff came up with the idea of having Ethan decorate one of its rooms in Beit Shean with Cleveland sports gear. So in September, Ethan started sending letters to the Cleveland Indians, Browns and Cavaliers – and some players on those teams – and Ohio State to request that they donate items for his project. He sent a total of about 20 letters. “My goal is to decorate a room for these kids to give them a fun place to hang out,” Ethan wrote in one of his letters. “I am collecting Fatheads, posters, banners and pictures of athletes to decorate the kids’ hangout room at the Youth Futures center. It would be a good deed if you would help

Ethan Holz, in the middle of the back row wearing a gray shirt, joins kids from the Youth Futures program in Beit Shean, Israel, as they display a Cleveland Cavaliers Fathead that Ethan had given them to decorate a room in the Youth Futures center. Dorit Natan / Jewish Federation of Cleveland me by donating some items that I can deliver during my bar mitzvah trip in December.” Slowly but surely, the items started coming to Ethan’s home. The Cavs sent two Fatheads: one of forward Tristan Thompson and one with the team logo. The Browns sent a big stuffed dog in a team uniform. The Indians sent a flag with the block-C logo on it. Ohio State sent a football team photo. Ethan also received personalized letters from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Cleveland Browns co-owner Jimmy Haslam, Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer and former Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro, now president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, and an autographed picture of former Ohio State football star Archie Griffin. “It was very successful because of all the people who actually wrote back and gave items,” Ethan says. Leslie adds, “The response was much better than we ever anticipated. It would have been cool if more players had responded, but we were happy with what we got.” Ethan also sent letters to all family members who were going with him on the trip to Israel, asking for financial donations. With that money, the Holzes went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and purchased other items to take to Beit Shean.

“We bought stuff for the Youth Futures kids, like mini basketballs and mini footballs,” Leslie says. “These were for the kids to have, not to decorate the room. Ethan also put in some of his own money.” In November, Ethan, his mother, and his father, Mark Holz, had an opportunity to meet a delegation of Youth Futures staff members when they came to Cleveland for a meeting. “We got to meet them face to face and really explain what we were doing, and they were thrilled,” Leslie says. “They were going to do some fun things while they were here, like go to a Cavs game.” The Holzes, members of Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike, arrived in Beit Shean Dec. 28 and were all set to decorate the room. But unfortunately, it had been vandalized the night before, so the decoration had to be postponed until after the Holzes left. “So we left all the stuff, and they said once the room was cleaned up, they were going to take the kids in and decorate it,” Leslie says. “But that’s OK; it still worked out with what we did.” While in Beit Shean, the Holzes spent a couple of hours with the Youth Futures children playing soccer and other games. “They set up a bunch of different stations, and you would just go from station to station,” Leslie

says. “There were little races, a little scavenger hunt and basketball. There were no winners or losers. Everyone got a medal, and everyone had fun. Then we played a big soccer game at the end and said our goodbyes. “The kids had a great time; they were all smiles and so friendly, giving us hugs. It meant a lot to them. They know that Cleveland’s their sister city and that we came from Cleveland to see them.” Ethan says seeing the happy faces of the Youth Futures children that day was the highlight of his mitzvah project. “It turned out to be really good at the end,” he says. “They really appreciated everything we brought.” Leslie says she’s proud of Ethan – a seventh-grader at Beachwood Middle School, where he plays basketball – because of the way he took charge of the project. “He wrote all the letters himself and addressed them,” she says. “It was his effort, and I was so excited for him when the first package arrived because, to be honest, I was a little nervous that these organizations must get a ton of letters from people all over. So I was really worried if anyone was going to respond. But once I saw they were responding, I was really happy for him.” Ilanit Gerblich Kalir, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s

Spring•Summer 2016 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 17

Ethan Holz, back right, plays basketball with Youth Futures kids in Beit Shean. Dorit Natan / Jewish Federation of Cleveland managing director of international operations, says Ethan’s mitzvah project was “amazing.” “Every single day that the Youth Futures kids see the decorations in their room, it reminds them that there are people halfway across the world who care about them and believe in them and want them to succeed,” Kalir says. “Ethan helped us remind these children of that, and that is an enormously powerful and meaningful message. We want to

thank Ethan and his family for this very meaningful contribution.” Kalir says when her department was approached with the idea to do a bar mitzvah project in Israel, “we knew right away we wanted it to be in Beit Shean.” “Every day, we work to make Beit Shean a better place and establish meaningful personal connections between our two communities,” she says. “Whether it’s through volunteer opportunities, missions to Beit Shean or

