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Volume CIX • Number 31 • October 2016 • $5

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Par ty Planner














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Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | 1

Table of Contents ISSN 0021-6488

USPS 0275-360

PARTY PLANNER Volume CIX – Number 31 FOUNDING PUBLISHERS Edgar Goldberg 1908-1937 David H. White and Ida S. White 1938-1973 Joseph W. Samuels 1973-2011 PRESIDENT & CEO Vicki Samuels Levy EDITOR and PUBLISHER Jeanne F. Samuels Associate editor | Michael C. Duke Multimedia manager | Matt Samuels Editorial research | Arnold Rosenzweig Staff writer | Aaron Howard Editorial team | Lawrence S Levy Food editor | Theodore Powers Sports editor | Matt Samuels

5 8

B’nai Mitzvah A to Z BY MICHAEL C. DUKE

The Countdown is on ...

Follow this easy guide for a stress-free Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekend


12 All Presents and Accounted For BY VICKI SAMUELS LEVY

14 Getting the Party Started

Bar/Bat Mitzvah trends, themes and tips


16 Coming of Age as a Bar Mitzvah BY KATHY ZIEBEN

20 ‘Love & Family’

Stairway to Bar Mitzvah took 3 years, 6,000 miles


COLUMNISTS Alice Adams • Deborah Brown Felice and Michael Friedson • Pam Geyer Ed Reitman, Ph.D. • Yael Trusch Teddy Weinberger PRODUCTION Production director | Aaron D. Poscovsky Magazine designer | Matt Samuels Graphics | Mary Jane Johnston Proofreader | Judy Bluestein-Levin SUBSCRIPTION/DISTRIBUTION Lawrence S Levy ADVERTISING SALES Advertising Manager | Phillip Eaton Ad account executives: Trey Bullock • Orit Gonik Levi • Lew Sampson Melanie Sherman • Steve Sherman



24 A Bat Mitzvah Nightmare

a.k.a. Confessions of a Sleep-Deprived Bat Mitzvah Mom, by Anonymous


27 MarketPlace 28 108 Years ago in the JHV 28 Index to Advertisers Thank you to our photography advertisers for sharing photos of some of the Bar/Bat Mitzvahs from the past year, which are sprinkled throughout this issue.

Classified/Singles | Joseph Macias Director of first impressions | Sharon Stoper Livitz Accounts receivable | Huong Tonnu Bookkeeper | Mary Ainsworth Payroll | Maurene Bencal Mailing address: P.O. Box 153 • Houston, TX 77001-0153 News: Letters: Subscriptions: Advertising: Telephone: 713-630-0391 • Fax: 713-630-0404 Digital: Web: Twitter: @jhvonline Located at 3403 Audley St.• Houston, TX 77098-1923

On the cover

Chaya Warren, center, became a Bat Mitzvah on Dec. 13, 2015. She celebrated with Mindy Messinger and Shaina Silverman. Photo by Elisheva Golani

Published weekly – Plus Wedding, Passover, Voices In Houston, Rosh Hashanah and Bar/ Bat Mitzvah editions – by Herald Publishing Co., 3403 Audley St., Houston, TX 77098. © 2016, with all rights reserved. Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is prohibited. Periodicals Postage Paid at Houston, Texas. Subscription rates: USA $180 for 3 years; $65 per year; 9 months for $55. Foreign subscriptions upcharged with international first-class postage. Single newspaper copies by mail: PREPAID $4. Back Issues PREPAID $6. Single magazine copies by mail: PREPAID $8 each. Postmaster: Send address changes to: Jewish Herald-Voice, P.O. Box 153, Houston, Texas 77001-0153.

