Bar•Bat Mitzvah Fall/Winter 2018

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The Cleveland Jewish News

Mitzvah Bar•Bat



Sacred simcha

Planning and celebrating the momentous and meaningful spiritual steps toward Jewish adulthood are special occasions

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Fall•Winter 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 13





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Mitzvah 10

Fall 2018


The Cleveland Jewish News

Mitzvah Bar•Bat


Sacred simcha

Planning and celebrating the momentous and meaningful spiritual steps toward Jewish adulthood are special occasions

On the cover: Ezra Pollack dances with his father, David Pollack, in celebration of his bar mitzvah, Jan. 27, 2018, at the Emerald Event Center in Avon. Cover photo courtesy of New Image Photography.





Misplaced memories


Michael C. Butz relays a story about a 1955 bar mitzvah photo album discovered on a beer display in Chicago and what happened to it


Looking Back

Authoring message of acceptance Written by a Pepper Pike middle schooler, a book – and related mitzvah project – take a newly forged friendship to new heights


Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

Ask A Pro Planning tips from Northeast Ohio professionals about catering, stationery, floral, entertainment, photography and synagogues


Northeast Ohioans recall their bar or bat mitzvah – and the preparation that led up to the big day




Celebratory selections Jewelry and items relating to one’s Jewish experience are among the many meaningful mitzvah gift options


Meaningful money Children can learn a lot from the monetary gifts they receive

Factories of fun Large-scale facilities with obstacle courses and arcades help ensure parties feature plenty of activity

Superb sites Hotel ballrooms and museum galleries both offer unique options for parties

Party planning checklist Organized details and a team of experts help parents who are planning parties stay on track




Bar•Bat Mitzvah Planner Map out the celebration with the help of this handy planner

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Mitzvah Bar•Bat

President & CEO Kevin S. Adelstein Vice President of Sales Adam Mandell

s I’ve previously written, one of my favorite parts of every issue of Bar•Bat Mitzvah is Looking Back – and recently, I came across a story out of Chicago that could’ve fit right in to that section of our magazine. In case this is the first issue of Bar•Bat Mitzvah you’ve read, Looking Back is the section in which public figures – rabbis, cantors, business and agency leaders, government officials, etc. – in Northeast Ohio’s Jewish community recount their bar or bat mitzvah. The features are often an enjoyable and entertaining mix of memories and #TBT-worthy photos. (That’s Throwback Thursday in social media parlance.) With that in mind, it was with great interest I read an article about a 1955 bar mitzvah photo album found on a craft beer display at a grocery store published by Block Club Chicago, a nonprofit news organization that covers the Windy City’s various neighborhoods. Jenni Spinner, a freelance writer, noticed what she at first thought was a shrink-wrapped stack of calendars on top of a wall of Lagunitas IPA 12-packs at a Jewel grocery store in Andersonville, a neighborhood on Chicago’s far north side. Spinner quickly learned it was a bar mitzvah photo album. When store employees said they didn’t know to whom it belonged, she turned to social media for help. Clues included: “William” was written on a cake in one of the photos; based on the date, the boy celebrated would likely now be 76 years old; and a letterboard in one of the pictures read “Shoreland Hotel,” which is in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

Spinner contacted nearby synagogues as well as the Jewish Council for the Elderly but to no avail. However, social media tips eventually helped her discover the album belonged to Bill London, who, yes, is 76. At last report, Spinner had been in touch with London’s younger sister, Gail, who’s in some of the bar mitzvah photos. I found this story to be delightfully heartwarming – and as editor of this magazine, I found myself thankful that none of our past or present Looking Back feature subjects have left their photos at the grocery store. In this issue, we invite you to take a trip down memory lane via Looking Back with Jennifer Chestnut, Cantor Richard Lawrence, Debbie Rothschild and Gilon Rubanenko. Also in this issue, we share a touching story about a Pepper Pike boy’s friendship with a boy on the autism spectrum that inspired a book and mitzvah project that helped raise money for a local nonprofit. In addition, to help you plan your son or daughter’s celebration, we share helpful insight from experts in fields such as party planning, entertainment, catering, site selection and photography. Coincidentally, the photographer we spoke to extols the value of having a nice bar or bat mitzvah photo album. He didn’t say it, so I will: Just do your best not to misplace your photo album.

Full story To read about the missing mitzvah album, visit and


Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

Editor Michael C. Butz Designer Lillian Messner CJN Managing Editor Bob Jacob Controller Tracy DiDomenico Events Manager Gina Lloyd Editorial Ed Carroll Jane Kaufman Becky Raspe Alyssa Schmitt Contributing Writers Michelle Jacobson Sean McDonnell Columbus Bureau Chief Amanda Koehn Custom Publishing Manager Paul Bram Sales & Marketing Manager Andy Isaacs Advertising Marcia Bakst Marilyn Evans Ron Greenbaum Adam Jacob Nell V. Kirman Sherry Tilson Design Manager Stephen Valentine Design Jessica Simon Digital Content Producer Abbie Murphy Business & Circulation Tammie Crawford Abby Royer Subscriber Services 216-342-5185/ Display Advertising 216-342-5191/

VOL. 142 NO. 50 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



Well-known Northeast Ohioans remember their bar or bat mitzvah

Gilon Rubanenko

Gilon Rubanenko Gilon Rubanenko at his 1981 bar mitzvah.


Vice president of operations, Mandel Jewish Community Center By Amanda Koehn


uch was looking up for Gilon Rubanenko in the weeks and days leading up to his May 23, 1981 bar mitzvah. He enjoyed Hebrew school at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield, N.J., where he had lived for the past four years after moving from his native South Africa. And his Jewish community was tight knit, which was important since much of his extended family still lived abroad. He got his first bar mitzvah surprise when his grandmother and great-aunt visited from South Africa for his big day. “They showed up a day or two before, they woke me up and they scared the living day-

lights out of me,” Rubanenko says, vividly remembering the two “tiny women” standing over his bed. Excited about the visitors, Rubanenko got another surprise when he woke up on

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Saturday – the day of his bar mitzvah, after doing Friday night service – with a sore throat. Luckily, his choir master uncle had a solution. Rubanenko was cured by drinking three raw eggs. “It was disgusting,” he says. After that, things went smoothly. During the service, congregational emotions were stirred when he highlighted two community elders who had always made an effort to interact with the kids at the synagogue – they were like “institutional grandparents,” he says. Moreover, his family did their legendary enthusiastic Shehecheyanu, the blessing of praise recited when celebrating new occasions. “Anybody that is friends with our family that has gone through a simcha with our family has experienced a Rubanenko Shehecheyanu,” he says. “I think people get to see the passion and shear joy that my family has, and has always had generationally, for being Jewish.” The party, celebrated a following night, was more “fun and low key” than typical, as

Rubanenko remembers guests wearing T-shirts and jeans and enjoying a barbecue at his home. Rubanenko continued to stay involved in Jewish activities throughout his young adult life, attending Jewish camp and youth groups, being involved with Hillel in college, and later as a lay leader at his synagogue, B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Eight years ago, he merged that deep personal connection with his professional life by going to work at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood, where he’s vice president of operations. All three of his children, Jonah, 18, Elana, 15, and Gabe, 13, have had b’nai mitzvah – Gabe’s being just this past September at Camp Wise in Claridon Township and B’nai Jeshurun Congregation, and another of many occasions to do the ‘Rubanenko Shehecheyanu.’ “We were all just smiling,” he says. “That’s what it’s about – it’s about that family, that community, that love.” Moreover, he sees many similarities between the Cleveland Jewish community and that of his youth in Springfield. “Everybody knew each other – it was warm, it was welcoming, people cared about each other and people probably knew more about each other than they needed to know,” he says. “It was special.” Rubanenko says he can’t imagine a life where he hadn’t had a bar mitzvah. Along with marrying his wife, Kelly, under a chuppah, he says it was one of the experiences that has helped develop his appreciation for “who we are as a people.” BM


Campus support director, Hillel International Jennifer Chestnut

Jennifer Chestnut

Jennifer Chestnut, center, with sons Seth and Jason, from left, close family friend Kristina Belair, daughter Martha and husband Sam, at Martha’s bat mitzvah last year at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Jennifer Chestnut at her 1987 bat mitzvah.