18 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

family experiences like the one we helped the Holz family arrange, we’re helping build relationships and strengthen the community.” Ethan’s bar mitzvah took place at Robinson’s Arch, adjacent to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. A group of 24 attended. “It was very intimate,” Leslie says. “There were other bar mitzvahs going on all around us, but you’re in your own little nook. It was very inclusive; everyone who was there with us had a part.” A special part of the ceremony, Leslie says, came when Ethan’s grandparents – Hy and Heddy Holz of Orange and Lynne Richter of Sherman Oaks, Calif. – passed a Torah to Ethan’s parents and then to Ethan. “We passed it from generation to generation,” Leslie says. Although this was the first trip to Israel for Ethan and his siblings – Raya, 15, and Jude, 10 – Mark Holz lived in Tel Aviv for two years, and Leslie had visited the Jewish state twice before. Mark and Leslie suggested to Ethan to have his bar mitzvah in Israel.

“Ethan’s not one to be the center of attention,” Leslie says. “He didn’t want the standard service with a ton of people and a big party after; that’s just not the kind of kid he is. “Mark and I thought it would just be really meaningful to do it in Israel. Once we started showing him YouTube videos of Israel and what it was about, and that we were going to do all these really cool things, he was really excited about it.” Leslie says the trip was so wonderful, the family plans to return in 2018 for Jude’s bar mitzvah. “I encourage other Cleveland families that are thinking about taking a family trip to Israel to go to Beit Shean, because it’s a cool thing to do,” she says. Kalir says anyone interested in doing a b’nai mitzvah project similar to Ethan’s, or in traveling to Beit Shean or learning more about Youth Futures or other programs in Israel supported by the Federation, should contact BM

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A lot of time and effort goes into planning a bar or bat mitzvah, and along the way, many questions are certain to arise. Thankfully for area families, Greater Cleveland is home to many professionals with the experience and know-how to help answer those questions and offer advice. Compiled by Michael C. Butz Lovely Somethings / Tag & Company


COOWNER | DINO’S CATERING | LYNDHURST, WICKLIFFE AND WILLOUGHBY HILLS WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GET RIGHT? I would say usually they have a theme, so its designing the food around the theme to meet their expectations on the type of event they want to hold. An example: Someone may ask for a circus theme, so we’ll try to design a menu around that type of an event with food you’d find at a circus to keep the theme: cotton candy, popcorn, and a main entrée – I believe we’ve done a slider bar – that would be appropriate for the children. It’s common for there to be two separate menus, so we might do something else for the adults, but we’d keep it within the theme. Personally, I think it’s a very important event for parents, and I understand that. They

plan for years and can’t wait for this event to happen for their child’s life. Just to do that I think gives them a higher level of appreciation – that we respect what they’re trying to do, and we follow through with what we’re doing with the theme.

WHAT’S OFTEN OVERLOOKED? Maybe a dessert. Usually, we can do something unique with desserts. They think a lot about appetizers and spend a little time on the main entrée, but we can do a lot of unique things with desserts.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD PARENTS CONSIDER? Making sure the caterer coordinates with the vendors they’re bringing in. Sometimes, they bring in a lot of different vendors, and it’s important they co-

20 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

ordinate as far as times. That’s extremely important. At a lot of these events, they spend a lot of additional funds on, say, their AV equipment. It’s important they in part coordinate with their caterer related to that to make sure not all vendors are there at the same time.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING? There’s a huge trend: appetizers. They want nine appetizers or more before the event even starts. A couple of years ago, it was half that. As a caterer, what we have to be concerned about a little bit is the volume of children that attend the event, and how they’re contained and entertained for the period of the event. A lot of them underestimate – they think they want this really long time, but to

maintain the attention of 60 to 75 13-year-olds isn’t easy. If they don’t have the evening planned very specifically, it could be the kids are running around or doing things they don’t want them doing. It’s important to keep them busy. Eating appetizers is another hour that gets taken up at the beginning.

WHEN SHOULD PEOPLE START PLANNING? I’d say 12 months to 15 months out, especially if they’re not flexible on dates. I know they try to do them very close to their 13th birthday, so because of that, it’s important. A busy time for a caterer is from May to November, and if your child has a birthday then, it’s going to be difficult to get a date because that’s when weddings book. BM


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During your stay, a Host will happily assist you with orders from our new Gallery Menu, Fresh 24/7, featuring our signature flatbreads, a Make It 2 option and delicious new sandwiches, greens, apps & more. Or you can enjoy specialty Starbucks® coffee, cocktails, premium beer & wine over friendly conversation at the Coffee to Cocktails bar. Also enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast daily. Restaurants at Legacy Village: Bar Louie, Brio Tuscan Grille, California Pizza Kitchen, Capital Grille, Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, Granite City Food & Brewery, Melting Pot, Starbucks, Stir Crazy, Tropical Smoothie, Yogurt VI Legacy Village Gift Cards are always the right choice. They’re accepted at Legacy Village Restaurants and are available in any denomination from $5 – $500!

