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mt! a jewish journal B’nai Mitzvah Guide May 2016

Social media in the mix B’not mitzvah at the kotel 10 cutting-edge vendorS

mazel tov!

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| MAY 2016 | MAZEL TOV!

How your mitzvah project can help with California’s ongoing drought crisis.

Let’s hear it for Treekun Olam. Trees can repair the world. And with California still recovering from severe drought conditions despite recent rains, we could use some repair. Trees are the most vital resource for environmental well-being in urban areas. While it may seem counter-intuitive to irrigate trees in a water crisis, it is the single most important thing to do. Trees actually are key to a sufficient local water supply in Los Angeles. When it rains, a mature tree can capture thousands of gallons of rainwater in its canopy and root zone, sinking that rain into the aquifer. When it doesn’t rain, trees shade and cool our city by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. People need trees, and trees need people. Find out how you can join TreePeople for your mitzvah project, and make a positive impact in our state’s ongoing water shortage. Email or call 818-623-4879.

MAZEL TOV! | MAY 2016 |



a jewish journal b’nai Mitzvah guide MaY 2016



Don’t Call It a Mitzvah Project


Instant Gratification


Community Spirit

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Standing Tall What’s a Parent To Do? 10 Party Vendors You Need to Know About


Beyond the Ballroom


Read All About It


Put the Project In Perspective


Wardrobe Change!

Rob Eshman Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

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Editorial Executive Editor Susan Freudenheim associate Editor Ryan E. Smith assistant Editor Anita K. Kantrowitz Copy Editors Melissa Weller, Linda Whitmore, Chris Woldt ProduCtion art director Lynn Pelkey Graphic designer Paul Takizawa Production assistant Carol Kaufman

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don’t call it a mitzvah project GreGory Gasmer is fulfilled by his “mitzvah exchanGe” at vista del mar by Claudia Boyd-Barrett


hen Gregory Gasmer began volunteering at a weekly religious studies program at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services for kids with special needs, it was not for a typical mitzvah project. It was a “mitzvah exchange.” Rabbi Jackie Redner, director of the program, suggested that Gregory enroll in the class and attend just like a regular student — and not just for a week or two, but for several months. This way, the students wouldn’t feel like they’re part of someone’s “project” and he could learn just as much from the other students as they would from him. “He’s a peer. He helps by modeling, he helps by being supportive, he helps by being present,” she said. “He’s really become part of our community, and not as a volunteer but as a member. I think that’s really unique, that’s very different and very special to us.” Gregory, 13, who became a bar mitzvah at Sinai Temple last October and who lives with his family in Beverly Hills, began attending the weekly classes in January of last year, serving as a buddy and mentor to teenagers with severe autism and other special needs. Called Nes Gadol, the program meets every Monday afternoon and provides the children with multi-sensory bar and bat mitzvah training through songs, movement, stories, dance and art. The now-seventh-grade student continues to participate in the classes, helping to model correct responses and behavior, and building friendships with the other teenagers in the class. He said he was shocked at first by how the students acted because he wasn’t used to being around people with severe disabilities. They would

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scream and get angry easily, and have difficulty controlling their emotions and their bodies, he said. “If it’s your first time experiencing this, it’s really hard to understand,” Gregory said. “The first few times I was freaked out; I had no idea why they were doing those things. … But once you get to know them, it’s really just not that weird anymore.” Under the guidelines from his temple for his mitzvah project, Gregory could have limited his undertaking to just five hours, his mother Cami Gasmer said. But she and her husband, Morris Gasmer, wanted their son to do something truly meaningful that would have a long-term impact on his outlook and character. “We wanted it to be something he could really get something heartfelt from,” she said. “Morris and I really wanted him to do something that would change his life forever.” Already a bright and compassionate young man, Gregory had taken an interest in helping a mildly autistic student in his sixth-grade class at El Rodeo School. So when his mother suggested he do his mitzvah project at Vista Del Mar, Gregory jumped at the idea. As the weeks went by, Gregory said he changed from being scared of the students’ behavior to admiring their underlying intelligence and talents. He said he realized that, despite disabilities that prevent many of them from speaking and even walking, many of the students are remarkably smart. One student, he said, drew “the greatest drawing I have ever seen.” Another wrote a heartfelt speech in minutes, which Gregory said was better than anything he himself could write in two hours. “They don’t look like they’re smarter than you, but actually they’re

Gregory Gasmer’s “mitzvah exchange” at Vista Del Mar involves attending a weekly religious studies program for kids with special needs. Photos by Laura Starks

smarter than you but in a different area,” Gregory said. “They don’t have control of their bodies, but their brains are out of this world.” After his bar mitzvah at Sinai Temple, Gregory and his family organized a smaller bar mitzvah service and celebration at Vista Del Mar in November. As part of the service,

Gregory was called to the Torah as a bar mitzvah in front of the Nes Gadol students, and they also joined him on the bimah. After the service, the family sponsored a catered kosher dinner with various food stations and an ice cream truck. That was followed by an outdoor dance party

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Gregory, center, had a second, smaller bar mitzvah service at Vista Del Mar, where he was joined by Nes Gadol students on the bimah.

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Ben DiStefano, Macey O’Kelley and Rachel O’Kelley take part in the service.

with a DJ. More than 130 people attended the event, Redner said, including the Nes Gadol students and their families, teenagers in a residential program at Vista Del Mar, Gregory’s family and friends from his school. At the end of the event, the Gasmers donated dozens of pieces of new

sports equipment and shoes to Vista Del Mar, which had been part of the display for his original bar mitzvah and for the party. “That was amazing,” said Harri O’Kelley, the mother of three children in the Nes Gadol program who See vista del mar on page 30 MAZEL TOV! | May 2016 | MAZEL TOV! | MAY 2016 |

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Instant gratification Social media iS playing a growing role in b’nai mitzvah partieS — and beyond by OREN PELEG


n the age of likes, shares and posts, social media has been embraced as a valuable platform of connectivity. Everyone is invited to the party to share political views, cat videos, baby pics, vacation pics — even babieson-vacation pics. If you want engagement, then use social media — it’s a lesson that has been learned by political campaigns, television networks, corporations and, yes, bar and bat mitzvah kids. “We get calls all the time with people saying, ‘We want this to be the party of the year,’ ” said Laurie Camacho, owner of Party Planners LA. These days, she told the Journal, that means pimping out b’nai mitzvah parties with help from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more. “Everything is, how custom can you get it? They want everything to be very customized so that it’s different from what guests would normally see,” Camacho said. One popular means of doing this now involves employing a photo booth where kids take selfies that can be uploaded to their Instagram or Facebook accounts, then projected on a live feed at the reception, Camacho said. The local party planner also has been commissioned to design customized logos that can be featured on Instagram posts, paperless invitations, Snapchat stories and geofilters, or just decor at the venue. The price tag on packages involving photo booths and customized logos Camacho offers starts at around $950 and can go up to nearly $4,000. “It’s a big thing right now — very trendy, for sure,” she said. Sheri Lapidus, a New Yorkbased public relations executive who created the online resource