2 | Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 |

WHERE MEMORIES ARE CREATED FOR GENERATIONS At Hyatt Regency Houston/Galleria, we believe in not only making memories, but creating them. This special day will only come once in a lifetime, so it is our mission sion to make it the finest experience ever. To book your Bat/Bar Mitzvah, call 832.397.5280. Bar/Bat Mitzvah Packages starting at $38 child/$104 adult (taxes and service charge not included) Young Adult Inclusions: Reception Snacks Buffet, Appetizer, Plated Entrée, Sundae Bar for Dessert, Unlimited Soda Bar Adult Package Inclusions: Butler Passed Hors d’Oeuvres during Reception, Three Hour Open Bar featuring Hyatt House Brand Liquors, Domestic, Imported and Non-Alcoholic Beers, Wine, Soft Drinks and Mineral Waters, Three Course Meal including Salad & Entrée, with choice of Appetizer Course or Dessert Selection, Wine Service, featuring Hyatt’s Canvas Wines by Michael Mondavi Vineyards, throughout meal Décor & Amenities include: Linenless Tables, Five Votive Candles, White Glove Service, and Dance Floor & Staging for Entertainment, and Challah & Glass of Wine for Blessing HYATT REGENCY HOUSTON GALLERIA 2626 SAGE ROAD HOUSTON, TX 77056 832 803 1234 HYATTREGENCYHOUSTONGALLERIA.COM The trademark HYATT and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Corporation. ©Hyatt Corporation. All rights reserved. Rates valid until December 31, 2016.

Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | 3

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4 | Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 |

B’nai Mitzvah A to Z




n the Shabbat morning nearest to a boy’s 13th birthday, it is customary for him to receive an ALIYAH in which he is called up to the bimah to read a section of the weekly Torah portion. In egalitarian communities, girls, beginning at age 12, similarly receive aliyot and read from the Torah. BAR & BAT MITZVAH is a milestone event that signals a Jewish child’s transition to adulthood. Bar Mitzvah means “Son of the Commandments”; Bat Mitzvah is “Daughter of the Commandments.” Thus, rather than having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a Jewish teen becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. In doing so, the student formally accepts the responsibilities of Jewish adulthood.

B’nai Mitzvah marks a personal achievement, while, at the same time, serves as cause for COMMUNITY celebration. Another young Jewish adult has been welcomed into the fold, thus helping to ensure Jewish continuity through the next generation.

Besides reading from the Torah, it is customary for the B’nai Mitzvah to deliver a D’VAR TORAH, based on that week’s Torah portion. The speech generally focuses on an aspect of the reading that resonates with the B’nai Mitzvah. The teen also uses the opportunity to express thanks and appreciation to those who help him or her reach this special occasion. In Orthodox communities where girls do not read from a sefer Torah, the Bat Mitzvah still might receive the opportunity to learn a book of Tanach, publicly lecture on a Jewish topic and/ or read from Psalms and the Book of ESTHER.

As Jewish children reach the age of B’nai Mitzvah, they become FULL-FLEDGED members of the Jewish community. In doing so, they accept Jewish adult responsibilities, such as the duty to follow the mitzvot (commandments), keep Halakha (Jewish law) and moral responsibility for one’s actions.

B’nai Mitzvah celebrations have become occasions to present B’nai Mitzvah students with GIFTS. These often hold commemorative value and take the form of religious or educational books, Israel Bonds and Jewish ritual items, such as a tallit (prayer shawl), tefillin (prayer boxes) or Shabbat candle sticks.


Noah and Joshua Sher celebrated their Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Beth Israel on Oct. 17 with Natanya, Andrew and Ivonne Sher.

Monetary gifts, usually given in multiples of 18, also are common, due to the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for life – chai. In addition to reading from a Torah scroll, the B’nai Mitzvah also has the opportunity to read a section of the weekly HAFTARAH. These passages are taken from the prophetic books of the Tanach and often relate to the

current parshah (Torah portion).


Rather than celebrating their child’s B’nai Mitzvah at their local synagogue, many families opt to travel to ISRAEL for the experience. With proper arrangements, B’nai Mitzvah can read Torah at the Kotel, or Western Wall, in Jerusalem – the holiest site where Jews are able to pray.

Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | 5


According to JEWISH LAW, no ceremony is required to confer the adult obligations assumed by a new B’nai Mitzvah. A girl automatically becomes a Bat Mitzvah when she turns 12, and a boy automatically becomes a Bar Mitzvah upon reaching the age of 13. B’nai Mitzvah ceremonies and celebrations are relatively recent inventions, meant to elevate this significant milestone and joyous occasion.


B’nai Mitzvah services conclude with a KIDDUSH, involving the blessing over wine/ grape juice and challah. Kiddush means “sanctification.” The ritual is performed to sanctify the Jewish Sabbath and the B’nai Mitzvah celebration.