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Spring•Summer 2016 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 21


PRESIDENT AND OWNER | TKO ENTERTAINMENT | RICHFIELD WHAT’S THE MOST IMPOR TANT THING TO GET RIGHT? I’d say a well-rounded music mix that appeals to all ages, not just the younger generation, not just the young adults who will be there. That seems to be the biggest concern with the clients we talk to, that we play music for adults as well as the kids. It comes up quite a bit. I’d say 95 percent of the clients tell us they want a better mix, or an all-around mix, other than simply gearing it toward the kids. It keeps more people engaged and keeps more people on the dance floor. It makes for a better night when everyone is coming up to the parents or boy or girl saying they had a great time. I think that’s key to a successful bar or bat mitzvah.

WHAT’S OFTEN OVERLOOKED? I’d say experience with the organization and flow of the event. Many times, they think our job is going to be simply playing the music, but one of the important parts is a seamless flow of events and keeping them aware of what’s coming up next. They seem to take comfort in knowing there’ll be someone there with experience in running the event – almost coordinating it, in a way. WHAT ELSE SHOULD PARENTS CONSIDER? If I had to nail down anything else, it’d be the atmosphere that’s set on the dance floor. That’s done with proper lighting to bring energy and excitement – and it

makes that dance floor area appealing – and of course engaging the crowd with proper vocals and interaction. In terms of input, I think it’s definitely the boy or girl’s party, but I think that, for instance, song lists coming back from the young adult, you’re going to get all the songs the young adult wants. I think the balance there is the parents intervening and giving their two cents on the music part. WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING? Lately, it’s been the same as far photo booths, which have been around now for three or four years. Uplighting is a trend right now, which adds to the ambiance of the room. A lot of it just depends on the theme of the event.

TKO Entertainment Hashtagging the event remains a trend. You create a hashtag, and then everyone can post pictures and comments using the hashtag of the party. WHEN SHOULD PEOPLE START PLANNING? As soon as a date is set with the temple is the best time, always, because then they’re ahead of the game. They’re not fighting for the same date as someone else or another client. Things tend to get busy in different times of year, particularly spring and fall. BM


OWNER | LOVELY SOMETHINGS | BATH TOWNSHIP WHAT’S THE MOST IMPOR TANT THING TO GET RIGHT? I think the most important thing to remember for the invitation is that it’s the first piece anyone will be seeing, so it instantly sets the tone for the whole party. So, have your theme well thought out from the beginning. It can be something as simple as colors, or if you want to do a local theme, you can incorporate the Cleveland skyline on the invitation, and carry those designs through the room, etc. WHAT’S OFTEN OVERLOOKED? Two things, time and quantity. With time, you need to make sure you have enough of it. Ideally, three to four months prior to the bar or bat mitzvah is perfect. That

will leave you a month to two to do a custom design or order from an album, plus time to hand address, or hire a calligrapher and then mailing six to eight weeks prior to the celebration. And secondly - this is going to sound totally obvious but it usually isn’t considered - spend time with your guest list to figure out how many invitations you need, not how many people you will be inviting. Remember, one address probably accounts for two people at least, lowering the number of invitations you need. WHAT ELSE SHOULD PARENTS CONSIDER? All the little things, like cocktail napkins, menus, placecards, table

22 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

numbers and favors. It’s about carrying the theme across all the elements of the party – kind of like branding in the corporate world. You want everyone to remember this very special event. WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING? Pretty much across the board, the big, sweeping modern calligraphy is a very popular trend, along with watercolors and geometric shapes – like prisms. Another trend involves black and white designs with metallic accents. I’d say that’s a more contemporary look, with big, black typography, paired with very popular gold foil, but it’s simply stunning.

Lovely Somethings / Tag & Company WHEN SHOULD PEOPLE START PLANNING? For save the dates, you can really start sending them as early as you like, probably within a calendar year and generally six months prior. Then I recommend scheduling an invitation consultation three to four months prior to the event. We can make things happen overnight in special cases, but the less time available limits some of your printing options, and can affect your budget. BM