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| may 2016 | mazEL tOv! | MAY 2016 | MAZEL TOV! in 2010 after planning her daughter’s bat mitzvah and failing to find adequate information, said another trend involves a social media twist on the tradition of sign-in books. Instead of a paper book, some kids now have an iPad or tablet with a stylus that guests can use to write messages that will be displayed on a projected live feed. It’s no longer a book with messages to be read later — it’s for everyone to see right then and there. “We had one at my daughter’s bat mitzvah in 2010. Now it has come much further,” Lapidus said. “The stylus boards are branded with logos sometimes. It’s all much more advanced now.” Ryan Kashanthi, 13, who attends Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, celebrated his bar mitzvah last month at Chabad of Bel Air. While he didn’t have a photo booth at his party, that didn’t stop people from posting their own pictures. He was delighted to see all the moments from his party that ended up on Instagram and Snapchat. “It was cool that people enjoyed my party so much that they’d want it to be something on their Instagram,” he said. “It kind of keeps the party going, too. There’s that lasting memory of it online.” Another bonus is that using social media can enable people not in attendance to partake, in a way. Family or friends who couldn’t make it can get a glimpse of the scene and feel included. That said, making the event public can potentially lead to hurt feelings, too, Kashanthi said. “The one downside that affects me the most is that when people see that they’re not invited, people can get offended,” he said. The impact of social media on a bar or bat mitzvah can go far beyond

the big day itself. It can unite people to a cause. Just ask Lisa Kodimer, who started Good Deeds in Motion, a Calabasas-based company that creates customized projects to help people in the community find ways to give back, after the success of her older son Jake’s bar mitzvah project, a special needs baseball program called Jake’s Dream Team. “Kids want to give back but they don’t know how,” Kodimer said. “We help kids do something that’ll be more than just a one-day thing. Our hope is that they’ll hold onto it and this will become part of their passion as they grow older.” According to Kodimer, who does a lot of work with bar and bat mitzvah projects, the power of social media and networking has broadened the scope of what kids can accomplish, particularly in the realm of fundraising. “We offer our client a webpage. There’s no hosting fee and kids have it for the rest of their lives. The webpage can connect to a kid’s Facebook. It really helps get the word out and creates an audience,” she said. Kodimer uses her own active social media presence to help recruit volunteers to causes born out of the minds of her bar and bat mitzvah clients. When one of her clients began teaming with a gym to start a special needs gymnastics program, a steady influx of volunteers came as a result of Kodimer’s social networking efforts. “We have gotten so many calls about teens who want to volunteer,” she said. “We’re able to fill most of that need through social networking. We utilize the Good Deeds in Motion webpage, my personal page,

the social media page of the gym. It’s amazing.” Kodimer’s younger son, Kamden, who celebrated his bar mitzvah in Jerusalem in December, has raised $1,500 so far for his bar mitzvah project, Cupcakes and Wishes, a series of pop-up cupcake sales whose proceeds benefit

birthday celebrations for hospitalized children. Kam-den’s efforts have spurred others to contribute to the cause and help with cupcake sales of their own. He sees a bright future for his volunteer venture and figures social media can help. “We’re going to be starting an

Instagram page to try to get more volunteers because that’s what more of the kids are using today,” the 13-year-old Hale Charter School student said. “I feel like it’ll really help a lot. We’re trying to go national, and that’s the best way to spread the word.” MT MAZEL TOV! | May 2016 | MAZEL TOV! | MAY 2016 |

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Community spirit What I got — and stIll have — from my bar mItzvah, 50 years later by EDMON J. RODMAN


s the 50th anniversary of my bar mitzvah approached in February, I began to ask myself if it left any lasting marks. Five decades after turning 13, I still had the tallit and a pop culture museum piece — a half-used bottle of Jade East, a strongly scented cologne popular with teenage boys at the time — to remind me of the day the Jewish community said I was a man. But what else did I have? My bar mitzvah took place in Temple Beth Emet, a suburban Orange County synagogue located just down the street from Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, and I wondered if anything, magical or not, remained of the day. Certainly, history remembers the time: Held in 1966, it was when the Vietnam War heated up under our commander in chief, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and both the Gemini 10 spacecraft and TV show “Star Trek” were launched. Looking into my personal time capsule, however, there was no drama or trauma during the two days of services (Friday night and Saturday morning). There was no stage fright or teen rebelliousness, though weeks before the event, I do recall losing an argument with my father over his insistence that I wear a red sport coat to the bar mitzvah party. I remember that my service, speech and haftarah reading (from Edmon J. Rodman writes for several publications and news services from his home in Los Angeles and maintains the award-winning blog Guide for the Jewplexed. He is a founder of the Movable Minyan, a chavurah-style, independent congregation.

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Isaiah) were uneventful, with the only memorable thing being the congregation laughing from the “ick” face I made after drinking a little wine after leading the Friday night Kiddush. And

when a Jewish woman did not have a bat mitzvah) and my father (who had an adult bar mitzvah about 10 years after mine) each made a big deal about who I should thank at the end of the

The author before his bar mitzvah in 1966. Photo courtesy of Edmon Rodman

I still have some vinyl that I received as a gift — two copies of the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” album! Like any good bar mitzvah boy, I thanked everyone at the end of my speech — the rabbi, Aaron Tofield, and the cantor, Philip Moddel, for teaching me, and my family and friends for showing up. I remember that in preparing my speech, the rabbi, my mother (who grew up in a time

speech. The message being: “Don’t leave anyone out.” Back then, I thought it was a polite, adult thing, even though many kids rush through it because it sounds like the credits. Today, I understand it as the genesis of my understanding of the importance of community. See, those months leading up to my debut as a Jewish man taught me more than the basic liturgy and how to

wrap tefillin. What I really came away with — in addition to a Cross pen — was a budding appreciation for Jewish communal life. When my bar mitzvah class and the vinyl recording of my cantor singing my haftarah failed to clear my confusion on the finer points of leading the Musaf service, a friend sat down and tutored me. When it was time for Shabbat morning services on the big day, my parents came forth to wrap me in a tallit, and when I chanted my Torah blessings, the congregation affirmed them with a solid, “Amen.” When it was time to celebrate, synagogue members shared a Kiddush at the shul, and later, friends and family visited us at home. Yes, there were gifts and checks, but a 13-year-old doesn’t completely understand is that the sharing of resources is community, too — another way of showing love. What a newly minted “man” like me could understand was that my community had showed up. They were there to kvell, pat me on the back, wish me “Mazel tov!” and tell me what a great kid I was. They were there to welcome me into their world. Some might say the bar or bat mitzvah experience, especially the excessive parties in the ’60s, contributed to the creation of the Me Generation, which tended to emphasize the individual over community. But at my bar mitzvah celebration, I discovered a better balance between the two. On that day, I discovered I had a tribe, and that I was now a member with communal responsibilities who was expected to grow. The community had watched me come of age and now was celebrating that passage. What could be more reassuring? Or welcoming? As I ponder this 50 years later, I wonder what possibly could leave a longer-lasting mark — that is, besides having to wear that red sport coat? MT