As newly arrived Jewish adults, B’nai Mitzvah gain the right to LEAD the congregation in prayer and other religious services. In some communities, it’s common practice for former B’nai Mitzvah students to help lead services and read Torah on the anniversary of their B’nai Mitzvah ceremony.

MITZVOT – Commandments – are central to becoming a B’nai Mitzvah. These represent the 613 Commandments that are found in Torah, which Jewish adults are obligated to keep in order to uphold the Jewish people’s covenant with G-d.

HAVA NAGILA is a popular Israeli folk song that is featured in many B’nai Mitzvah party celebrations. The song was composed in the 1920s during the British Mandate period when Zionists in the Land of Israel were laboring to revive the Hebrew language as a foundational component of the modern Sate of Israel. The OBLIGATION to lay tefillin begins when a boy becomes a Bar Mitzvah. Because it’s an involved ritual with different variations, it’s customary for the Bar Mitzvah student to start practicing with tefillin several months before his 13th birthday. Hence, upon reaching his Bar Mitzvah date, he will be proficient in the mitzvah. In some egalitarian communities, Bat Mitzvah students also are encouraged to lay tefillin. In an effort to put their Jewish studies into action, B’nai Mitzvah students are compelled to perform tzedakah PROJECTS. Benefitting a cause of one’s own choosing, these projects often involved raising and donating money and performing community service. Tzedakah projects are more than charity – they are meant to be acts of justice that embody Jewish values, such as tikkun olam (repairing the world). Upon becoming a Bar Mitzvah, one can be counted as part of a QUORUM of 10 adult Jewish males – a minyan – who are required for


Levy Bargrasser became a Bar Mitzvah at the Chabad Lubavitch Center on May 6, 2016. He is held by his brother, David Bargrasser, cousin Marina Foss and sister Rebekah Bargrasser.

traditional Jewish public worship. In egalitarian communities, a Bat Mitzvah also can be counted to help comprise a minyan.

As with most Jewish life-cycle events, specific RITUALS are involved in the B’nai Mitzvah ceremony. These can include the B’nai Mitzvah receiving an aliyah and reading from the Torah and Haftarah, delivering a d’var Torah speech, leading the congregation in prayer, performing a tzedakah project, donning a tallit and laying tefillin and twinning with a child victim of the Holocaust, who was denied the opportunity to become a B’nai Mitzvah. B’nai Mitzvah celebrations often include a SEUDAT mitzvah, meaning a celebratory meal with family, friends and community members. In some communities, parents of a B’nai Mitzvah take this opportunity to praise G-d for giving them the merit to raise a child in the ways of Torah and to reach this milestone occasion.

According to the Talmud, 13 is the age at which a boy’s VOWS become legally binding. It’s believed that the ceremonial observation of a Bar Mitzvah became widespread during in the Middle Ages, based on earlier references to 13 as the age upon which a boy becomes a man and, therefore, is obligated to follow the Torah’s Commandments. In some Modern Orthodox communities, B’not Mitzvah read from the Torah and lead WOMEN’s TEFILLAH prayer services. While some Orthodox posek (legal scholars) have ruled that Bat Mitzvah celebrations are permissible, opinions vary on whether or not those celebrations should take place in a synagogue.

EXEMPLA of the rabbis is a collection of more than 300 Hebrew stories complied during the late Middle Ages (11th-12th centuries). The body of work contains some of the earliest known references to the ceremonial observation of Bar Mitzvah.

Having the opportunity to be called up to the TORAH on the occasion of one’s B’nai Mitzvah can be the climax of the B’nai Mitzvah experience. The student stands before the congregation and G-d and connects with Jewish history, Jewish tradition, Jewish culture, Jewish community and Jewish peoplehood.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, wrote that in preparation for accepting the “YOKE of mitzvot,” B’nai Mitzvah students should spend time studying the fundamentals of Judaism, including the laws regulating daily life. More important than reading from the Torah on one’s B’nai Mitzvah, the Rebbe taught, is spending this precious time on more important subjects.