Spring•Summer 2016 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 23


PHOTOGRAPHER AND OWNER | NATURAL LIGHT STUDIO | BEACHWOOD WHAT’S THE MOST IMPOR TANT THING TO GET RIGHT? The most important thing to get right and consider when hiring a photographer is that there is a good fit on a professional level and especially on a personal level. The photographer you choose will be spending an entire day with your family and your best friends. Who you choose to interact with them and blend in with them makes a difference and can be reflected in the photos that are taken. WHAT’S OFTEN OVERLOOKED? Things that are sometimes overlooked include how to fit the timing of the organized photo session(s) with the flow of the day. I like to take pictures at a pace that is comfortable for the people that hire me. A brief break or some downtime is a good thing to work into a

photo session, especially leading up to a religious service. If you rush through a photo shoot, it will show. Being mindful that you’ve got one chance to get things right is worth additional consideration. Most families spend over a year planning for this one day in their child’s life and the day goes very quickly. When hiring vendors, not only should they get along with you and your family but also with each other. Although I only provide photography services on the day of an event, I consider the other vendors part of a team, and when we’re all of one mind, the people who benefit most from this is our client and their guests. WHAT ELSE SHOULD PARENTS CONSIDER? Also worth noting is that people sometimes forget that

they should be enjoying the event as much as their families and friends. Hosting an event doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good time as well. If you are comfortable with the decisions you’ve made, you should be able to wake up the day of your child’s bar or bat mitzvah and just immerse yourself in all the goodness it offers. WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING? One trend I’ve noticed is that online desktop publishing options are growing in popularity. I’m finding that many of my clients like to try their hand at making their own photo albums and books. Although all of my clients get to keep a collection of the edited photos from their event, many like that I also can provide them with the digital files for them to use in their own projects. I get to work for some very creative

David Tavens / people and I’m glad to create albums for them or guide them as they work on their own. WHEN SHOULD PEOPLE START PLANNING? Because temples and synagogues assign the date three years in advance, planning for a bar or bat mitzvah is unlike any other event. Parents should not rush or feel pressured to make key decisions. With so many variables to consider, it’s tempting to want to get the process underway. Too often life gets in the way, and my advice is to target a date approximately one year before the event and have your big-picture decisions made by then. Spend the last year thinking about and getting the finer details in order. BM



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“Whether at “Whether at at your yourchild’s child’s “Whether your child’s “Whether at your child’s Consecration, Bar/Bat Consecration, Bar/Bat Consecration, Bar/Bat “Whether atat your your child’s “Whether child’s Consecration, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confi rmation, Mitzvah,Confirmation, Confirmation, Mitzvah, oror Consecration, Bar/Bat Consecration, Bar/Bat Confirmation, or orMitzvah, wherever we encounter encounter wherever we encounter wherever we Mitzvah, Confirmation, Mitzvah, Confirmation, oror wherever we encounter them, we’ll show how each them, we’ll show how each wherever we encounter encounter them, we’ll show how each wherever we we’ll show how each ofthem, their lives is the oftheir their lives isworth worth the them, we’ll show howeach each of lives isis worth the them, we’ll show how of their lives worth life of the whole world. ”the life of the whole world.” ofof their livesisisworld.” worththe the life the whole oflife their lives worth of the whole world.” -Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, -Robert Nosanchuk, Senior Rabbi -Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, lifeofofthe the whole world.” -Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, Cantor Sarah Sager life whole world.” Joshua Caruso, Rabbi Cantor Sarah Sager

In the lifetime of a Jewish family there is so much to celebrate. Whether you are a young adult becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a couple preparing for marriage, a family with small children looking ahead to religious school, or an adult wanting to renew or build a connection to a synagogue community, The Temple provides that special place. Become a part of The Temple family and celebrate with us.

-Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, Cantor SarahCaruso Sager and Rabbi Joshua

-Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, and Rabbi Joshua Caruso Sarah Sager, Cantor and Rabbi Joshua Caruso Cantor Sarah Sager Cantor Sarah Sager Jordana Chernow-Reader, and Rabbi Joshua Caruso and Rabbi Joshua Caruso Rabbi-Educator

FAIRMOUNT TEMPLE’S CLERGY FAIRMOUNT TEMPLE’S CLERGY FAIRMOUNT TEMPLE’S CLERGY partner with students and families, meetFAIRMOUNT TEMPLE’S CLERGY partner with students and families, partner with students andmaking families, meetFAIRMOUNT TEMPLE’S CLERGY ing you where you are, a meetdifferFAIRMOUNT TEMPLE’S CLERGY partner with students and families, meeting you where you are, making a differing you where you are, making a differpartner meetence inwith yourstudents lives andand ourfamilies, community. inginyou where you are, making differpartner with students anda adifference your lives and our community. ence your lives and our community. ing youin where you are, making ence in your lives and our community. families, meeting youcommunity. where you ence in your livesTHE and our JOIN JOURNEY. JOIN JOURNEY. JOIN THE JOURNEY. are, making aTHE diff erence in your JOIN THE JOURNEY. JOIN JOURNEY. Want to learnTHE more about lifelong learnlives and our more community. Want to learn about lifelong learnWant to learn more about lifelong learning, prayer and social action with us, Want to learnand more about lifelong learning, social action with us, Want toprayer learn more aboutaction lifelong learning, prayer and social with us, contact Steve Borstein, 216-464-1330 or Want to learn more about ing, prayer and social action with us, contact Steve Borstein, 216-464-1330 ing, prayer and social 216-464-1330 action with us, contact Steve Borstein, oror contact Steve Borstein, 216-464-1330 or lifelong learning, prayer and contact Steve Borstein, 216-464-1330 or social action with us, or about