Standing tall

Although secular, Alina Brenner and her daughter Dana Brenner decided to celebrate Dana’s bat mitzvah with WOW at the Kotel. Photo by Danielle Shitrit

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Women of the Wall keeps pushing for b’not mitzvah at the kotel by MICHELE CHABIN


hen Alina Brenner began to plan her daughter Dana’s bat mitzvah, she considered throwing a party at a synagogue near their home in the Tel Aviv suburb of Hod HaSharon. Then Brenner had second thoughts. “We wanted Dana to feel a connection to Judaism,” and having only a party felt like something was missing, she said, noting that her family is secular and unaffiliated but that being Jewish is important to them. Then Brenner heard that the feminist prayer group Women of the Wall (WOW) organizes b’not mitzvah in the women’s section of the Western Wall. “We wanted the bat mitzvah to be special, and coming to Jerusalem and having an aliyah to the Torah at the Kotel is very, very special,” Brenner said, using the Hebrew term for the Wall. It also can be unnerving, given that, since WOW was established in 1998, ultra-Orthodox worshippers at the Wall often have staged protests against WOW’s monthly prayer services, where many of the female participants wear prayer shawls and sometimes tefillin and kippot. While the group has experienced periods of calm over the years, some Charedi Jews who oppose the group’s practices at the Kotel have disrupted WOW’s prayers by throwing rocks, plastic chairs and water bombs. Charedi women have been known to shout at WOW participants or blow whistles during services. Although there were several years when WOW held morning services at the Wall and then moved to nearby Robinson’s Arch (the southern Wall) to read from a Torah, the group has conducted both services at the Wall’s women’s section since late 2012, sometimes with a smuggled Torah scroll and other times with a Chumash, a book containing the

Five Books of Moses and the weekly Torah portions. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the ultra-Orthodox rabbi who dictates policy at the Wall, has long banned Torah scrolls from the women’s section, arguing that women’s Torah reading violates longstanding “local custom” at the holy site and offends Charedi worshippers. Last year, a group of feminists petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to order Rabinovitch to allow women to have Torah scrolls at the state-funded holy site. The case is pending. WOW has vowed to continue to pray in the Kotel’s women’s section until the Israeli government follows through on its January commitment to create an official, government-funded, pluralistic prayer space. The plans for the prayer space — which follow two years of negotiations between the Israeli government, representatives of the Jewish Federations of North America, the Reform and Conservative movements in the U.S. and Israel, and WOW — may not become a reality because Charedi lawmakers have threatened to bring down the government if the plans move forward. Anat Hoffman, WOW’s chairwoman, said that until three years ago, Israeli police sometimes detained and even arrested some WOW activists for wearing prayer shawls, which the group sells to raise funds, and tefillin. Not surprisingly, she said, “Most parents didn’t want their children exposed to this and requests to have a bat mitzvah with WOW naturally subsided.” That changed on April 25, 2013, when the Jerusalem District Court ruled the government has no authority to arrest women for breaching local custom at a holy place. From then on, the police have protected WOW during its monthly Rosh Chodesh (beginning of See wow on page 14 MAZEL TOV! | May 2016 | MAZEL TOV! | MAY 2016 |

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~ Tutoring sessions are available with Rabbi-Cantor Didi in both the South Bay and LA ~ Bar and Bat Mitzvah services are available in the Synagogue or at the location of your choosing ~ 1 day per week Religious School is available for grades K-8 ~ Opportunities to lead prayers are available during Shabbat Services

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Irena Lutt and her daughter Sasha Lutt display the certificate WOW gives to all girls and women who have their bat mitzvahs with WOW. Photo by Miriam Alster

Ultra-Orthodox leaders bussed in thousands of Charedi schoolgirls to prevent WOW from praying in the women’s section of the Kotel, so Devorah Leff read from the Torah in the plaza behind the women’s section. Photo by Tanya Hoffman

WOW Continued from page 13 the month) prayers. The court’s ruling was just in time for the bat mitzvah of Devorah Leff, whose American-Israeli parents have been bringing her to WOW prayer sessions from a young age. Barry Leff, Devorah’s father and a Conservative rabbi, acknowledged there was “a huge amount of tension” the day of the bat mitzvah.

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“It was right after the court’s decision and the Charedim were really trying to take on WOW. They had bussed in thousands of yeshiva girls that day, into the women’s section,” to try to prevent WOW from praying, he said. The women’s section was so packed, the group was forced to hold services, including the bat mitzvah, in the plaza behind the women’s section. “The police set up metal barriers to protect us. Some Charedim threw water See wow on page 32

What’s a parent to do? there are many ways for parents to grow alongside their children before a bar or bar mitzvah by Rabbi Jon HanisH


concerned parent once stopped me in the hall of the temple and said, “Rabbi, I have a couple of questions about my daughter’s bat mitzvah service and I wanted to ...” I heard the stress in his voice and interrupted him with the words, “It will all be fine. Don’t worry, I’ve led a couple of services over the course of my career.” “Good for you,” he replied sarcastically. “But I haven’t.” He was right. My level of comfort had nothing to do with his. At that moment, I realized that the goal isn’t for me to be comfortable, but for parents and their children to feel fully immersed in the b’nai mitzvah process so that they feel comfortable. I know what I am doing because I have done it so many times before, but for parents, this experience is limited to the number of children in their family. Clergy often wrestle with the question of how to integrate parents into this process, and every synagogue has its own way of going about it. At Temple Kol Tikvah, we have expanded the b’nai mitzvah experience from one day to four years. Starting in fourth grade — three years prior to b’nai mitzvah — our B’nai Mitzvah Revolution program gathers our fourth-graders and their parrabbi Jon Hanish is the senior clergy at Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills. He is the chairman of the West Valley Rabbinic Task Force and sits on the executive committee of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.