In the case of special circumstances, the traditional B’nai Mitzvah observance might not be the best fit for a family. UN-ORTHODOX alternatives can include travel to a meaningful destination, such as Israel; a camping or wilderness experience; an art project; a genealogical research project; or, a mitzvah project that involves family and friends.

Despite a strong current of secularism in Israel, the country’s kibbutz movement continues to encourage the celebration of B’nai Mitzvah. Similar to the tzedakah projects of their American cousins, many Israeli B’nai Mitzvah students on kibbutzim undertake community service and research projects related to, and in benefit of, modern ZIONISM.

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Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | 7

The Countdown is on ...

Follow this easy guide for a stress-free Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekend By VICKI SAMUELS LEVy | JHV


o matter the size of your family or the number of friends who share your simchas, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you begin planning one of the most important days in your child’s life. To put the week into perspective, make an outline, start a list and develop a realistic plan, so that when the weekend finally arrives, you will be able to relax and kvell. Enter the Bar/Bat Mitzvah planning zone. While your child has been supported in his/her studies by rabbis and Hebrew teachers, your loving supervision at home has given him/her the foundation upon which to draw confidence and poise. The celebration will be joyous, and you will be able to appreciate the significance of this milestone in your child’s life because you were well-prepared and planned for the obvious, as well as the unexpected. Organization being the key to your memorable weekend, planning can start at any time. Whether you choose to coordinate the weekend entirely by yourself, or engage the expertise of


Julia Strug and Makayla Wigder celebrated their Bat Mitzvahs on Aug. 15, 2015.

a professional planner or close friend; whether your simcha will involve 30 or 300 guests, you no doubt will want this milestone to reflect your

8 | Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 |

values. The timetable that follows is a map for that journey – all that remains is for you to be flexible. First, learn the requirements of your own

synagogue. Particulars, such as Oneg Shabbats and Kiddush luncheons, will vary. Before receiving the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date, find out when Shavuot and Simchat Torah are. If you have other children or relatives who will be participating in these ceremonies, you may choose not to have your children share their simchas on the same weekend. Also, if your child attends summer camp, try to have a date either before summer begins, or well after, as most synagogues want the children completely engaged in Hebrew practice during the final few months before the simcha.

13 years ahead • When your child is born, start a savings account. It can make a difference if you foresee a 200-person guest list down the road. If you don’t need the money, put it toward a trip to Israel, college or a second honeymoon for you and your spouse.

One to two years ahead • You will receive your child’s date from the synagogue. If this will be a B’nai Mitzvah, where your child shares the bimah with a partner, consider going together for the celebration and sharing expenses. If you MARK KATZ PHOTOGRAPHY choose to have two in- Alex Mintz celebrated his Bar Mitzvah on Nov. 7, 2015, at Congregation Beth Israel and dependent parties, meet Royal Sonesta Hotel. with the other family, hopefully to select times so classmates might be able to attend some or all of both friends’ celebrations. • Have a special family meeting to share the joy with all members. Together, create something meaningful for siblings, regardless of their ages. • Project a budget that will reflect your lifestyle. (See budget on Page 10.) • Reserve synagogue hall for Kiddush luncheon. • Pay deposits early to lock in current prices. • Book hotel, party room or caterer. • Select a party planner – or best friend – to help you through the process. • Attend weekly Shabbat services with your children. • Choose a mitzvah/tzedakah project. Involve the entire family and friends. • Inform out-of-towners of the upcoming event, by phone, email or “save-the-date” cards.

10 to 12 months ahead • Begin intensive Hebrew lessons. • Select the band/DJ. • Select photographer and/or videographer. • Select the florist. • Select the bakery. • Select decorator. • Select entertainment (party buttons, caricaturist, magician, etc.). • Start clipping Bar/Bat Mitzvah announcements of your child’s friends from the JHV each week. Include them in a scrapbook. • Consider setting up a B’nai Mitzvah website, where your child can talk about his/her Mitzvah project and other details. Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | 9

Eight months ahead • Make guest list and set up an index card file, by hand or in the computer. Include a column that shows the guest’s relationship to the child, and columns to record gifts and thank-you notes written. • Revisit your budget; otherwise, the spending can get out of hand. • Serve wine only for the Kiddush; no open bar. Remember, this is a children’s event you are planning! • Use a loose-leaf binder with dividers or other filing system. There are great planning books at area Judaic gift shops. Categorize and organize. Keep all business cards, estimates, notes, lists, etc. • Plan theme or color scheme. Possibly enlist the help of a party planner.