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Planning for a bar or bat mitzvah party well in advance is a recipe for success By Jonah L. Rosenblum


hen a Jewish child reaches double digits – perhaps 11 or 12 – it’s not uncommon for panic to set in. As he or she watches classmates, friends and siblings step up to the bimah, it dawns that he or she may soon be singing in Hebrew before a packed house. On the bright side, he or she quickly realizes the power of prayer. The child may not be the only one with an increased heart rate. Parents face the question of where everyone goes after the child finishes his or her best Whitney Houston impression. And no, Mom and Dad, spinning Michael Jackson, dusting off the white gloves and dancing like Ronald Reagan is still president likely won’t make your bar or bat mitzvah – or chiropractor – very happy. Planning for a bar or bat mitzvah party involves plenty – perhaps first and foremost, figuring out a budget. Then, at least, you have a parameter for your party planner – yes, that might be a wise investment – to work with. Sherri Foxman, founder and CEO of Party411, notes she has done a bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah party for 100 people for $2,500 and for the same number of people for $25,000. She says the median is $100 per person. “What is most overlooked is how much things cost,” Foxman says. “The couple gets their invoices and are sometimes very surprised by what they spent, which shouldn’t be the case.” That budget will determine whether the bar or bat mitzvah reception is held at home plate at Progressive Field – or at home, literally. Once the budget has been worked out, which should be done at least a year in advance, it’s time to get to work. Unless Dad happens to be Cleveland Heights Chef Douglas Katz, Mom and Dad probably aren’t cooking for

100 guests. Similarly, while Mom and Dad might love a good Indian curry, it’s probably best to play it safe in regard to menu planning. “Play up a traditional favorite like macaroni and cheese but present it in a fun way,” says Kristin Augusta, catering coordinator at Piccolo Italian Restaurant in Mayfield Heights. “Only a few folks will be open to very exotic foods, so you need to remember to make a dish exciting but still palatable.” Not everyone likes spice. Not everyone likes octopus. Augusta advocates “familiar foods with a twist.” For Augusta, chicken, pasta, potatoes, pizza, salad, cookies, ice cream sundaes and cupcakes tend to work. Items like vegetable crudités, sushi, chicken satay with peanut sauce and beef tenderloin crostini appeal to the common man (and woman) with the sophisticated palate. While quality may matter most with food, don’t forget quantity – particularly with regard to liquor. “Many people underestimate how much liquor will be consumed,” Augusta says. “Trust me, if you’re offering it and it’s free, guests will drink. Even if you don’t think you have a ‘crowd of big drinkers.’” In addition, while alcohol – and Mom and Dad doing a keg stand – provide some level of entertainment, additional entertainment may be desired. A DJ is a common choice – and is usually preferable to Mom and Dad’s music playlists. Green screens can also make for fun photo opportunities. Arcade games and tattoo artists are also a possibility.

26 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

Eggplant piccolo from Piccolo Italian Restaurant: lightly fried eggplant, layered with ricotta cheese, marinara, shaved parmesan and arugula. Piccolo Italian Restaurant

Party411 But there may be such a thing as too much entertainment, Foxman says. “The more activities you do, the less people are on the dance floor,” Foxman says. And Aunt Estelle really shouldn’t have to jitterbug alone. That would be a shame. Speaking of alone, there is a lot to do and a lot you probably didn’t think about. What about the tablecloth? Napkins? Making sure hotel rooms are available? Party favors? Buses if you’re going from one venue to another? There’s a lot to think about, which is one reason many opt for a party planner. “A good event planner will save dollars in the end and will help you stick to your budget,” Foxman says.

And whether the planner is Foxman or Mom and Dad, start soon. One of the most important starting points is booking a venue. Many places offer a “soft hold” where you get first priority but don’t have to commit just yet. It’s worth asking about. Another item to get out of the way immediately is finding a party planner. The DJ may also need to be booked well in advance, and food for 100 or 200 should be planned at least six months in advance, according to Augusta. And a save the date needs to be sent out months in advance, particularly if the bar or bat mitzvah will fall on a holiday weekend when people are likely to make other plans. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss out on Aunt Estelle. BM

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Nautica Queen


Whether floating along the Cuyahoga River or visiting the Lake Erie shore for some scientific interactivity, interesting party options abound By Kristen Mott


eeping guests entertained is an important component in hosting a bar or bat mitzvah reception. Fortunately, Northeast Ohio is home to numerous venues that offer fun and unique activities for people of all ages.