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ents for a family program that focuses on the importance of l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation). Over the course of the next three years, we run family programs focusing on biblical heroes, tikkun olam (healing the world), stress and tzitzit (yes, we connect these ideas), conflict resolution and tefillin, the Torah, bullying, teen suicide prevention, and drug and alcohol abuse. All of these programs include parents. This multiyear process focusing on a young person’s maturation provides parents with opportunities to reflect with their children on a variety of topics. The goal is for every parent to understand that their child is transitioning into a young adult, and that every parent needs to have conversations about topics that weren’t appropriate when the child was younger. Prior to the creation of these programs, many parents only focused on the party; now they focus on their child’s transition and maturation. The parents’ participation in this process is not limited to these sessions. Last year, we instituted a ‘’parents only” event. Here, we review the Torah blessings and, more important, we discuss the comments that parents will share with their children on the big day. We call these comments a charge, not a speech. As part of this program, we ask the parents to list three characteristics that define their child and two stories that embody these characteristics. We have them share these characteristics and stories with one another. Then we teach them the “Ten Commandments” of writing a charge: See parents on page 33

From left: B.J., Cynthia, Danielle and Julien Deculus with a Torah at their home, a pre-b’nai mitzvah tradition at Temple Kol Tikvah. Photo by Gricela Cota

at Temple Beth Am

Š 2015

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10 party vendors you need to know about by LesLee KomaiKo

Poem Store poet Jacqueline Suskin creates personalized poems for party guests. Photo by Shelby Duncan

Caption TK

Photo by Scot Rubin


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oping to wow your bar or bar mitzvah party guests with something different? You’re in luck: Los Angeles is home to myriad unique vendors, so you have plenty of choices. How about a sugar sculptor, or a poet who pens custom verse? Read on to learn about these and eight other sure-fire crowd pleasers. Prices vary depending on number of guests, date, time, length of event, party location and package. Call vendors for details. Seed Floral Seed Interactive, part of West Hollywood’s Seed Floral, brings gorgeous fresh blooms to parties — displayed on an elegant cart equipped with supplies and tools — and helps guests create custom, wearable designs, what owner Stephanie Elhay-

ani calls “floral bling.” Among the options are wristlets, rings, crowns, even boutonnieres. And yes, the boys participate, too. Another option popular with both boys and girls is DIY terrariums using air plants (plants that thrive without soil), succulents, moss, rocks and crystals. Time Machine Slow-Motion Video Booth Time Machine specializes in branded slow-motion videos of your party guests. Typically, one to five people are filmed at a time. Whether they are making silly faces, playing catch or merely gesturing to each other, it’s amazing how funny 1.5 seconds of action becomes when stretched out to a 15-second video, complete with music. Guests receive the videos on their phones immedi-

Liquid nitrogen ice cream makers are available for parties through Nitropod. Photos by Scot Rubin

ately. A party logo or name can be included, as well. And, it’s not just the teenagers who get into the action. Co-owner Ryan Darton said it’s “definitely a good time for the grandmas all the way down to the kids.” Shan the Candy Man Imagine a sculptor working deftly before your eyes, fashioning roses and hummingbirds, unicorns and fantastic dragons. Now imagine that sculptor working in vivid hues of molten corn syrup — it dries into glossy hard candy — and you’ll have an idea of the ancient Japanese art that Shan Ichiyanagi has been practicing for 42 years. He attaches his edible works of art to lollipop sticks. But they are so pretty that most recipients hang on to them for a few days before taking a bite.

Nitropod Everyone likes ice cream, but Nitropod doesn’t serve everyday ice cream. They make ice cream using liquid nitrogen before guests’ eyes. “Instead of freezing over hours, we freeze ice cream fresh in seconds,” owner Scot Rubin said. The result, he added, is a “very dense, creamy, smooth product.” And because the process results in waves of cold vapor akin to smoke — the nitrogen burning off — there’s an element of magic. Hosts typically choose four of the some three dozen flavors available, perhaps salted caramel, wild strawberry, French toast and mochaccino with chocolatecovered espresso beans. Nitropod also offers vegan options. A newer offering is frozen popcorn — See vendors on page 20

Nitropod offers popcorn frozen with liquid nitrogen, too.

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vendors Continued from page 19 popped popcorn dunked in nitrogen and served in festive paper cones. Kids go crazy for it because when they eat it, cold vapor shoots out of their nose and mouth. “We call it dragon’s breath popcorn,” Rubin said. Poem Store Los Angeles-based Jacqueline Suskin, of Poem Store, sets up at parties with a 1950s Hermes Rocket typewriter. When guests approach, she asks them for a subject, and then she types a quick poem for them on a small slip of paper. The whole interaction takes only two or three minutes. At bar and bat mitzvahs — she has done several for kids who are passionate about literature — she often gets requests for poems on growth or transformation. But she has penned poems on “anything from Kanye West to my mother’s

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birthday,” she said. “One of the nice things about it: It’s a simple setup and guests have something to take home with them to commemorate the event.” yoursubjectyourprice. com Flipbook Frenzy Flipbook Frenzy creates flipbooks on the spot for your guests. Typically, two to four guests at a time go before the camera to run in place or dance or jump up and down — any kind of action they’d like (coowner Nick Melikian said a popular one among teenagers is to pretend to wallop one another, Popeye-style). Flipbook Frenzy also provides props, such as hats and wigs. The group is recorded in action for seven seconds, and within a few minutes, each person gets a 60-page flipbook the size of a business card capturing those seven seconds. The covers can be customized to reflect the theme of the event. One of the packages offered includes a video montage for the client of all of the seven-second

recordings. It’s a fun complement to the typical formal bar or bat mitzvah video.

Urban Hoops, a four-player popUrban Hoops, a four-player pop-a-shot a-shot game from Interactive game from Interactive Entertainment Entertainment Group. Group. Photo courtesy of Interactive Photo courtesy of Interactive Entertainment Group Entertainment

Gimme A Hint! Trivia Game Show Gene Jones is a cross between a fast-talking game show host and comedian. And though he’s been doing his live, interactive game show at parties since 1986, he said he stays current with what young people are listening to and watching. So he can fire off questions about Justin Bieber or the latest blockbuster movie like nobody’s business. Or if the crowd seems more enthusiastic about math and history, he’ll do that. “With kids, I change subjects very rapidly,” he said. He also can include trivia about the mitzvah child. He hands out halfdollar coins for each correct answer, which participants can exchange for $2 bills at the end of the show (if they get enough correct answers). People can request hints — thus the company name — when they are stumped.