By Amanda Koehn


t the time of Jennifer Chestnut’s bat mitzvah on Aug. 22, 1987, her rabbi was on vacation, her uncle was ill and in the hospital and the religious tutoring style she received didn’t quite inspire her. Despite those obstacles clouding the day, Chestnut says there were aspects of her coming of age that were meaningful, exciting and fun. “I remember being excited, I remember being a little nervous,” says Chestnut, adding that family and friends visited from around the United States and Canada for it. One highlight of the service, held at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood, was that she was paired with a Russian girl around the same age. Chestnut never met the girl and only cor-

responded with her via a letter, but had her bat mitzvah “in honor” of the peer who couldn’t have such a ceremony in the former Soviet Union. “I’m not so sure if that was as meaningful at the time as it is now,” says Chestnut, who grew up in University Heights. “Reflecting back, I thought about who is that person and where are they, and where did their life end up 30 years later?” Chestnut, who now lives in Akron, says she still remembers her haftorah when she attends syna-

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gogue today at Anshe Sfard Revere Road Synagogue in Akron. As for Chestnut’s party, her mother planned it at the former Somerset Inn in Shaker Heights, where it was Hawaiian-themed and involved a pool. That part was “tons of fun,” she says. “I think it was more the idea that all these people were celebrating me and celebrating together (that) made it really fun,” she says. “And there was a moment where my friends mixed and matched – like, all of my friends from different parts of my life mixed and matched.” She also was able to videotape the event for her uncle, and the dislike for the tutoring style she experienced led to her making sure her children were more engaged in their own b’nai mitzvah training. Now as campus support director at Hillel International, she says later Jewish communal experiences – rather than her bat mitzvah – led her to become more observant. “I was very involved in the Fairmount Temple youth group and I was close with the rabbis and educators that were there, but that happened later in high school,” she says. Since her own bat mitzvah tutoring involved rote memoriza-

tion of Hebrew “without depth behind it,” Chestnut and her husband, Sam, worked to ensure their children focused on meaning. Her oldest son, Seth, now 17, had his bar mitzvah at Revere Road Synagogue in Akron in 2014, and her daughter, Martha, 13, had her bat mitzvah last year – one ceremony in Akron, and another at the egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. “My daughter and I studied important Jewish women throughout Biblical history, but also modern history,” Chestnut says. Her youngest child, Jason, 10, is still a few years away from his bar mitzvah. Chestnut thinks it will be important to him to understanding the meaning behind the Hebrew words, like it was for her, although – also like it was for her – he may not fully realize or appreciate it until years later. “I also think that moments like your bar and bat mitzvah are more meaningful after the fact, when you are looking back on it, than sometimes it is when you are in the middle of it,” she says. “It’s hard being 12 or 13 in the moment to realize how important it is.” BM

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CANTOR RICHARD LAWRENCE Cantor, Temple Emanu El Richard Lawrence

Richard Lawrence, center, with Rabbi Bob Levy of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, Mich., from left, sister Diana Lawrence, and parents Wendy and Ted Lawrence.

By Amanda Koehn


aving taken piano lessons, and having sung in four-part harmony with his family from a young age, Richard Lawrence felt ready for his bar mitzvah – so much so that he slacked off some in his preparations. However, his relative lack of effort didn’t go unnoticed. His bar mitzvah tutor at Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, Mich., eventually called him out, which led him to get his act together with regard to learning. “I’m certainly glad that I did because, ‘A,’ it helped remind me how important it is to do, and ‘B,’ that was a skill that I held onto and came in handy once I decided to be a cantor,” says Lawrence, who was 14 at the time of the June 1999 bar mitzvah. Moreover, it was an ideal time for Lawrence to develop such Jewish learning. That year, his Reform temple had borrowed a special haftorah scroll, which contains all the haftorahs, from which he got to chant – an opportunity he realized he may never see again. When the day actually came, Lawrence felt confident. He even got a laugh from the congregation and its president when he stole her

thunder by thanking out-of-town guests – the president’s usual line at such services. “She cracked up,” he says. “She totally understood it was just me being silly.” To complete the occasion, Lawrence and his family had a kiddush luncheon at which a pianist played music in the temple’s social hall. After the bar mitzvah, he remained involved with the temple via its choir and eventually was a youth leader, or madrich. Years later, during the summer as a sophomore at Oberlin College, Lawrence was an assistant music director at Star Island, an organization and space that hosts various conferences in Portsmouth, N.H. There, a conference leader asked him if as someone with a Jewish background he could lead music for a unitarian Shabbat service. Afterward, a guest told him she enjoyed it and noticed his “entire face lit up” while singing.

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“That made me think, ‘Well, hold on a second, maybe I should look into this further,’” he says. Later that year, he did an internship at that same Ann Arbor congregation of his bar mitzvah and decided to switch his major from computer science to Jewish studies. Today, as cantor at Temple Emanu El in Orange, Lawrence is also the temple’s b’nai mitzvah tutor and likely thinks about his bar mitzvah more often than most. He’s now in the position to call out students who may not be working at their full potential, as he’s had to do from time to time. He remembers one student in particular, to whom he gave a similar talk as his bar mitzvah tutor gave him years earlier, saying, “If you lean into this, there’s a good chance that you will get fantastic results.” “And he did,” Lawrence says, adding that not even a year later, that student was asked to chant Torah during the High Holy Days because of his skill level. These days, Lawrence says, children and families are pulled in so many directions, and he always considers questions around why each particular family is prompted to go through with b’nai mitzvah. He says the reasons vary: Some go through the process out of societal

obligation, or what they see as a necessary part of Jewish life, while for others – either the parents, children or both – see great meaning in it. “It’s almost palpable in the room when all persons involved find a great meaning in the whole deal in the first place,” he says. For some students, the experience changes their outlook on Jewish life – something that happened over the course of years for Lawrence himself, although skills learned during the bar mitzvah process made it possible. “Parents have said to me, ‘Because of this, (the student) feels more confident now as a person,’” he says. “They feel like they can tackle more now and challenge themselves more.” BM


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Debbie Rothschild Debbie Rothschild, seated second from left, with her group of adult b’not mitzvah with Cantor Aaron Shifman in 2004 at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike.

By Amanda Koehn


ebbie Rothschild had always imagined that at some point, she would become a bat mitzvah. When it didn’t happen in her youth, she thought maybe she’d have a private ceremony as an adult – perhaps simply in her rabbi’s office. As fate would have it, Rothschild ended up reading the Torah in front of a large crowd of worshipers at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike as part of a group bat mitzvah with 14 other women in 2004. “Sharing it with the community in that way really heightened the experience in some very profound ways,” she says. “I didn’t think it would. In fact, I thought doing it publicly would have the opposite effect – like it would be a little bit theatrical and it’s sort of a performance. And in fact, it worked just the other way, it felt even more sacred because I was sharing it with my synagogue community.” The ceremony came about for Rothschild after Cantor Aaron Shifman created the opportunity for adult b’nai mitzvah at B’nai Jeshurun, she says. By the time hers

happened, she was 45 years old and her connection to the Jewish community had been strong and growing for almost a decade. Although Rothschild had been raised Jewish in Cleveland Heights, she was not a member of a synagogue at the typical bat mitzvah age. In 1995 and in her mid-30s, Rothschild visited Israel on a group trip that changed her life’s direction. “It was not until then that I was connected to the community Jewishly,” says Rothschild, who after the trip switched her career from sales to Jewish nonprofit leadership. By the time of her bat mitzvah, Rothschild was working at the Jewish National Fund. Going through the bat mitzvah process as an adult with her peers was a unique opportunity, she says.

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“I’d like to think it’s not the case, but I suspect that it is the case that, as an adult, it becomes a more profound or more sacred experience than it might be as a 13-year-old,” she says. “I really felt a very powerful connection to the Torah and a very powerful connection to the other women, as well as a powerful connection to the synagogue community that shared that morning with me.” Rothschild was also pregnant with twins, Melissa and Bradley, at

the time, adding to the significance of the moment, she says. The twins are now 13 and had their own joint bar and bat mitzvah this year. Her older daughter, Lilly, now 18, had hers in 2012. All three were held at B’nai Jeshurun. As Gross Schechter Day School students, Rothschild’s children had prior Torah-reading experience, which was one aspect that was different than her own and different from her childhood. “Reading Torah on their bar or bat mitzvah was not a new experience, but I do think they totally get the importance of it and the sort of nature of what it means to become a bar or bat mitzvah,” says Rothschild, who is now director of the Montefiore Foundation in Beachwood. “There was nothing more meaningful than sharing the bat mitzvahs of my daughters and the bar mitzvah of my son.” Rothschild also had the rare opportunity to vividly remember and connect with the b’nai mitzvah process when her children experienced their own, as the intervening years between hers and theirs were shorter than most parents and children. “Having had the experience of becoming a bat mitzvah as an adult made my experience with each of my kids much more meaningful because I knew what it felt like – standing before the Torah, the congregation, alongside the rabbi and the cantor,” she says. “If I didn’t have that experience, I think my experience with my kids would have been very different.” BM

David Tavens / Natural Light Studio

Debbie Rothschild celebrates her children Melissa and Bradley’s joint bat and bar mitzvah in February at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, with her husband, Barry and older daughter, Lilly.