The Nautica Queen in downtown Cleveland sails April through New Year’s Eve. The boat, which can seat up to 300, offers two enclosed levels for dining plus a third deck that features an outdoor observation area. Families can book a private party on Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening. Each private event includes a buffet dinner, beverages, a full bar and plenty of room for dancing. “We have a DJ on the boat, so guests can coordinate with

the DJ directly if they want certain music played or if they want the DJ to do giveaways with some of the games throughout the event. A band is welcome on board too,” says Jeanie LutzDrabik, director of sales for the Nautica Queen. Families also can choose to incorporate additional activities into the charter, Lutz-Drabik says, such as hiring a magician or setting up a photo booth inside the boat. “You can do as much or as little as you’d like to do,”

28 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

Lutz-Drabik says. “You can take advantage of the cruise and what it has to offer or provide some additional entertainment for everybody.” Lutz-Drabik says being on the water is a special treat for those celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah. “Getting to experience the city from the water is just incredible,” she says. “A lot of people in Cleveland don’t take advantage of what’s in their backyard. People who are planning group events, whether it’s a bar mitzvah or a wedding, get a very good response level from their guests because people are excited to get out on the water and do something different.”

At the Great Lakes Science Center in downtown Cleveland, activities and demonstrations can be customized to match the interests of the bar or bat mitzvah honoree. “We can add as much science, as much fun and as much spark as possible to any party,” says Sue Allen, vice president of marketing, communications and sales for the Great Lakes Science Center. The three-level building can accommodate 20 to 4,000 people, depending on whether the family wants to rent out a private party room or the entire facility. Each family can select the type of demonstrations it wants performed during the party. Some of the most popular

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Great Lakes Science Center ones include a bubblemania demonstration, an electric show that involves using a Tesla coil, and making liquid nitrogen ice cream, she says. In addition to the hundreds of hands-on, interactive exhibits scattered throughout the venue, the Great Lakes Science Center features an Omnimax theater, the NASA Glenn Visitor

Center, the steamship William G. Mather, traveling exhibitions and the Cleveland Creates Zone, which allows guests to design and experiment with prototypes by using science, technology, engineering and math skills. Families also can choose to hire a DJ or band, and catering options are available.

Great Lakes Science Center Allen believes the Great Lakes Science Center is ideal for a bar or bat mitzvah reception because it has activities that appeal to people of all ages. “You can sort of make your own good time and have a great party but also have a little learning tied in with it as well,” she says. “We’ve got something

for the little ones, something for the adults and something for the pre-teens and teenagers who will be enjoying the bar or bat mitzvah. “There aren’t too many places that can offer the kinds of fun, interactive activities that we have and really make science come alive during your bar or bat mitzvah.” BM

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Patrick Smith / PS Photography


Whether bouncing around on trampolines or zooming across racetracks, there’s no shortage of action-packed locations for b’nai mitzvah celebrations By Kristen Mott


esides finalizing the details of the ceremony, figuring out a location for the reception is one of the most important aspects of planning a bar or bat mitzvah. Those looking for a fun, interactive venue may be interested in Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Highland Heights and Westlake or High Voltage Indoor Karting in Medina. Private party rooms are available to rent at both Sky Zone locations, which can accommodate 15 to 25 people. Families also can rent out the entire facility. The Highland Heights location fits 500 people while the venue in Westlake can accommodate up to 800. “We really try to make the child feel special and work with the family to make the event something that fits their needs,” says Valerie Hurst, regional marketing director of Sky Zone. Families that choose to rent

out the entire facility can bring in their own food, decorations and entertainment, Hurst says. Each Sky Zone location houses large screens perfect for showcasing photos or home videos, and speaker systems allow the child to create a custom playlist to be used during the event. “We really can do whatever the family wants with a facility rental,” Hurst says. The activities throughout the venue also can be customized to meet the child’s desires, Hurst says.