Interactive Entertainment Group One of the biggest trends in parties right now is glow — on anything and everything. Interactive Entertainment Group has lots of games that glow, including an LED pingpong table and a giant foosball extreme table, or as described on its website, “foosball on steroids.” This LED-lit game allows 16 players to compete at once. The company even offers an enormous, life-size Lite-Brite. But not everything in the collection glows. Sporty kids will love Urban Hoops, a four-player pop-a-shot game complete with electronic scoreboard. Wipeout! is a massive inflatable resembling a wave, in which two players compete on mechanical surfboards — perfect for beachthemed parties and terrific fun for participants and onlookers alike. Hollywood Candy Girls Keeping with the glow theme, how about glow-in-the-dark cotton candy?

Well, technically the cotton candy itself doesn’t glow; it is spun on rainbow LED sticks. Still, the effect is completely beguiling. If that’s not enough, Hollywood Candy Girls can also add edible glitter. You can even choose custom cotton candy flavors such as bubble gum, banana or blue raspberry. If cotton candy isn’t your thing, Jackie Sorkin and her team offer kosher candy stations as well as caramel- and candy-apple bars, where guests can make their own apple-on-astick treats with plenty of colorful topping choices. hollywoodcandygirls. com Couture Airbrush Artist Vince Osborne and his staff create personalized T-shirts, caps, socks, tote bags — you name it — in their signature graffiti style. They can add a design to fit the party’s theme or work within a color scheme. It makes a great keepsake of your child’s special day, and one that their friends actually want to use after the party is over. MT

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Beyond the ballroom by elyse Glickman

Warner Bros. Studios offers a number of themed outdoor backlot sets.


| may 2016 | mazel tov!

need a change in party pace? check out these exciting socal locales!


hemed bar and bat mitzvah celebrations built around a teen’s personality and interests have long been popular. Another trend has been destination bar or bat mitzvahs, where families hold the event at a meaningful site in another state or country. But there is a middle ground between trying to personalize a local ballroom and undertaking the herculean effort of a family pilgrimage: finding a local venue that is out of the ordinary. And when it comes to attractions — especially in the worlds of cinema, science and history — Los Angeles has an embarrassment of riches, many of which can provide the right setting for an out-of-this-world, coming-of-age celebration. As with any venue, proper planning is a must — from securing dates and creating a budget, to making sure the venue is a good fit for your family. Here are some recommendations and contacts to get you started. Happy hunting!

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County If your teen’s interest in prehistory, science or wildlife runs deeper than the silver screen versions (i.e. “Jurassic Park,” “The Jungle Book”), the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park can transform his or her celebration into an exciting journey. Incredible backdrops for larger events include the Oschin Family Hall of African Mammals and the North American Mammal Hall, with their life-size habitat dioramas, and the Grand Foyer, where the iconic “Dueling Dinosaurs” (triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex) keep a close eye on the action. Event packages, which range from $10,000 to $17,500, include an event manager, use of or access to multiple rooms, parking, and a one-year membership in the museum’s premier group of benefactors. While the museum provides a list of food vendors providing kosher-style options, the list also includes Thank Goodness It’s Sophia (, which uses a fully kashrut kitchen for food preparation, making it a good option for more observant families. 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, contact Jesse Schoeffling at (213) 763-3308 or

The Los Angeles Zoo Is a safari at the top of your bucket list? The L.A. Zoo can provide the next best thing for bar and bat mitzvah families. One of the most enchanting areas for a party is Elephants of Asia, which seats between 450 and 650 people; the rental fee is $5,000 for an evening. More intimate settings include the Cambodia Pavilion, a Southeast Asian-inspired space overlooking the elephant habitat (seating for 50: $2,200); the Stilt House, a space surrounded by jungle greenery adjacent to the Rainforest of the Americas section (seating for 80: $2,500); and Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains, graced with giraffes and other African wildlife (daytime seating for 150: $1,000; evening seating for 250: $2,200). Packages include zoo admission, tickets for daytime events, security, custodial staff, linens and other incidentals. Menu packages are as diverse as the animal kingdom itself. “The Taste of the Wild” includes a sandwich and salad buffet or build-your-own-burger arrangement ($18 per adult; $13 per child) and dinner buffet ($42 per adult; $25.95 per child). Observant families can opt for catering from Got See venues on page 24

Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier Photo courtesy of Pacific Park

The Globe Theatre at Universal Studios can offer a customized marquee.

Moulin Rouge-themed bat mitzvah at the Globe Theatre

Graffiti-themed party at the Globe Theatre

MAZEL TOV! | MAY 2016 |


venues Continued from page 23 Kosher? ( Optional add-on activities (for an additional charge) include an Animal Walkabout, face painting and a caricature artist. 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles. For more information, contact Cathy Walker, manager of private and corporate events, at (323) 644-4781. Pacific Park on the Santa monica Pier Opened in 1996, Pacific Park is the first amusement park to exist on the Santa Monica Pier since the 1930s. The two-acre park boasts classic fun with 12 amusement park rides and 14 midway games, along with an over-the-ocean food plaza featuring favorites like cotton candy and ice cream. The Park’s 3,600-square-foot Event Pavilion accommodates from 100 to 300 guests. The pavilion has a minimum fee of $12,000 to rent the space, which includes everything

needed for a complete carnival experience. Packages start at $55 per person and include use of the pavilion for up to four hours, unlimited barbecue buffet for 1 1/2 hours, bottled waters and canned sodas, an unlimited ride wristband, $10 in game play “money,” an event manager to assist on site, and a grounds crew to set up and break down the area. For larger groups of up to 1,500 people, the entire park can be rented. “Buy Out” proposals are customized for each event and can include catering, bar service, unlimited rides, game play, popcorn, cotton candy, funnel cakes, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf drinks, classic photo booths and more. Outside kosher catering can be brought in. Pacific Park also has a list of recommended on-site vendors. Parking is in a city-owned lot; rates vary between $6 and $15 depending on the season and day of the week, and may increase during special pier events. Contact the city of Santa Monica at (310) 458-8295. See venues on page 31

Battleship USS Iowa

The Los Angeles Zoo

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read all about it These young adulT works bring new meaning To The people of The book by Lisa siLverman


hile there are many excellent young adult novels with Jewish characters, some of which mention a bar or bat mitzvah, there are probably fewer than a dozen that tackle the subject directly. Those that do usually take the young protagonist on a journey of personal growth that mirrors his or her newfound knowledge of what it is to be a young adult with a Jewish identity. Here are five worth picking up. The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah by Nora Raleigh Baskin Simon and Schuster, 2008

Middle school angst meets intermarriage in this short but engaging book for kids ages 10-12. Caroline is a preteen who hasn’t really thought of herself as any religion because her parents — Jewish mother, Christian father — did not

Lisa Silverman is the director of the Burton Sperber Jewish Community Library at American Jewish University.