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Written by a Pepper Pike middle schooler, a book – and related mitzvah project – take a newly forged friendship to new heights

Story by Michelle Jacobson • Photography by Michael C. Butz


or 13-year-old Gabe Feinberg, becoming a bar mitzvah is not just a one-day celebration but a day defined as taking on a continuous role of responsibility. With this role, Gabe commits himself to following the commandments in the Jewish faith, as well as carrying out the values of tikkun olam (repair the world) into the community. Thinking about ways to make an impact, Gabe wanted to begin this first stage of becoming an adult by sharing an important message with the community. For students at Orange Schools’ Brady Middle School, where

Gabe is enrolled, it is part of the curriculum to explore an interest and engage in project-based learning. This year, he used his school’s passion project assignment to write “Alex and His New Friend,”

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a book about acceptance and how to share kindness and compassion. It shares the story of a young girl meeting a new classmate who communicates in a different way. She learns about acceptance, reasoning

behind certain behaviors and how a simple act of friendship can go a long way. Inspiration for the book stemmed from Gabe’s involvement with Broadway Buddies, an adaptive musical theater pro-

BUY THE BOOK To purchase “Alex and His New Friend,” contact Michelle Feinberg at or 216-233-2567. The book costs $18.

Jack Cummings, in green, and Gabe Feinberg, in red, take part in several activities during Kids in Flight’s annual Wings of Wonder event June 23 at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. gram that involves working with kids who have special needs. Through this program, Gabe met Jack Cummings, a boy who is on the autism spectrum, and the two quickly developed a close bond after performing together in the production of “Peter Pan.” As their friendship evolved, they spent more time together and were both able to learn from each other. This impact is reflected in the book. “The goal of the book is for others to learn about autism and

those with special needs,” Gabe explains. “Most of all, I wanted to make sure I was helping others.” The book started as a lesson taught only to his classmates and guests at his project presentation, but soon it spread to a much larger audience. It gained immediate attention after Michelle Feinberg, Gabe’s mom, posted a video to Facebook of the story being read to the class. Before the presentation, Michelle had no idea what Gabe’s project involved.

“It’s the kind of kid he is,” explains Michelle, whose family lives in Pepper Pike. “I wasn’t completely surprised after (hearing him read his book) because it’s totally something he would do.” Immediately, the video drew a flood of responses through social media, drawing in several requests from around the country for copies of the book. Gabe never imagined his school assignment would prompt such a reaction and leave as big of an

impact. Realizing the magnitude of its importance, Gabe committed himself to continue to reach more people with his message. With the help of a local illustrator, Gabe and his family brought the book to life and produced copies to sell upon request. They also wanted to find a way to give back, so they decided to make it a part of Gabe’s bar mitzvah project and donate the proceeds from sales to a nonprofit organization.

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Above: Michelle Feinberg snaps a photo of her son, Gabe, in the back of the Cessna before it takes off. Below: Gabe, Jack and Michelle’s flight prepares to take off.

The goal of the book is for others to learn about autism and those with special needs. Most of all, I wanted to make sure I was helping others. Gabe Feinberg, 13, discussing part of why he wrote “Alex and His New Friend” PROJECT TAKES FLIGHT Gabe knew that he wanted to donate to a good cause, particularly one that was smaller so he could shine a light on an organization that was not as well known. Jack’s mom, Amy Cummings, recommended Kids in Flight, an organization founded in 2003 that provides aviation-related activities for kids who face serious health conditions or have disabilities. The program offers flight experiences, group outings and educational sessions, allowing kids to escape from some of their struggles and gain different perspectives. Wings of Wonder, which takes place at Burke Lakefront Airport, is an annual summer event hosted by Kids in Flight, offering kids a front-row seat in an airplane for a sightseeing tour of Cleveland. It’s also a day filled with music, crafts and games, providing kids and their families an opportunity to let go of daily stresses.

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Above: Jack gets buckled in before takeoff by one of Kids in Flight’s volunteer pilots. Below: The group walks back to the airport terminal after landing. “This is Jack’s favorite day of the year,” Gabe says at the end of this year’s Wings of Wonder, which they attended together. “My favorite part was seeing how happy he was to be there. He had the biggest smile on his face the whole time. It was great to see why Jack and his family really like Kids in Flight. They do such great work, and I’m so glad to be able to give back to them.” Gabe was thrilled to attend the event with Jack because he knew how special the organization and its volunteers made him feel. Side by side, the boys bounced around from one activity to the next, beaming with smiles the entire time, and Gabe cheering on Jack through every obstacle course. Kevin Donovan, board member and vice president of Kids in Flight, reflects on the event’s impact, “It’s always great seeing the boys arm in arm together at our Wings of Wonder event. And no matter the amount raised from the book, the donation itself is just such a wonderful gesture for this organization.” Originally, Gabe set a goal to raise maybe a few hundred dollars for the organization. However, the book had raised close to $2,500 as of early October. As a donation- and volunteer-based program, Kids in Flight will benefit from this contribution, piloting more efforts to offer additional support for kids. “This entire process has become so much bigger than just writing a book,” Michelle adds. “The book has played a huge part in Gabe learning more about fundraising and donating to an organization.”

LIFELONG LESSONS LEARNED While selling copies of his book, Gabe has learned how to properly ask for donations, as well as understand what type of work is involved in the process. He has also dedicated time going doorto-door to collect donations in person. For every book request/pur-

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Fall 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 23

Above: A Kids in Flight volunteer pages through Gabe’s book, “Alex and His New Friend,” which Gabe wrote after forming his friendship with Jack. The book was at the center of Gabe’s mitzvah project, which raised money for Kids in Flight. Below: Gabe at his bar mitzvah, Oct. 6, at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike.

Michelle Feinberg 24 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

chase, Gabe has followed up with a personalized letter, thanking that individual for their generosity. Throughout the process – writing the book, raising money for an organization and raising awareness – Gabe has learned several lessons about taking on responsibility. This is a lesson he has further developed from studying his Torah portion for his bar mitzvah, which was Oct. 6 at B’nai Jeshurun in Pepper Pike. Bereshit, which translates to “in the beginning,” conveys the theme of being responsible for others, as well as for oneself. It reflects a point in an individual’s journey to determine their future, as each new step taken makes a difference for what is to come. “The Torah portion also teaches the values of tikkun olam, repairing the world,” Gabe explains. “I’ve learned so much by doing this and I have also been able to help an organization that helps kids and adults with medical and special needs. I hope other kids who are having bar or bat mitzvahs will see this and want to do something good in their community and be inspired to give back.” The book has also led to other ways for Gabe to give back and be an influence in the community. In Orange, along with other nearby suburbs, he has participated in public events at the library, hosting workshops to teach writing skills to his peers. He has continued to promote his book through public readings at the library as well. Reflecting on the past few months, Gabe described his experience as feeling almost unreal. He is grateful for the outcome of his project and is glad the book has become such a resourceful tool. He says he already has plans to pursue writing a second book for next year’s passion project as a way to keep his message going. BM





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Fall 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 25

New Image Photography

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 knowhow to help answer those questions and offer advice. Compiled by Becky Raspe

26 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

1 Corner.


3 Brands.


At the corner of Park East Drive & Chagrin Boulevard

Beachwood, Ohio | Contact Sales 216.454.8000

Beachwood Place Upper Level 216-514-7848 follow us on

Fall 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 27


Cafe 56 and Cafe 56 Catering


COOWNERS | CAFE 56 AND CAFE 56 CATERING | HIGHLAND HILLS WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GET RIGHT? IS: I think that although there are many similarities in b’nai mitzvah, it is very important to get the right tone for each. You want their personality showing through the night, from the entertainment down to the food. JL: Some clients want to do more of a themed party and others want to do more of a traditional Jewish mitzvah. You have to interview the client and see what route they want to go and how far they want to go with the theme. It’s also important to get the child’s input, too.

HOW DOES THE FOOD IMPACT THE MOOD AND ATMOSPHERE OF THE PARTY? IS: Food is an integral part of Judaism. Many of our celebrations revolve around food, so it’s only natural for food to also be an important part of a mitzvah. Food is one of the major factors of the party for sure, as are the other parts of the celebration. But, food helps set the tone of the celebration, especially with how the food is displayed and served, down to the types of food served. JL: If it is a themed party, the thing we do best is create a theme for the family. This way, we can match the food stations and the food served to the theme. That helps capture a child’s personality.

WHAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED? IS: It’s not so much that something is overlooked – but this is definitely on a case-by-case basis. Some clients have more experience putting parties like this together because they have other children or have put on other b’nai mitzvah. So, we could be getting more involved step by step to make sure nothing is overlooked. I think it’s just that maybe families don’t know how involved the process actually is. JL: It just depends on how detailed-oriented the client is. The more they pay attention, the less likely they’ll overlook anything.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING? IS: One of the things we’ve been doing a lot is presenting a food truck. That has obviously become more of a factor of catering over the past few years. People like the experience.