32 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

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In addition to the open jump area and a foam zone pit, the facility houses individual dodgeball courts that can be used for dodgeball tournaments, volleyball games or special activities. Basketball hoops also can be set up in the open jump area for additional entertainment or special contests. “We usually assign a party host to every party and that host stays with the party and facilities activities, games and anything else the family wants throughout the time of their party,” Hurst says. “If you talk with anyone who’s had a bar or bat mitzvah at Sky Zone, they’ll tell you we really work with them to make their son or daughter feel very special. It’s all about the person having the celebration.” High Voltage Indoor Karting, which opened on March 9, 2015, offers several options for families interested in hosting a bar or bat mitzvah at the venue. Private event rooms can seat about 40 people and include a flat-screen television, beverages and a glass front so guests can watch the racetrack. Families can

Patrick Smith / PS Photography decorate the space and choose food items from an extensive catering menu. “If you have a smaller group, we recommend you do the event room rental for a couple of hours,” says Steve Madden, co-owner of High Voltage Indoor Karting. Families that are interested in competing against each other on the race track may want to consider a track rental, which allows a group’s party to be the only ones on the track for an allotted amount of time. “There are so many options with a track rental. You get to select what kind of racing you

34 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

want to do as far as format, how long you want the heat to be, how many people you want in the race, and if you want to do a relay race or a time trial race,” Madden says. Large parties can also rent out the entire facility, which can accommodate up to 250 people. Families who book the entire facility can decorate the venue and even bring in a DJ or food trucks, Madden says. Although the racing is the biggest draw, the venue also offers billiards tables and arcade games to keep guests busy while they’re waiting to get on the racetrack.

Madden believes his venue makes a great location for a bar or bat mitzvah because of how unusual it is. “We’re the only ones in Northeast Ohio doing this right now, so it’s definitely something different. It’s a great experience and a lot of fun. You’re also racing against the clock more so than competing against other people, which keeps it fun and family-oriented,” he says. “When people get off the track, we see them laughing and bantering back and forth with each other. That makes it all worth it.” BM

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Jewelry and Judaica are gems when given as a bar or bat mitzvah gift By Kristen Mott


bar or bat mitzvah is an important time in a boy’s or girl’s life. As such, gifts are often given by relatives and close friends to commemorate the occasion.

Jewelry remains one of the most popular gift options. Chad Verhoff, owner of Jackson Grey Jewelry in Chagrin Falls, has created two pendant necklaces that are often given as a bat mitzvah present. “We’ve designed a Shema pendant, which I actually gave to my daughter when she had her bat mitzvah, and we carry it in two different sizes,” Verhoff says. “We’ve also designed a Star of David that is different from most. It’s actually two pieces, so when it falls on the neckline one overlaps the other and that’s what forms a Star of David. It’s a very unique item.” The pendants are made in-house and are primarily requested in sterling silver or 14K gold. Verhoff ’s store also carries a line of talisman jewelry called Pyrrha, which is popular to give to boys. “The company (Pyrrha) specializes in using 18th- and 19thcentury wax seals. Because they’re talismans, they all have a very unique keepsake aspect to them. There are hundreds to choose from and they all have

a different personal meaning to the wearer,” he says. Another popular gift option for a boy is a watch, says Chad Schreibman, owner of Alson Jewelers in Woodmere. “Watches make a great bar mitzvah gift. There are some cool looks out there, like the ones made by TAG Heuer. Shinola also makes fun, new, hip watches,” he says. As for girls, diamond stud earrings or a small necklace or pendant make ideal gifts, Schreibman says. Some of the most requested brands are David Yurman and John Hardy, he says, and white metals, including white gold or sterling silver, remain the most popular. Personalization also remains a big trend. “On the back of a watch there’s some small space that you can engrave to commemorate who it’s from or the date of the event,” Schreibman says. “Ladies jewelry can be a bit more difficult to personalize, but you can always purchase a charm or find a pendant that’s engravable.” Many relatives opt for gifts that carry sentimental value.

36 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

Jackson Grey Jewelry La Bella Vita in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood and at Eton Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere specializes in Judaica for lifecycle events. “I really look at our items as heirlooms that will be kept and remembered for this special time,” says Barbara Strom, owner of La Bella Vita. The store carries ornate mezuzahs, menorahs, kiddush cups and Shabbos candle holders. One of the most popular gifts for girls is a menorah in the shape of tulips, Strom says, which is hand-painted in soft pinks and greens and features crystals, as well as nature-inspired mezuzot. For boys, options include a mezuzah in the shape of a rocket ship, navy blue Kiddush cups and a menorah that resembles a dog. Strom believes Judaica make an ideal bar or bat mitzvah gift, not only because the items are artistic, but because they hold sentimental value. “We’re a destination for people’s heirlooms,” she says. “It’s an emotional and poignant time in life with all of these wonderful traditions. We love bringing the artistic value to it and having items that touch a time in life that lasts forever and carries on.” Those in the process of shopping for a gift are faced with unlimited possibilities. To narrow down the selection,

Alson Jewelers David Yurman petite Wheaton Ring with Hampton blue topaz and diamonds