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raise her with one. But when her best friend prepares for her bat mitzvah and Caroline’s Jewish grandma dies, Caroline takes a closer look at her Jewish side. The author sensitively and humorously handles identity issues that can arise when a child’s parents have different religious backgrounds, and astutely portrays a young girl wanting to embrace her Jewish identity without rejecting her parents’ values. Caroline eventually discovers that because her mother is Jewish, she automatically becomes a bat mitzvah on her 12th birthday, which ties up loose ends nicely. Fans of Judy Blume’s novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” will not be disappointed with this enjoyable book. 13: Thirteen Stories that Capture

the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen edited by James Howe Atheneum, 2006

Many well-known authors of young-adult fiction have contributed to this anthology of short stories that are true to the collection’s title. It includes

stories by Bruce Coville, Meg Cabot, Todd Strasser, Ann Martin and Ron Koertge, and other authors — all popular writers with strong teen followings. These well-developed stories focus on issues such as changes in friendships, innocent early sexual awakening (gay and straight), gang experiences, general teen idealism and fears, among others. Among the selections is the standout Jewish-themed story by editor and respected author James Howe, titled “Jeremy Goldblatt Is So Not Moses.” Told from a variety of perspectives, the story is about how a bar mitzvah gets hilariously out of control when the bar mitzvah boy decides to focus on meaning rather than spectacle (read: actually doing real-world mitzvahs instead of a pressured performance and party). He prevails, earns the rabbi’s respect and even wins the girl. The story should be required reading among bar and bat mitzvah planners — especially parents. An audiobook of this story is available, and is short enough to play in the car while driving your preteen to a soccer game. The family discussion that is

sure to ensue is well worth the modest audio price. About the B’nai Bagels by E.L. Konigsburg Atheneum, 2008 (re-issue)

It’s New York, circa 1970, and Mark Setzer is studying for his bar mitzvah. He is also having typical relationship problems involving his best friend, who recently moved away and has started hanging out with snotty rich kids. What’s worse is that his mother (eventually known as “Mother Bagel”) becomes manager of his B’nai Brithsponsored Little League team, and his older brother is essentially blackmailed into being the team’s coach. When the team improves because of their help, the B’nai Bagels actually have a chance at the championship. Although on one level this story is about baseball, the focus is really on one boy’s growth as he learns to negotiate family obligations and figure out what is fair and right. Although Mark and his family attend synagogue on Saturdays, he feels pressured to miss services in

der to practice with the team. When an anti-Semitic slur is invoked by a teammate, Mark realizes that his sessions with the rabbi have given him the confidence to respond, thereby bringing more meaning to his bar mitzvah. Newbery award-winning author E. L. Konigsburg is a master of this type of preteen nov-

Sheila Rosenberg to seal the deal by telling Tara that technically she’s not Jewish. Tara is a delightful, strongwilled, authentic and questioning tween. Her growth and eventual understanding of her place in our multicultural world proves she can honor both cultures and still be herself.

el, which hits all the right notes about young people learning to navigate their changing worldview while staying true to themselves.

Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah: The Ceremony, the Party, and How the Day Came to Be by Bert Metter, illustrated by Joan Reilly Clarion, 2007 This short book (68 pages of text) is packed with everything a bar or bat mitzvah needs to know. Children will find answers to a wide range of questions, with chapters such as “How the Ceremony Came to Be” and “Party Time” containing child-appropriate information in a breezy, affable style. Another chapter, “Judith Steps Up,” tells the story of Mordecai Kaplan’s 12-year-old daughter Judith, who in 1922 had the first bat mitzvah in the United States. Another chapter includes reminiscences from actors and sports figures, including deaf actress Marlee Matlin, about their bar or bat mitzvahs. With a chapter on ceremonies in other places around the world — such as North Africa — source notes and a bibliography of books and websites, this book provides a thorough guide for children and their families. MT

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman Abrams, 2013 “Hin-Jew” is an unusual term that readers of this book will soon discover means “half-Hindi, half-Jewish,” and it characterizes 12-year-old Tara Feinstein’s co-mingled identity. Although her mom is Hindu and her dad is Jewish, it never bothered her much. But as she begins planning her bat mitzvah, Tara begins to think more about God: whether he exists, and if so, what her relationship with him should be. Beno, her good friend (and possible boyfriend), is Catholic and can’t help her, and there’s too much going on in her life, anyway — lessons with the rabbi, working on the class robotics project, and the unfortunate accident regarding an important family heirloom. Should she go through with the bat mitzvah even if she doesn’t quite believe in it all? Leave it to middle school enemy

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Put the project in perspective The goal of a miTzvah projecT is To help oThers, noT sTress ouT by Randi mazzella


reparing and planning for a bar or bat mitzvah is an exciting time for the child and the entire family. Our family has gone through the process twice and is embarking on this journey for the third and last time with my son, who is currently 12 years old. As a parent, it is incredible the amount of love and pride Randi Mazzella is a freelance journalist, blogger and mother of three. She has written extensively about parenting, family life and teen issues.

you feel watching your child shine at this significant milestone. Along with leading a service, most temples also include a mitzvah project as part of this important rite of passage. With everything else going on at this time in their lives (preparing for the ceremony, secular school homework, after-school activities and commitments), completing a mitzvah project can seem overwhelming for pre-teens and their parents. Here are five ways to make the mitzvah project less daunting. 1. Don’t think of it as a “project” The idea of a mitzvah project is to be a starting point in a lifelong journey



of tikkun olam, fixing the world. Don’t think of the mitzvah project as something that your child needs to “get done” or cross off the list. Instead, think of the mitzvah project as the first of many ways your child will continue to make the world a better place throughout his or her life. 2. Pick something meaningful Choose a project that your child is really passionate about. There are so many valuable ways to help the world, from raising money to hands-on volunteer opportunities. Spend time discussing with your child the causes that he or she finds most meaningful. It can

be something personal to them (such as volunteering at an animal shelter or raising money for a disease that has directly affected them or a loved one) or for the community as a whole (working at a soup kitchen or collecting clothing for a homeless shelter, for example). My older daughter decided to organize a charity walk in memory of a classmate who had died. Her friend died of complications from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), so we contacted an organization that had been helpful to her family in dealing with the disease. My younger daughter knew she loved working with children. For her mitzvah project, she chose to work with