28 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

Cafe 56 and Cafe 56 Catering Top: Cheese and fruit station. Above: Sushi station with assorted arrangement of nigiri, California rolls, vegetable rolls, spicy tuna rolls and maki rolls. JL: People are going more toward healthy and organic options. They like better food (and) options that are more well-crafted. And you see a lot more of mixing cultures and fusing these foods, like combining cuisines and getting creative. You don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. With us, it’s the little details that go a long way.

WHEN SHOULD PARENTS START PLANNING? JL: Depends on how elaborate the party is. But the general rule of thumb for catering would be about six months to a year. That is the best time frame for getting everything done and making sure it’s the best it can be.

WHY DO YOU THINK PARENTS SHOULD FOCUS ON CATERING? IS: The food is one of the things that will be remembered most after the party. People will remember what they ate as well as the environment surrounding it. Having better food makes for a better party over all. JL: It is one of the most important parts of the party. We’re a key part of the puzzle. Without good food, it’s incomplete. The whole thing from the decorations to the food and down to the music, everything is important to make for a great party. BM


New Image Photography

JOHNATHAN KOSLEN | OWNER | NEW IMAGE PHOTOGRAPHY | CHAGRIN FALLS WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GET RIGHT? Truthfully, it is all important. You want to get a sense of the event, but really, you want to get great shots of the families. You want to try and show some personality. But also, try and capture the mood of the reception. You want to get the action, what is happening. You want to get the crowds. You should have a sense of what it was like to be at the party when looking at the photos. You want to feel like you know the people in the photos. Capturing personalities and relationships is important, too.

WHAT SHOULD PARENTS FOCUS ON? Others should be able to pick up a book, look at pictures and feel like they know the people in them. The photographer isn’t just taking pictures, they are capturing those little moments. Quality, lighting and composition is important, so all of those things should be worked on and collaborated with the photographer.

WHAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED? Lately, I feel like people are going with cheaper photographers that offer less quality. You get what you pay for. The albums are huge, and that is a big part of the photography part. Also, how the photos are composed can be overlooked. Generationally speaking, I had a bar mitzvah and my parents made sure I had a professional (photographer) and a nice book. People now are only getting a disk and a photographer who does this work on the side. That isn’t enough for those precious memories.

30 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING? Some people will say you can just do a cheaper album or a disk, and I say, “Don’t you want the best?” The trends are really dependent on the family. When we do a bar mitzvah, we do it all and over all sides. As far as trends, that doesn’t change the fact it is a very traditional celebration and setting. We’ve done some pretty cool things for sign boards, though, with glossy photos. People have been really liking that.

WHEN SHOULD PARENTS START PLANNING? Six months to a year is about right. If they want to have good vendors, like photographers, they should book earlier. We’re all doing other events, like weddings. So, if they’re doing one during June through September, they should book it out early. If it is January to June, we’re pretty happy to take any jobs and there usually isn’t a problem. But, still, try your best to be as early as possible so there are no chances for a schedule conflict.

WHY IS PHOTOGRAPHY A CRITICAL ASPECT OF THE CELEBRATION? After everything else is done, the photos are what is left. We’ve done a few b’nai mitzvah where people spend a couple thousand on decor and food and entertainment. That’s fine, but after everything is done, photography is the only clear memory of it all. So, that is why it is so important. BM


PLANNING A WORRY-FREE BAR OR BAT MITZVAH IS EASY Getting an early start and finding the perfect venue means having the peace of mind to enjoy your child’s special moment! It’s a child’s most sacred and celebrated moment, a memory that should last a lifetime … and all too often, we spend it stressing over last-minute plans and worrying about too many details. Finding the right venue for your bar or bat mitzvah is the perfect way to bring your child’s vision to life while ensuring you both get to enjoy the special day. The first step to planning a worry-free bar or bar mitzvah is super simple. Have a conversation with your child! Understand exactly what they want, create expectations and compromises based on your budget, and build a guest list. Finding the perfect venue early makes a difference. Next, be sure to book your vendors early. The best vendors are popular and book fast! Be sure you’re getting who you want by securing them months or even a year in advance. This includes your venue. Finding the right bar or bat mitzvah venue is more than just choosing an impressive space. The perfect venue comes with a team that will overlook no detail and partner with you at every step of the planning process. House of Blues Cleveland’s long history of bringing fun and fabulous bar and bat mitzvahs to life makes them a favorite choice of Ohio’s Jewish community. Your House of Blues event planner will work with your family to make sure you’re getting everything the venue has to offer and help you navigate the entire process with any outside vendors. We understand today’s bar and bat mitzvah trends. Today’s generation expects a highly personalized experience and House of Blues understands that. Our unique 65,000-square-foot venue can be transformed into a fully immersive world for you and your guests. Our lighting, sound and decor specialists will work with you to find creative solutions for a bar or bat mitzvah aesthetic that is truly one-of-a-kind. If you can dream it, we can theme it! The professional caterers at House of Blues Cleveland can craft unique and delicious menus for crowds of 25 to 250. The food is one of the main things people are going to remember, and we build unforgettable dishes that are striking to look at and wonderful to taste. We’re on top of the latest food trends for both adults and kids and will help you get the most of your food and drink budget. When it comes to entertainment, no one has House of Blues beat. If you’re looking for a once-ina-lifetime live entertainment experience, we’ll leverage our relationships with local and national DJs and performers to book the perfect act. We can also use our state-of-the-art in-house tech to create a super-fun dance party, karaoke experience or other creative activity. We build the party from the ground up to meet children, parents and guests’ expectations within scope and within budget! Put the planning on our shoulders. Spend your child’s bar or bat mitzvah the way it’s supposed to be spent: gushing with pride and connecting with your closest friends and family! When you trust the team at House of Blues Cleveland nothing is overlooked, especially the little things that make the day special.

To plan your worry-free bar or bat mitzvah, email or call 216-274-3353



Opening in Spring 2019, Shaker Rocks is

Cleveland’s newest and largest indoor rock climbing facility. “We built it with big events in mind,” says owner Annie Richman of Shaker Heights. “We put Shaker Rocks in the heart of Shaker Heights’ new downtown, The Van Aken District, so our visitors will have walkable accessibility to Van Aken’s restaurants, shops, salons, pubs, and of course the newest Mitchell’s Ice Cream.”

With its 17,000 square foot open floor plan Shaker Rocks can host events for up to 375 guests. Families often look for a different way to celebrate and want a bash that doesn’t involve a suit and tie or high heels. Rock climbing is all about casual, with soft climbing shoes, tee shirts, and chalk-coated hands. “Bar Mitzvahs, birthday parties, corporate

events, or even weddings can be simple or elaborate,” says Richman. Shaker Rocks, with its clean, colorful walls, needs no added décor to be beautiful or exciting. If you prefer to bring in a live band or DJ, Shaker Rocks can accommodate it. The space is large enough and flexible enough to handle lights, catering, and about anything else you could imagine. Aside from the main climbing hall, there is also a private area with 22-foot-high climbing walls for more intimate occasions of up to 50 guests.

“Even if you or your guests have never climbed before, our goal is to help you feel at ease and make sure each person has the best climbing experience possible,” Richman reassures. All ages are welcome, from tots to grandparents. Afraid of heights? Climb the bouldering walls which are only 15 feet high with giant crash pads below for a soft landing. You could also just sit back, put your feet up, and watch guests enjoy themselves. In addition to private events, Shaker Rocks of-

fers adult and youth climbing classes, a fitness space, yoga classes, and summer camps. It plans to be a host for USA Climbing Youth competitions. Shaker Rocks serves families and new adventurers, offering a unique experience that is fun, promotes safety, and where all people feel comfortable. It also serves serious climbers, offering day passes and memberships for a place to train and gather with their peers during the cold Cleveland winters. Shaker Rocks joins the league of modern gyms around the country and welcomes and caters to climbers of all ages and abilities. Pre-opening memberships go on sale February 1, 2019.

Climb on!

Contact us at @shakerrocksclimbing

3377 Warrensville Ctr. Rd., Shaker Heights, OH


Park Synagogue


SENIOR RABBI | PARK SYNAGOGUE PEPPER PIKE AND CLEVELAND HEIGHTS WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GET RIGHT? You want to make sure your child is learning what it is like to be an adult Jew and that they are getting the proper study for those principles. A b’nai mitzvah means you learned a certain amount about your faith and can chant the portions. Children need an understanding of being Jewish as well as those traditional aspects.

HOW CAN A FAMILY MAKE THE CEREMONY PERSONALIZED? It depends on where you have it, but at Park Synagogue, we try to personalize the service in a number of ways. The child can be featured in a number of different parts in the service. It is their day. I speak about them as well – and if there are particular things the child is interested in, that’s a special touch in what I say. Part of it is joining the tradition and then personalizing it.

WHAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED? It’s not that parents particularly

overlook anything, service-wise, but they might not be aware of how much they’ll feel moved by parts of the service. This is a real-life, conscious moment for the whole family, and sometimes parents don’t recognize how their emotions will run during the service. They might not be fully cognizant about how it will affect them as much as their child. B’nai mitzvah affect families in a very positive way – emotionally and spiritually. Parents should also anticipate that there are pressures when a child is 12 or 13 years old. There are peer and social pressures. They should plan these ceremonies with that in mind. It is an important time for parents to be aware and check in with their kids.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING? Families are much more into (the ceremony) than they’ve ever been before. Parents are much more interested and they want to learn more themselves. They want to do the extra learning in the year leading up to the service. They are more aware that it is something they should also experience. These

34 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018









Park Synagogue parents have been fully using the moment to improve their own knowledge of Judaism.

WHAT SHOULD PARENTS FOCUS ON? It is a milestone for the family and it allows the family to assess where they are in terms of their Jewish life. They’re eager to learn as much as they can. I don’t think I have to teach very many parents about this – they know it is important. The child is going to be trained and the parents will also be taught.

WHEN SHOULD PARENTS START PLANNING? As soon as the baby is born. They should get their date several years in advance and keep that in mind. Start the discussion several years earlier and get sensitized to that. One of the other ways you start planning for a b’nai mitzvah is by attending synagogue events. Those are the ways you really prepare – and that is what I mean by “as soon as they are born.” By immersing yourself in all aspects of Jewish life, that is when you start preparing and planning. BM


216-765-9100 844-208-8219

Gali’s Florist and Garden Center


Gali’s Florist and Garden Center


HEAD FLORAL DESIGNER | GALI’S FLORIST AND GARDEN CENTER | BEACHWOOD WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GET RIGHT? It’s important to closely coordinate the florals with any kind of theme you’re trying to go for. Florals can play a role in any theme, especially in ways to incorporate actual flower arrangements. It can be as abundant or as simple as you’d like it to be. The arrangements set a tone, so it’s important to have a handle on that.

HOW SHOULD FLOWERS BE UTILIZED AT A MITZVAH? Florals can be placed wherever there is going to be some sort of celebration – at the seats, where the catering will be or even in places like the dance floor or to accent bathrooms. It’s wherever you want to have flowers around. It can be part of the ceremony or the reception, whichever the family would like to do. This helps carry the theme and ideas into every aspect.

example, if the party is a circus theme, there could be hula hoops entwined with florals. You should think outside of the box for these things as that can set a party apart. Everyone wants something different. Any themes, ideas or vision they have – it can be accomplished.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING? It’s very unique, one-of-a-kind and individual ideas. Families are asking for a lot of succulents, like various types of cactuses or garden types. So, not only are you supplying florals and arrangements, but you’re also directly adding to the theme and atmosphere of the party. We’re also seeing a lot of eco-friendly florals and plants being incorporated into celebrations. This could be used as part of the decorations or as an activity within the party. The eco-friendliness puts a new spin on the party, too.



Florals can provide a way for parents to express their child’s personality and interests. The arrangements and pieces could be as quirky, fun, silly or as sophisticated as your child. It could be a garden party, like a secret garden, which could represent a child’s playfulness. It is whatever best represents that child. Florals can really explain a child without being too overt or going overboard in doing so.

We’ve had people come in six months to a year ahead of time. But, it’s best to come in as soon as you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve. Four to six months would be the sweet spot, so that way our team has enough time to get things together.

WHAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED? It’s overlooked how much florals and arrangements can be part of an event like this. Even something in a not-traditional way. For

36 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

WHAT SHOULD PARENTS FOCUS ON? Florals bring everything together. There is a bright, cheerfulness about it. Florals make a statement. By focusing on this aspect as being one that is just as important as the other parts, that helps parents take the individuality of a party to the next step. BM

Paradise Flower Market

Burning River Entertainment Group

ENTERTAINMENT GENE NATALE | PRESIDENT AND EVENT SPECIALIST BURNING RIVER ENTERTAINMENT GROUP | SOUTH EUCLID AND CLEVELAND WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GET RIGHT? Entertainment is always crucial. You want to hire a company that has experience working with kids and also one that works hard to keep things fresh and interesting. Once kids get to that age, they’ll be going to b’nai mitzvah every weekend. If they start seeing the same entertainers every week, that can get boring. We’re always working to come up with different games and to reinvent ourselves and adapt to other offerings to meet the specific needs and requests of our clients – to come up with something different.

WHAT SHOULD PARENTS FOCUS ON? For us, it is the emcee and the party motivators. The emcee is the face of the event. You want one that can command the attention of the young adults. Kids this age can be a demanding bunch. You’re at the point of your life where you aren’t a kid anymore but you’re not a grown-up, either. So, interactive games are also something to focus on, but the right kind. Also, find party motivators that

don’t get intimidated when it comes to entertaining that kind of crowd. You can’t be afraid to mix it up with the kids.

WHAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED? One thing that can get overlooked – because planning these events can be stressful – is making sure what exactly your child wants and how you can facilitate that. Some families just don’t know all of the options available to them for entertainment. Sometimes, it is easy to go with whatever everyone else does. Certainly, you want to listen to advice from friends and family. The main thing is just jumping in with an event company like ours that is going to make you feel confident from the day you find a contract to the moment a party ends.

in Israel – instead of a 4x6 print out of photos, you get magnet photos you can throw on your fridge.

could even be booked years out. So, it’s never a bad idea to lock it in early if you want it.



It really depends on the time of the year the event will be held. October always seems to be the month of all of the events, as well as September and June. With those months, especially, you’d want to start planning 12 to 18 months out. Some of the more popular venues and entertainment

We say this all the time to our wedding clients and it’s also true for b’nai mitzvah: the entertainment is the one aspect of the event that your guests will remember the most. You get only one shot at it at each of these parties because each child will want something different. BM

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING? A lot of our clients can be very discerning about the types of music played at events. We can go from playing regular Top 40 music to playing Israeli dances. It’s all about crossing over genres now. One of the pretty cool things we’re seeing is – and it is really big

38 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

Burning River Entertainment Group

Bar & Bat Mitzvahs

Games Done Legit Entertainment



RED SPACE IS A RAW EVENT SPACE. Standing at the crossroads of Cleveland’s epic downtown renaissance - and a growing craze to host events in an eclectic urban setting, Red Space at Hotcards is quickly becoming the most sought after raw event space and art gallery in the region.

Let your imagination run wild.



Fall 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 39

From freshly prepared party trays — savory sandwiches, fresh shrimp, handmade sushi and crudités — to artisan hors d’oeuvres, cheese and charcuterie, plus Chefmade entrées, sides, and beer, wine and liquor, we’ll make your next event deliciously easy! And, our housemade desserts are icing on the cake!

ig or Whatever your occasion — b ct a small — we can help you sele taste! t go e ’v u yo s ow sh at th u en m

Market District Catering

1 Solon 440.519.1te3r8 ing

MARKET DISTRICT CATERING A delicious event is a phone call away!

Amy Wain Garnitz

STATIONERY AMY WAIN GARNITZ | OWNER | THE A.L. WAIN COMPANY | BEACHWOOD WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GET RIGHT? The invitation sets the tone for the event but it is important to keep in mind that the main invitation is for the temple service and not the party. It is OK to incorporate some fun elements, but if you are working on a theme for your party, you should reserve that for the separate party card and the party itself.

WHY IS STATIONERY A CRITICAL ASPECT OF THE CELEBRATION? Many people don’t realize how much printed material is created for a large event. Aside from the invitation, thank you notes and place cards, the theme can be carried forward in signage, table numbers, napkins, favor boxes, programs and menus. These printed materials give an overall cohesive look to the event.

WHAT SHOULD PARENTS FOCUS ON? Parents should be armed with all of the pertinent information for each event before ordering invitations. If you are hosting a Shabbat

dinner, brunch or other meal, have the time and place set as well as accommodation information for your out-of-town guests. It is also important to know how many invitations you will need so you can get accurate pricing.

WHAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED? Many people forget to include a Hebrew name on the invitation. It’s a nice touch, and for many, it is the only time they will use their Hebrew name in print. Often, families get carried away by the excitement of the party and lose focus on the importance of the Jewish milestone they are celebrating. Thank you notes are also a critical addition to the invitation package. I usually suggest that these notes are ordered at the same time as the invitation and to order more than is needed.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING NOW? Many people are looking at different printing styles, such as foil and letterpress, though these options can get expensive. I have many customers who have opted for a

42 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

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Organized details and a team of experts help parents who are planning parties stay on track By Michelle Jacobson


fter months of practicing reciting prayers, studying the Torah, then leading an entire service and taking a momentous step into becoming an adult in the Jewish faith, it finally becomes time for the celebratory bash. A bar or bat mitzvah party is a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate this significant occasion through a night of dancing, food and fun. However, the task of planning and organizing the details to make the night come to life may seem overwhelming to parents. When it comes to party planning, the first step parents should take is to get rid of stressful feelings. It takes a team to put together a party, so remember that throughout the process there can be

guidance. And it’s important to make sure plans are put into place throughout each planning phase. Sue Gable, co-owner of RollHouse Entertainment, which has Northeast Ohio locations

44 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

in Mentor, Parma, Solon and Wickliffe, and Monica Dvorak, director of catering sales at The Westin Cleveland Downtown in Cleveland, offer tips to make the party planning process as seamless as possible.

They suggest it’s best to start by putting a timeline in place for the event. Divide a checklist into phases: months before the party, one week leading up to the party and the night of the party. This

RollHouse Entertainment

way, it becomes easier to arrange tasks based on when they need to be completed. Details such as number of guests and how they may be arriving to the venue are helpful considerations. Other initial decisions to arrange for include deciding on a venue and determining whether the location has a budget for food, beverage, service charge and sales tax. “Once these items are determined, begin looking for venues online that are able to accommodate the number of guests you’re anticipating,” Dvorak advises. “Once you have a list, begin calling for more detailed information, such as menus and pictures of the event space.” Collecting this information will help determine the most accommodating options. It’s suggested to plan on-site visits to the top three or five venues before making a final decision. Once a venue is selected, start organizing by putting together a binder that

includes vendor agreements and information. The team at RollHouse begins working with parents who are planning the party during a kickoff meeting, mapping out the entire night to go through the sequence of events. By first laying out details such as budget, arrival time, entertainment, Havdalah, the Hora, and the theme, planners can paint a picture of what the night will look like. “We look to get a feel for the occasion during the first meeting,” Gable says. “We take care of everything, from catering and entertainment to food options and a selection of party rooms. We offer onestop shopping for guests.”

RollHouse Entertainment RollHouse Entertainment

CONSIDER CUSTOMIZATION To make it personalized, it’s important to consider the guest of honor’s preferences. Those who are celebrating their bar or bat mitzvah should be included in the

Fall 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 45

The Westin Cleveland Downtown

The Westin Cleveland Downtown

Once these items (guest list and budget) are determined, begin looking for venues online that are able to accommodate the number of guests you’re anticipating. Once you have a list, begin calling for more detailed information, such as menus and pictures of the event space. Monica Dvorak, director of catering sales, The Westin Cleveland Downtown 46 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

process so they can make suggestions based on their hobbies, music choices and interests, along with current trends. This way, their personality can be showcased throughout the party to set it apart from others. “Create a theme and see it throughout the entire planning, from the food and beverage to décor to activities to entertainment and party favors,” Dvorak says. “Customized favors that reflect the theme of the bar or bat mitzvah are always great. It’s something unique that will be a keepsake to always remember your child’s big day.” Another way to integrate customization is through food. For instance, one menu can feature options catered toward adults, while another offers a more condensed version for kids. Serving a taco bar or macaroni bar is a way for kids to make their own meals, be interactive and incorporate their own tastes. Separate menus can also help save costs and stay on budget.

Also, accommodate for party guests of all ages by making use of the venue space. Some locations, like RollHouse, feature separate areas for the bar, dance floor and party room. Finding the right entertainment and music are also key factors. “DJs who are able to remix songs add a fun twist and live cover bands give all of your guests something to really enjoy,” Dvorak says. Be sure to consider all aspects of the party and let the team of experts use their knowledge and resources for guidance. Taking time to plan and integrate careful considerations will make for a meaningful and memorable event. “They (the bar or bat mitzvah) rehearse and practice for so many months, and you just want them to relax and enjoy the night with family and friends,” Gable says. “Incorporate details to make their event feel special and make it dedicated to them and their guests only.” BM





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Fall 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 47

Mariana Edelman Photography / Adrenaline Monkey

FACTORIES OF FUN Large-scale facilities with obstacle courses and arcades help ensure parties feature plenty of activity By Ed Carroll

Mariana Edelman Photography / Adrenaline Monkey


lot of bar and bat mitzvah planning is pretty paint-by-numbers traditional. The ceremony is almost assuredly in the same synagogue or temple the child’s family belongs to, he or she spends a lot of time practicing and preparing, and the parents planning the party are going to invite family and friends.

That party, however, is a place where creativity and uniqueness can shine – if, that is, you choose a venue that offers an array of activities. Representatives from Adrenaline Monkey in Warrensville Heights, Play Arcade + Kitchen in Mayfield Heights and Scene 75 Entertainment Center, which has a location in Brunswick, explain why the activities they offer will give any bar or bat mitzvah party a one-of-a-kind experience.

ADRENALINE MONKEY Adrenaline Monkey may sound like an entry in a high

school battle of the bands, but the indoor entertainment center features activities that could interest guests of all ages, particularly if they’re into trying something new. Adrenaline Monkey founder Denise Carkhuff says the venue was designed specifically to host large events, like a bar or bat mitzvah party, and it features American Ninja Warriorstyle obstacle courses, ranging in difficulty from easy to hard, because Carkhuff wanted the courses to be accessible to all ages and athletic abilities. There’s also an aerial rope course above the ninja courses

48 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

Mazel Tov on your big day!

The Marriott Cleveland East offers a wide variety of options for Sabbath dinners, Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations, and Sunday brunches, as well as guestroom accommodations for all of your out-of-town guests. Planning a day this special shouldn’t be left up to just anyone, but rather someone you can trust. Call 216-755-1913 to speak to one of our certified event planners who are excited to help you with all of your event needs.


26300 Harvard Road Warrensville Heights, OH

Play Arcade + Kitchen

(don’t worry, all participants in the aerial rope course are harnessed), “fun” climbing walls with modifications to allow people to compete against each other, and an arcade for when you’re too tired to participate in the more physical activities. The arcade also features four virtual reality booths with some VR games to try. Carkhuff says the inspiration for Adrenaline Monkey came from one of her twin daughters. In fact, her daughters helped design many of the facility’s activities, which she compared to the classic Tom Hanks movie, “Big.” In that movie, a young boy wishes to “be big” and wakes up as an adult (played by Hanks). He then is able to get a promotion at the toy company for which he works due to his knowledge and enthusiasm for the toys, which is, of course, because he is actually a child. “We went straight to the source,” Carkhuff says. “Children designed what we should have. In the case of my children, they’re pretty hardcore. They kept saying (about the course), ‘It needs to be harder, it needs to be harder.’ And the obstacle makers thought I was crazy, they said nobody puts a salmon ladder in the course, and my daughter said, ‘It’s on the show (‘American Ninja Warrior’), it needs to be in the course.” In addition to the activities, Adrenaline Monkey has a full menu and a liquor license and will work with local caterers to bring in outside food, though it has preferred caterers, including kosher-certified caterers, if parents can’t decide.

PLAY ARCADE + KITCHEN Play Arcade + Kitchen has a lot of games in its arcade – more than 85 of them – and there’s quite a bit of variety. When you get bored of facing your friend in the latest fighting game, you can challenge them to a frantic basketball free throw shooting competition or try to outwit five friends during a fast-paced trivia challenge, among other options. Play operating partner Darryl Margolis and events manager Kim Trenton describe the venue as “a great blend, from toddler to adult.” “I think that our venue has a distinct vibe to it,” Trenton says. “(Play) can change like a chameleon. It can change depending on the group that’s coming in, depending on what kind of mitzvah they’re looking for. We can do anything from a Western style to a very urban, cool ... kind of event. We can transform (the space) into anything you have a vision for the event.” Margolis says the building for Play is 35,000 square feet, allowing parents and adults to have fun in one part of the arcade and the kids to enjoy another section, if that’s what the planners want. He adds they’ve had families rent out the entire building for their mitzvah. Play also features a 24-foot, high-definition theater screen, which Trenton and Margolis both say is the largest screen in Northeast Ohio. It allows hosts to play anything from a video of the bar or bat mitzvah celebrant to photo slides or even the evening’s sports games. The theater is a stand-alone venue, too, if need be, so hosts can decide whether they want to rent out the theater with private access to the arcade or keep the fun in the theater area and let guests go to the arcade on their own. As evident from its name, Play Arcade + Kitchen has its own kitchen, with a full menu and a full liquor license. Unfortunately for those with dietary restrictions, Play’s kitchen is not kosher. However, Margolis says Play does partner with kosher caterers, so hosts who need kosher food have that option. “We can handle the alcohol portion on our end to keep your whole event kosher,” Trenton says.