Six months ahead

get d u B a g n i t a e r C A

• Arrange for security at home during “away time,” if you believe it is necessary. • Create a timeline for the celebration of how you want events to unfold.

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• Make up final guest list. Invite all family; include former spouse and in-laws. Remember, this is your child’s celebration: Put your feelings aside! Include rabbi(s), cantor, B’nai Mitzvah teachers, religious school and secular teachers, youth advisors and sports coaches. • Consider sending invitations to the president, governor and mayor. Your child may receive a handsome congratulations card. • Order invitations, maps, napkins, kippot, etc. The RSVP date should precede the event by at least three weeks. • Select a calligrapher. • Prepare a program (optional) for guests that gives personal information about the child and explains the ritual to non-Jewish guests. • Investigate hotels and transportation for out-of-towners.

Five months ahead • Purchase tefillin, tallit, yad and Kiddush cup. • Plan Sunday brunch. A family member or close friend may wish to host this for you. • Plan family Shabbat dinner. • Plan what you will bake and freeze for athome meals and oneg. • Order table favors or giveaways for dance contests.

Three months ahead • Invitations in hand, number the backs of response cards and record on your guest list. (Some guests may forget to write their names on the reply cards.)

• Include map, as needed, with invitations. • Purchase special postage stamps. • Mail out-of-town invitations.

Two months ahead • Order flowers/centerpieces. • Mail in-town invitations.

Six to eight weeks ahead • Arrange for hosts, junior hosts. • Select family or friends to sit on bimah. • Arrange aliyot. • Order from party rentals company, if needed. • Finalize hotel reservations. • Confirm caterer(s). • Make seating chart for dinner or sit-down Kiddush luncheon. • Make up or order hospitality baskets for out-oftowners. Include directions and phone numbers. • Send honorary gift to synagogue.

Four weeks ahead • Plan candle-lighting ceremony or other special service for the party. • Plan Havdalah. • Shop for clothes for the family. • Send announcement and picture to Jewish Herald-Voice, (Or, if you prefer, you may submit it for publication after the simcha. The important thing is to chronicle this life-cycle event for yourselves and the community.) • Send wish list of songs to DJ/ band.

10 | Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 |

Three weeks ahead

• Prepare personal notes about your child for the rabbi’s use in blessing (if applicable). • Prepare your personal remarks. • Make place cards. • Reconfirm flowers/centerpieces. • Reconfirm music, entertainment, etc. • Make copies of everything: prayers, speeches, seating charts, candle-lighting ceremony. Give copy to a friend in case you forget anything. • Coordinate transportation to and from airport and events. • Coordinate with party facility how room will be arranged, including where guest book or photo board will be placed and where gifts may be placed. Decorate a box where guests may drop their cards (party planner may provide).

Two weeks ahead • Get haircuts; complete last-minute clothes shopping.

One week ahead

• Confirm caterer(s), hotel and give final count. • Adjust seating chart • Prepare “emergency” bag for synagogue and celebration, including sewing kit, toothbrush/paste, makeup, hair accoutrements, personal items. • Family rehearsal for services.

Friday of Bar/Bat Mitzvah • Bring food to synagogue for oneg Shabbat (if applicable). • Participate in Friday evening service. Host oneg Shabbat or dinner. • Prepare extra sets of directions to the party and bring to synagogue with you. • Get plenty of rest!

Shabbat • Be prepared to kvell and have the most wonderful weekend of your life!

Afterglow • Support your child in making monetary tzedakah donation and writing thank-you notes. • Send announcement to the JHV!