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The idea of a mitzvah project is to be a starting point in a lifelong journey of tikkun olam, fixing the world. The Friendship Circle, which has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for teens who want to work with children who have special needs. 3. Be honest about your commitment Don’t let your child take on a project that he or she cannot see through to the end. My younger daughter wanted to become involved in a friends-athome program that matches volunteers with children who have special needs. It is a very rewarding volunteer opportunity, but it is also one that requires a time commitment beyond the bat mitzvah year. I explained to

my daughter that this child might become attached to her, and that the family would rely on her. It would be unfair to take on the commitment and then stop volunteering if her life got too busy. She understood and worked with the child and his family for two years. 4. It does not have to be completed by their bar or bat mitzvah date My older daughter’s bat mitzvah was in the fall, but we all agreed that it was just too chaotic at that time to also put together the charity walk. Instead, we picked a date several months after her bat mitzvah in the late spring when

she would have more time to devote to the project. She discussed the walk in her speech at the service and invited everyone there to attend. After her bat mitzvah, she had plenty of time and energy to focus on the walk. 5. Make an impact — big or small Don’t worry about the scope of the project. Great mitzvah projects range from huge undertakings to small, significant gestures of kindness. My older daughter’s walk started out as a small idea. The goal was to raise money and awareness for a disease and also to remember a wonderful little girl who had touched so many people in her short life. My daughter never thought that this walk would wind up attracting people from all over the state who had also been affected by this disease. We decided to make it an annual event, and this will be the ninth year. The money and awareness it has raised is truly changing lives by funding valuable research. And it was all started by a 13-year-old girl. As for my younger daughter, her one-on-one time spent with a child who has special needs was very re-

warding. She saw firsthand the difference she could make for a child and for the child’s family just by devoting a few hours of her time. She also found out that she really enjoyed working with children who have special needs, so in high school, she continued to work with Friendship Circle in a program that required less of a time commitment, called Torah Circle. This drop-off program in our area enables teen volunteers and children who have special needs to enjoy a Sunday morning of baking, art and music. According to Jewish law, your child is now an adult, so let your child take the lead on the mitzvah project. He or she will get the most out of it if they feel as if it is truly their project. For your part, give guidance, support and encouragement. Praise their efforts and let them know how proud you are of them for helping to change the world, one mitzvah at time. This essay originally appeared on kveller. com and is reprinted with permission. MT

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vista Del mar Continued from page 7 attended the party. She said a typical bar mitzvah party would be too overwhelming for her children, but Gregory’s celebration created a safe and inspiring experience for her kids because it was small and at the temple they’re used to. “The family not only threw the party for our small congregation, but they brought their friends, they brought other typical kids. It was in a setting that the kids were used to, it wasn’t too loud,” she said. “It was done in a way that [the students] could actually experience a typical bar mitzvah.” Gregory said his regular school friends learned from meeting the Nes Gadol students, too. He said after interacting with the students at the party, they’re now more understanding toward special needs students at El Rodeo School. Although he didn’t need to keep attending Nes Gadol after his bar

From left: Zoey Starkman; Elena Goldberg, Harlee Davenport and Katy Hoffman; and Danny Wolf enjoy the party following Gregory’s service at Vista Del Mar.

mitzvah, Gregory has chosen to continue going to the classes every Monday. He said the experience has been “life changing” and made him more accepting of others, and more appreciative of the advantages he has in life. More than anything, he just enjoys spending time with the stu-

dents, he said. “They’re my friends, I adore each one of those kids,” he said. “They aren’t mean, they’re really, really nice. … These kids — they love everyone, and that’s why I really like going.” Redner said she was surprised — and impressed — that Gregory con-

tinued to attend the classes. “He’s a really phenomenal young man who is incredibly open-hearted and giving,” she said. “It’s beautiful that he continues to come back to class this year. … For me, that is so stunning and really shows the development of a real deep-heartedness for one’s fellow human beings.” MT

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Venues Continued from page 24 380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica. To begin planning your event, go to to fill out a request. Battleship USS Iowa This historic military vessel is the perfect place for a history buff or maritime enthusiast to celebrate. Known as the “Battleship of Presidents,” the Iowa can accommodate up to 1,500 people for a standing reception and 800 for a seated banquet. There are eight venue options, including the flight deck with its front-and-center view of the battleship’s impressive artillery section. Thanks to the ship’s practical design, it is also an ideal site for smaller bar mitzvahs, with unique spaces that include the Wardroom, the Admiral’s Veranda, Captain’s Veranda and Chief Officer’s Mess Hall. Fireworks, parachuters and other unique enhancements are also available. “We thought this was a perfect fit,” said Matthew Skoll, who select-

ed the battleship for his son Riley’s big day back in January. “The kids got to tour the ship, and there were plenty of activities on board that kept everybody busy, entertained and learning about some interesting history in the process.” Skoll also liked the location near the Port of Los Angeles, which he said made for spectacular photographs, as well as the freedom to get creative with his choice of caterers — he hired a couple of food trucks and another caterer to provide appetizers. The costs for most custom packages run $23 per guest if families opt for one of the site’s preferred vendors, and $26 per guest if they bring in their own caterer. 250 S. Harbor Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, contact Todd J. Caleca, events manager, at (877) 4469261, ext. 704 or Warner Bros. Studios For a teen fascinated with the behind-the-scenes workings of Hollywood, look no farther than the fabled

backlot of Warner Bros. Studios. Depending on the number of guests, a family can keep it simple with a VIP tour followed by lunch, or opt for an awards-show-inspired night on the town with red carpet and stellar outdoor lighting. Groups can range from 50 to 2,000 people, and prices will vary depending on guest count and space. “We have a variety of themed outdoor backlot sets along with interactive museum space that can be used for special events,” said Natalie Hagee, special events sales manager at the studio. “They offer an exciting glimpse into the movie-making process. … One of our most popular themes right now is the superhero party, since the release of ‘Batman v Superman’ and the success of [the television series] ‘Supergirl.’ We may even be able to use props from the actual movies, including Batmobiles.” 3400 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank. For more information, visit or call Natalie Hagee at (818) 954-2652.