Play Arcade + Kitchen 50 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

Scene 75 Entertainment Center SCENE 75 ENTERTAINMENT CENTER

Scene 75 Entertainment Center Scene 75 Entertainment Center

Scene 75 Entertainment Center has five locations, but only recently came to Northeast Ohio, opening in Brunswick in 2017. Though it’s likely just as much fun in the summer months, with winter fast approaching, Scene 75’s indoor activities seem like a prime way to celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah in the colder climate. Alex Zorniger, vice president of marketing, says Scene 75 has 120 arcade games, including some that allow the player to earn prize tickets, two black light mini-golf courses, an indoor Go-Kart course, indoor bumper cars, a laser tag arena, the “Vault” laser maze (think of any heist movie in the past 25 years and you likely have a good idea of what this looks like), a mini-bowling lounge, a virtual reality arcade with six units, a “4D” theater and an inflatable bounce zone for children 12 and under. But Zorniger says Scene 75 offers more than just the activities. “I think a lot of the venues that have the entertainment we have don’t necessarily have the classy area (we have) as well,” he says. “If you’re doing a bar or bat mitzvah, you want to have a ton of fun, obviously, but you also want the experience to be really nice. We have this beautiful banquet room, which we can expand to fit up to 225 people, and an (audio-visual) and lighting system. So, I think it has that feel of, ‘This is a big moment and we’re going to have a nice venue,’ and you can have all that in our banquet area, and then you can come out and have as much fun as you can handle. I think there are very few venues that put those two pieces together. Generally, you either go all fun or you go to a classy area that may not have all the entertainment.” Scene 75 has a full liquor license, and there are in-house options for food in its Food Truck Alley, which features four food trucks. If parents want kosher options, the venue will work with them to bring that into the banquet area. BM

Fall 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 51

Anthony Vazquez Photography / InterContinental Hotel


Hotel ballrooms and museum galleries both offer unique options for b’nai mitzvah receptions mitzvah receptions

Cleveland Marriott East

By Alyssa Schmitt


lanning a bar or bat mitzvah reception can be a balancing act. On one side is the guest of honor who is celebrating a major milestone and wants a party to match. On the other side are the parents — with a bank account in tow — who want something friends and family from out of town will reminisce about for years to come.

At the end of the day — and with the help from local venues — boxes on parents’ and young adults’ checklists can be crossed off. No matter

the theme, venues like these can make any reception a hit.

CLEVELAND MARRIOTT EAST There are a variety of advantages to hosting b’nai mitzvah receptions at the Marriott Cleveland East in Warrensville Heights, says Zeina Kleib, the catering sales and account manager. Guests from out of town have an option to stay in the same building as the reception, it’s close to Jewish life in Beachwood and the hotel can contract transportation options so guests don’t have to worry about finding a ride to or from the synagogue. In the time leading up to the reception, families can decide how to split up the 7,700-sqaure-foot ballroom, says Kleib. “It’s such a spacious ballroom that there’s so much that you’re able to do,” she says. “While a lot of our clients enjoy separation of the kids and

52 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

the adults ... it doesn’t mean the ballroom is separated by walls, it’s an open space.” The hotel often works with Rock the House Entertainment Group to bring in entertainment like claw machines, ice cream machines and interactive DJs who keep guests entertained by hosting games throughout the night. When it comes to food, the hotel offers family-style, foodstation and sit-down-meal serving options, all of which can be done at one event if desired. Kleib says

everyone in attendance can enjoy the style of their choice, with adults usually opting for sit-down or family-style meals and kids typically choosing serving stations. The hotel doesn’t have a kosher kitchen, but Kleib says it allows kosher caterering. To make the guest of honor stand out, Kleib says she usually sets out a special chair decorated to match the young man or woman’s party theme. She also meets with them during the planning process to understand what they envision for their event.

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MOCA Cleveland MOCA Cleveland

54 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

Those who want to get their creative juices flowing during the reception can explore options at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland in the Uptown district of the city’s University Circle neighborhood. Zakia Labib, the venue sales manager, describes it as a “moldable” space that allows for any theme to take life. “I think when you’re surrounded by art, there’s something special there,” Labib says. “What I love about this space is you can keep it as is because it is so raw and beautiful and just kind of contemporary, it speaks for itself. But then you can just transform it into whatever your wildest dreams are.” An example of one of those theme dreams at MOCA Cleveland was a carnivalthemed reception with popcorn stands and a cupcake wall. Other families turned the museum’s gift store into an ice cream bar. Labib says when dinner time rolls around, families can choose to have high-top tables for people to stand around and eat or banquet tables for a sit-down dinner. Marigold Catering and chef Douglas Katz’s fire food and drink handle catering for MOCA Cleveland, with fire providing kosher options. Families have various space options for their receptions, including renting the entire museum. Labib says that option allows for the galleries to remain open for partygoers to view. If that’s not part of a family’s plan, they can rent only the ground floor and hook up any audio and visual entertainment they need. The perk of this venue, Labib says, is it’s “not stuffy.” It appeals to nearly everyone’s visual sensibilities, which Labib says is great for kids taking selfies. “This is an open canvas,” she says. “We’re inviting you into our space, so you can create.”



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New Image Photography / InterContinental Hotel INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL

Alevtina Photography / InterContinental Hotel

InterContinental Hotel 56 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

With an 8,800-square-foot ballroom painted in a simple palette, the InterContinental Hotel in Cleveland is able to transform its area to fit any personality or theme. Fun décor and lights can set the tone and give the party a unique look while hints of elegance shine through from chandeliers hanging above. To get a feel for what a reception needs to have, Terri Kufel, director of sales and catering at the hotel, likes to meet with each young honoree to get to know them and their likes and dislikes. “We really like to try and get to know the person celebrating their bar or bat mitzvah and really understand them because this evening is all about them,” she says. For example, if the most important thing to the guest of honor is candy, Kufel will make sure the candy bar is decked out. If candy isn’t enough, the hotel has created s’more stands and crème brûlée stations for an interactive experience. It can often be hard for families to agree about what to have for dinner on an average night at home. Luckily, parents and kids can likely get exactly what they want at the InterContinental. With a mix of food stations and sit-down meals, there are options for all ages in attendance. Kosher options also are available through the hotel’s outside kosher caterers. It can be ready for a whole party or just a few guests who want kosher options. “Often, we have two different menus, one for adults (and) one for kids,” Kufel says. “For the kids’ meal, we find they like to do fun food stations, (like) grilled cheese with tomato soup shooters, (or) we look at doing a tater tot station with sliders. ... With the adults, we find we’ll do a sit-down dinner, a little higher-end gourmet. We really cater to each.” BM

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Fall 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 57


Jewelry and items relating to one’s Jewish experience are among the many meaningful mitzvah gift options By Sean McDonnell


any people want to give great gifts for someone’s bar and bat mitzvah, but those same people aren’t always sure what type of gift will make a lasting impression. Helen Fineberg, museum store manager at the Matlz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, and David Schreibman, owner of Alson Jewelers in Woodmere, are both experienced in working with gift givers to help them select just the right thing to mark a young man or woman’s special day. Fineberg says many who shop at her store are looking for a gift that relates to the Jewish journey on which the child is about to embark. “Often, this is an opportunity to buy something that’s very special and lasting,” she says. The museum store carries several items that might fit the bill, Fineberg says, including things that relate to famous Jewish people or events in Jewish history. One of the books the museum store has is “Pirkei Avot,” which is a compilation of teachings and maxims central to Judaism. Fineberg also sells several age-appropriate graphic novels that deal with the Holocaust introduction and learning. Another important thing for some gift givers, Fineberg says, is where the gift comes from. “I think for some people, it’s important to them that it’s something that has come directly from Israel,” she says. Getting a gift directly from

Israel can be special for a young person at their bar or bat mitzvah and can help connect the gift to the significance of the event. Fineberg says the perfect gift for someone depends on who they are. She says the more someone knows about the recipient, the easier it is to get them something they will remember and cherish. “I will engage (customers) in a conversation about the recipient,” Fineberg says. “If its someone they don’t know well, that presents a different kind of challenge.” The museum store at Maltz Musuem has gifts for a widerange of budgets. Fineberg says many people, like teachers or other children, get invited to a lot of mitzvahs and want to get a meaningful gift, even though they won’t want to spend as much on each person. “Try to match it with the importance of the event,” she says. “Regardless of what the budget might be.” Schreibman says many people he speaks to at Alson Jewelers place an emphasis on finding something as distinct and momentous as the occasion being celebrated. “Naturally, they want to make sure that they are buying something special to mark this important occasion in their child’s life,” he says.