La Bella Vita Ballerina dreidel Strom recommends visiting a store in-person to shop around and be able to ask questions. “We try to keep our inventory levels so high because it’s a daily influx of people, especially the more we’ve become known for what we do. We’re always looking for new and unique, beautiful items,” she says. Although Schreibman suggests people first look online to get ideas, he also sees the value of visiting a physical store. “Sometimes aunts or uncles will bring the boy or girl in and make it an experience,” he says. “They’re not just buying them a gift, they’re bringing them into the store so they have a memorable experience that they can talk about years later.” BM










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Receiving money for one’s bar or bat mitzvah can add up to one big financial learning opportunity By Jonah L. Rosenblum


inning the lottery can be overwhelming as you go from having $10,000 to $10 million. Winning the bar mitzvah lottery can be similarly overwhelming for a child going from $10 to $1,000. Rather than let your child burn through that thousand right away on a video game system and a ton of new games, or on frontrow seats to the next Taylor Swift concert, what better time to teach your brand-new man or woman good financial habits? “Getting money at this age is, at root, not so different from a windfall later in life,” says Todd Hays, senior vice president and regional banking executive for First National Bank’s Cleveland region. “The process of deciding what to do with the money and what savings vehicle to put it in should start with an honest conversation about goals and circumstances.” You don’t need a CPA to have this conversation. The questions are simple, perhaps first to be posed between parents and guardians, and later to be turned to children as well. How much are we comfortable with our little bar or bat mitzvah spending now? How much do we want him to put away? How much of the money will be used for smaller purchases – a side fund allowing Sarah to buy candy bars and movie tickets – and how much might be saved for an eventual larger purchase – like a used car? For money being put away, can it be locked away for a while, with a high return, such as with a certificate of deposit? Or will we possibly need to dip into the account within days or months? If Jeremy or Sarah can wait to touch some of that money, there’s an oppor-



tunity to let that money grow at a rate faster than that of the turtle-like pace of a regular savings account. Hays recommends a certificate of deposit – which puts money away for a set amount of time, from three months to 10 years. “The required minimum to open (a CD) is generally not outside of what one might expect to receive at a life event such as a bar or bat mitzvah,” Hays says. “A mutual fund could also be an option with the potential for greater return.” To be clear, your little man or lady can wear a suit – or pantsuit – but he or she can’t yet operate a bank account or mutual fund on his or her own. A guardian will have to be involved, as the custodian, but it’s up to the guardian to decide just how involved. When a child wants to withdraw $20 for a Friday night movie and popcorn, will Mom or Dad do it? Will Mom and Dad easily facilitate the process – allowing them to keep dollar bills from the account in their wallet – or will they remain tightly in control? A lot comes down to parenting philosophy. If Jeremy wants to spend $100 on a pair of pants that he’ll grow out of within a year, and Dad knows it’s a mistake, should he step in and say no or let it happen? “While a child will never have full control over their accounts while still a minor, parents or guardians can decide what level of accessibility and authority the child may have in regard to their funds,” Hays says.

38 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Spring•Summer 2016

“Some parents will wish to have complete oversight, and some may wish to allow their children to be fairly accountable – mistakes and all.” While a bar or bat mitzvah will never have full control over a bank account or mutual fund, there are ways to allow him or her some independence and grown-up responsibility, whether it’s coming with Mom and Dad to meet with the banker or researching a stock to buy a few shares in. The important thing is to involve your bar or bat mitzvah in the process – someway, somehow. “Bringing your child or teen to meet with your investment representative or to the bank to open the initial account is a great way to start introducing them to banking and investments,” says Jim Lechko, certified financial planner at First Federal of Lakewood. There are extremes, of course: • Give your bar or bat mitzvah all of his or her money in cash and leave him or her be. • Take all the money and tell your child he or she can have it when older. There’s not much education involved in either extreme approach, however, which is why it might be wise to open a bank account or other mechanism with your child. Banks are prepared for such young customers, with special accounts for younger clients, including low minimum deposits and financial education tools and resources. “Starting good financial habits early by setting financial goals and then making a plan to attain them provides a strong foundation for a child’s financial future,” Lechko says. “By starting a relationship with a bank at a young age, a child has the opportunity to get a head start on healthy financial habits that will benefit them throughout their life. In a way, it’s like building muscle memory for how they manage their money,” Hays adds. BM

Spring•Summer 2016 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 39

Bar•Bat Mitzvah: Spring/Summer 2016  

Planning tips and insights, stories and more for organizing and enjoying your B'nai Mitzvah.

Bar•Bat Mitzvah: Spring/Summer 2016  

Planning tips and insights, stories and more for organizing and enjoying your B'nai Mitzvah.