Universal Studios Hollywood Special Events The centrally located, multipurpose theme park can accommodate events with 20 to 20,000 guests over a total of 65,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. The myriad event options, including a buyout of the entire theme park, includes Hollywood-style dining provided by the Wolfgang Puck Catering Group, which has kosher-style options available. Features of a park event include private access to attractions and tours of the world’s largest working movie studio and theme park; access to most of the park’s top attractions (Despicable Me Minion Mayhem; Jurassic Park — The Ride; Transformers: The Ride 3-D; Revenge of the Mummy — The Ride; and The Simpsons Ride); a private backlot studio tour; a customized message on the Globe Theatre’s exterior marquee; and a dedicated event specialist. 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. For more information, contact Angela Griffin at (818) 6223484. MT

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WOW Continued from page 14 bottles, but Devorah thought it was kind of exciting. She believes women have a right to pray with a Torah at the Kotel and felt having her bat mitzvah with WOW, at the Kotel, made a statement,” Leff said. “We have some unique bat mitzvah photos.” Devorah, who also participated in a 2014 WOW advertising bus campaign that encouraged women and girls to have a bat mitzvah at the Wall, said she

tion stood near the group with signs denouncing the group and blew whistles so loudly that at times it drowned out Ashira’s chant. “I do not raise my children to hate, but I cannot protect them from people who do, and their children,” Silverman said. “So from without this circle of Torah and shared loving purpose came the pain that we must heal. So the joy of Ashira becoming bat mitzvah, and the heartbreaking need to heal hate and hurtfulness, met in that moment.” Shira Pruce, who handles WOW’s public relations, said girls who have a

Rabbi Susan Silverman hugs her daughter Ashira during Ashira’s bat mitzvah with WOW earlier this year. Photo by Hadas Parush

wanted to pave the way for other Jewish women “in the struggle for religious freedom.” “I feel like I made a difference by fighting for women’s empowerment,” she said. “Women have as much right to pray at the Kotel as men do.” Susan Silverman, a Reform rabbi and longtime American-Israeli WOW activist, said her daughter Ashira’s WOW bat mitzvah earlier this year “held two worlds in one.” When Ashira read from the Torah, “She was surrounded by a loving community, people of all ages, that guided her along with such joy. It made me so happy, with such a sense of belonging to the place, as if all the Jews who had stood there before were called to this place and time and buoyed us all. A moment I will not soon forget.” At the same time, Silverman said, Charedi women in the women’s sec-

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bat mitzvah with the group at the Kotel enjoy a unique experience. “Every time a girl, her mother, her sister, her grandmother, say, ‘This is important enough for us to come to Israel, to Jerusalem, and plan a bat mitzvah at the Wall with Women of the Wall,’ they’re working toward social change,” Pruce said. She said WOW tells prospective bat mitzvah families, “We cannot promise there will be a Torah scroll at your bat mitzvah, but we will try. If not, there will be a Chumash.” Brenner said WOW was honest about what to expect. “They said people may shout at us but that Dana would be in the middle and surrounded by women, and it was true.” Sometimes, Brenner said, “You need to perform an action to show yourself you can do it. Dana did that. She was very brave.” MT

From left: Karen, Adam and Liam Friedman interact at a B’nai Mitzvah Revolution session. Photo courtesy of Temple Kol Tikvah

Parents Continued from page 16 1. Do not talk about every first in their life (e.g. birth, walking, talking, going to school, etc.) because it does not make your child unique unless they took these firsts under special circumstances. 2. Remember that it is their day, not yours. 3. Do not make fun of them. 4. Be positive. 5. If a joke is questionable, don’t say it. 6. Avoid the following words when talking about your child: crowning, tushie, poop, vomit, hate, obnoxious, self-centered or any negative or embarrassing language. 7. Keep your comments short. 8. One idea will be remembered. Ten will not. (OK, you can stretch it to two but no more.) 9. Don’t compare your child to their siblings or your friends’ children or Disney TV stars. 10. Look them in the eye, talk from your heart and give your kid the charge you want them to follow. Then make sure you give them the biggest hug you can after you’re done speaking. While these rules seem obvious, parents often lose sight of what their speech should focus on. Every rabbi has a story about a parent who thanked everyone for coming to “their” event, or a parent who embarrassed and insulted their

child with their comments while believing they were being “real” or funny, or a parent who went on for 30 minutes saying nothing important after the first minute or two. There are few opportunities to make a teen listen to you over the course of their middle school and high school years. This moment is one of the few where they will not walk away or put on headphones, so it is important to say words that will be remembered. At my congregation, the last experience we give parents occurs the night before the b’nai mitzvah. It is a Kol Tikvah custom to give each child a Torah to take home and to return the next day. It is the child’s job to protect it, just as our ancestors have. That night, the parents stand behind the child on the bima, with the only light coming from the ner tamid (eternal light). They listen to the words I speak to their child. As their child exits the darkened sanctuary, I remind the parents that it is their responsibility to open the Torah with their child, to explore its words and to feel its presence in their home. I ask the parents to become the teacher of the tradition. While I have heard many stories of how this ritual has affected the lives of the child, I have heard just as many about how it has affected the parents. It is the clergy’s goal to lead the entire family into the b’nai mitzvah process so they understand the importance of this ritual. But it must go beyond understanding — families must be fully immersed in the experience. Only then can they truly embark on a journey together that will strengthen their relationship as a child enters the teen years. MT

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Wardrobe change! for the big day, today’s b’not mitzvah tell a tale of two dresses by JULIE BIEN


hat Jewish girl wouldn’t want to mark her transition from childhood to adulthood in style? Make that two styles — the trend now is for young women to opt for the wedding treatment and have two dresses for the bat mitzvah: one for the ceremony and one for the party. Luckily, there’s no need to blow your budget on two designer dresses. Instead, use a rental service such as Rent the Runway, co-founded by Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman — both Jewish — through which you can rent an extra-special designer dress (or two) for your daughter at less than $75 per frock. Now it’s time to count your blessings — and your savings. Mazel tov!

For the ceremony, try something like the ICE BLUE MEREDITH DRESS ($60/ retails for $395) from Shoshanna, a line of clothing by L.A.-educated fashion designer Shoshanna Gruss. This knee-length sheath dress has cap sleeves, a light-blue lace overlay and a slight V-neck with scalloped edge — delicate, feminine, flattering and modest. When it’s time to cut a rug, the flouncy skirt on the PERCY DRESS ($40/ retails for $300) from Slate & Willow is just what the DJ ordered. The classic burgundy fit-and-flare shape with 3/4-length sleeves and a lace bodice will show off a sense of style and is perfect for twirling on the dance floor. Toss on a pair of opaque tights if it’s chilly out. Top off the look with a piece of stareworthy statement jewelry such as the COLOR WHEEL PENDANT ($34) from UncommonGoods. Made in the California-based Yellow Owl Workshop by artist Christine Schmidt, the 1-inch enamel pendant dangles from a 22-karat gold chain. 34 | MAY 2016 | MAZEL TOV!

Throw on a pair of fun heels like the white CLASSIC JELLY HEEL ($42) from American Apparel for a look that’s fancy yet conducive to standing on the bimah. The substantial platform will keep your daughter comfortable and standing tall, while the chunky heel offers more stability than a standard high heel.


MAZEL TOV! | 2016 |

MAZEL TOV! | MAY 2016 |


Jewish Journal Mazel Tov! 2016  
Jewish Journal Mazel Tov! 2016