58 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018

Alson Jewelers

Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage Jewelry is a popular gift for bar and bat mitzvahs, and Schreibman says Alson Jewelers has many options to match children’s varied interests. For girls, there are ageappropriate items such as cuff bracelets, colored stone rings and initial necklaces. While there aren’t as many options for boys, he says watches are a popular gift for bar mitzvahs. People sometimes also pool their money to buy jewelry, Schreibman says. “Sometimes, people will go in on a group gift,” Schreibman

says. “They’ll get three of four friends together, or aunts and uncles together, and they’ll go in on a group gift.” Schreibman says one thing that makes jewelry such a special gift is that, relatively speaking, it’s so infrequently purchased as a gift. “You don’t buy jewelry every day, or every month or every year,” he says. “So, I think when someone is buying a piece of jewelry for someone, whether it’s for a bat mitzvah or birthday or whatever the occasion may be, it’s a special gift.” BM

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Whether they spend it or save it, children can learn a lot from the financial gifts they receive By Sean McDonnell


nlike a more traditional gift, money can leave children and parents alike unsure on how to use their gifts. For many children, it is the first time they have had to manage a large sum of money and it can be an opportune time to learn about finances from their parents. Ric Rotolo, a financial consultant at The MiddleField Banking Company, which has branches through Northeast Ohio and Central Ohio, recommends teaching children about saving with their bar or bat mitzvah gifts. He says showing the child how their money can increase with different methods of investment can get the child interested in saving. “Just show them different strategies to help it grow,” Rotolo says. How someone uses his or her financial gifts depends on how long they can save it. For the long term, Rotolo says a certificate of deposit could be a good option to see higher interest rates than a typical savings account. For the short term, he recommends opening a custodial account with a parent. Rotolo says seeing a statement each month with growth will help the child

understand how interest works over time. He also says seeing their name on the statement each month can help give them a sense of pride and ownership. While putting money in a savings account won’t give the child a high return, Rotolo says for many children, this could be their first opportunity to have their own money, which can be a learning experience in itself. “They definitely sacrifice the growth potential, but they gain liquidity, they gain the access to it,” he says. While saving monetary gifts is ideal, children will want to spend some of the money they get from their big celebration. Era Griffin, senior vice president of The Huntington Private Bank, which also has locations throughout the region, says letting the child spend some of their money can be a learning lesson as well.

60 Bar•Bat Mitzvah // Fall 2018



“That’s really the lesson they should be learning is the value of the dollar and what it purchases,” she says. One helpful exercise, Griffin says, could be finding something the child wants to buy and developing a plan to save toward it. This teaches the child long-term thinking as well as the costs associated with purchasing things. “They need to be aware that there are costs involved,” she says. “So, just being open and talking about that, I feel, is important.” While thoughts on the matter differ, Griffin recommends putting at least half of the money in some kind of long-term savings. How much obviously depends on the situation and whether the child is already expected to be responsible for purchasing their own entertainment.

“But, definitely, anywhere from 20 to 50 percent should be available to the children to enjoy,” she says. When it comes time to decide on how to save cash gifts, Griffin recommends working closely with the employees at the parent’s local branch. She says it’s a good way to get the best rates and options for the child’s savings. Griffin suggests after the bar or bat mitzvah could be a good time for parents to start talking with their children about budgeting and finances. She recommends parents having conversations with the child about their own budgets so that they can see the process of budgeting and learn from it. “I think when they’re in their teens, it’s a good time to start talking about that,” she says. BM


Prices Start at $34 ~ Great Gifts!

GIFTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS at Eton 28699 Chagrin Blvd. • 216-831-4444 • Mon – Saturday 10-6:30 • Sun 12 - 5

Acacia Reservation • 26899 Cedar Rd. 216.342.4767• We also cater at Pine Ridge Country Club and Manakiki Golf Club Kosher available through Davis Catering

Fall 2018 // Bar•Bat Mitzvah 61

Bar/Bat Mitzvah of ______________________________________ Date _________________________________________ Caterer ______________________________________ Venue Location _______________________________ Party Planner/Decorator _______________________ DATE

2-3 years before _________ Contact synagogue to set date

_________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________

1 year before Begin formal bar/bat mitzvah lessons Discuss community or mitzvah project Determine budget If the ceremony will be in Israel, find travel agent who can arrange location and rabbi Find vendors: videographer/photographer, party planner, caterers, DJ, band, florist, venues Contact hotels and decide where to book blocks of rooms Create list of out-of-towners to be invited Send save-the-date reminders

10 months before _________ Have bar/bat mitzvah child meet party planner, if using one, to give input on decorations 8 months before _________ Create guest list with complete addresses 7 months before _________ Begin to look at invitations _________ Decide on wording for invitations _________ Decide arrangements to transport kids to and from party

_________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________

6 months before Order invitations, thank-you notes Create maps, directions sheets Pick calligraphy style for envelopes Order yarmulkes Find child’s tallit Begin to plan menu

4 months before _________ Weigh invitation at post office _________ Choose and purchase postage stamps

DJ/Band/Entertainment _______________________ Photographer ________________________________ Videographer ________________________________ Hotel Block __________________________________ DATE

3 months before _________ Take invitations to calligrapher, print mailing labels _________ Discuss valet _________ Decide on hotel room gift bags for out-of-town guests _________ Select clothing for family members _________ Finalize menu _________ Decide on centerpieces and sign-in board 2 months before _________ Mail out-of-town invitations _________ Make hair appointments for family for the week before the event 6 weeks before _________ Mail in-town invitations

_________ _________ _________ _________ _________

4 weeks before Reconfirm with service providers Put together seating plan Have child practice speech out loud Set up rehearsal time with synagogue Put together gift baskets for out-of-town guests

3 weeks before _________ Work with caterer on floor plan and plan agenda for the event 2 Tuesdays before _________ Order any necessary kosher dinners 2 Wednesdays before _________ Assign tables _________ Personalize gift bags, if desired Weekend before _________ Finalize guest count/seating as best you can Monday before _________ Finalize seating cards Day before _________ Deliver gift bags to hotels


Bar/Bat Date _____ Mitzvah __________ of _____ Caterer __________ __________ __________ Venue __________ __________ __________ Locat __________ __________ ______ Party Plann ion __________ ___ DJ/Band/En ________ __________ er/Decorato _____ r _____ Photograph tertainment DATE __________ ______ __________ Videograph er __________ ________ __________ __________ _________ 2-3 years befor ___ Hotel Block er __________ __________ e Contact __________ __________ __ synagogue __________ __________ to set date DATE __________ __ ____ _________ 1 year befor e _________ 3 months befor _________ Begin formal e Take invitat bar/bat ions to calligra mitzvah _________ Discuss comm lessons unity or _________ print mailing pher, Determ mitzva labels _________ ine h projec _________ Discuss valet If the cerembudget t Decide ony on hotel _________ agent who can will be in Israel, room gift guests find arrange _________ bags for travel Find vendo out-of-town rs: videog location and rabbi _________ Select clothin rapher/phot g for family _________ party planne r, catere ographer, _________ Finalize menu members Contact rs, DJ, band, hotels and Decide florist, venue on center decide _________ blocks of rooms where to pieces and s book sign-in board _________ Create list of _________ 2 months befor Send save-t out-of-towners e to be invited he-date _________ Mail out-of-town reminders invitat Make hair appointment ions _________ 10 months before the s for family Have bar/ba before event for the week t mitzva planner, h child if using meet party _________ 6 weeks befor one, to decorations give input e Mail in-tow on n invitat ions 8 mont _________ hs befor _________ 4 weeks befor e Create guest e list with _________ Reconfirm with complete service addresses _________ Put together seating providers _________ 7 months befor _________ Have child practic plan e _________ Begin to look e speech at invitat _________ Set up rehear out Decid loud ions _________ e on wordin Put togeth sal time with synago g Decide er gift basket gue arrangemen for invitations s for out-of from party ts to transp -town guests ort kids _________ 3 weeks befor to and e Work with caterer on _________ 6 months befor for the event floor plan e and plan _________ Order invitat agenda ions, thank_________ Create maps, you notes directions _________ 2 Tuesdays befor _________ Pick calligraphy sheets e Order any style for necessary _________ Order yarmu envelopes kosher dinner lkes _________ Find child’s tallit s _________ 2 Wednesday Begin to s befor plan menu e _________ Assign tables Personalize gift bags, _________ 4 months befor if desired e _________ Weigh invitat ion at post _________ Weekend befor Choose office and purch e Finalize guest count/ ase postag e stamp seating s as best you can _________ Monday befor e Finalize seating cards _________

Day befor e Deliver gift bags to



Your bar/bat mitzvah will sparkle at InterContinental Cleveland. From our glamorous event space to our luxurious guest rooms and prestigious catering services, we will make sure that every detail of your event is perfect and flawlessly executed.

Live the InterContinental life.

Contact our Catering and Events team at 216.707.4168 or by visiting @InterConCLE

Left photo © New Image Photography Right photo © Dennis Crider Photography

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