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All Presents and Accounted For By VICKI SAMUELS LEVy | JHV


Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a once-in-a-lifetime event for a teen, signifying independence, connection to their heritage, culture and tradition. Loved ones and friends, who wish to honor the celebrant, should consider a gift that is more than simply a birthday present. “Today, I am a fountain pen,” the ages-old joke among Bar Mitzvah boys, gives an indication of the narrow range of choices once available to shower on a Bar/Bat Mitzvah honoree. Today’s gift-giver has a wealth of choices, bound only the recipient’s interests and the giver’s budget. Money, of course, always has been a welcome present. And, don’t think the teen will keep all the money to him/herself. Most teens donate 10 percent of their monetary gifts to their favorite organization, put some of it into savings for college and, perhaps, buy one personal gift. Dictionaries and reference books, once desirable gifts, have been replaced by online gift cards, where teens can purchase apps for dictionaries, a Thesaurus, or Judaic resources. However, for the People of the Book, a personal copy of a volume that explores the Torah, Talmud, Tehillim or Jewish philosophers throughout the ages is a gift for all ages and stages of life. There’s nothing more personal than holding Jewish text in your hands!

A blast of the past Looking back on previous decades, we recall that in the ’60s, B’nai Mitzvah celebrants were likely to have received tie tacks, cufflinks, watches and pen-and-pencil sets. The ’70s gift choices would have been chais or Stars of David on gold or silver chains. Other religious gifts that gained popularity were tallit clips and embroidered tallit bags, often with the teen’s name on the bag. Some honorees even may have received Waterpiks, pocket calculators and hair blow dryers. Gifts took on new twists in the ’80s. Back then, it was Swatch watches, Nintendo games, cassette tapes, CDs, books, luggage, movie video tapes and even blank tapes, ready to record lifecycle events and sports. Some teens received monogrammed garment bags and backpacks or gift certificates to popular clothing stores and record and video stores. Girls, particularly, received silver jewelry (remember James Avery?) and candlesticks.

Today’s options Personal computers and cell phones changed gift-giving in the 1990s and 2000s, with a plethora of options for computers, cell phones and other digital devices, as well as a myriad of accessories for males and females, pop culture, and more, for every taste and season. Timeless gifts with emotional significance include donations to worthwhile organizations, in honor of the B’nai Mitzvah. These range from Israel Bonds to Jewish National Fund, both benefiting the State of Israel, to local Jewish agencies, such as Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Service, Seven Acres or Aishel House – and including any of our fine institutions, schools and camps – where a donation in the honoree’s name is quite meaningful. Many times, a B’nai Mitzvah will suggest guests make a donation to a nonprofit that he/she has a particular passion for, such as Houston Food Bank, MD Anderson Cancer Center or other research institute for a particular disease. Here are some other gift-giving ideas: • Trip to Israel • Campership to Jewish camp • Gift card to favorite art supply store, movie theater, computer store, or other business that carries special-interest products particular to the honoree • Tickets to sporting or musical events • Membership to museums • U.S. Savings Bond

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• Subscription to special-interest magazine • Gift certificate for a golf or tennis lesson • Family heirloom • Poster keepsake of B’nai Mitzvah announcement in the Jewish Herald-Voice There is no question that teens do enjoy receiving money. And, for the gift-givers with little time on their hands, writing a check is a no-brainer. However, if you decide to write a check, make it an amount in increments of 18 – chai, Hebrew for life. A common amount for friends of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is double-chai or $36. Adults with greater means also can give multiples of 18, starting at $36 and going up, depending on how well they know the teen or the family. Other monetary-related gifts are Israel Bonds (mentioned above); special Bonds for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are the eMitzvah Bond at $36 (minimum) and Mazel Tov Bond at $100 (minimum). Or, you can introduce the teen to a different type of Israeli investment: stock in an Israeli company. Would you like to give a Jewish ritual object, but don’t know what to choose? Consider a gift card to a synagogue gift shop or Judaic store. No matter if you give the Bar/Bat Mitzvah gelt or goods, the gift is an acknowledgement of the teen’s entry into the adult world of responsibility an taking on mitzvot. Bear in mind, if the gift, itself, doesn’t say it, the message you write in a greeting card will sum up how proud you are.

Bring Your StorY to Life • Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s • Weddings and events

• Party Montages • 360 videos and tiMe laPse videos • CustoM graPhiCs and design

JHV Bar-BatMitzvah Edition 2016.indd 1

Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | AM 13 9/30/16 10:05

Getting the P

Bar/Bat M itzvah tre By MATT SAMUELS | JHV


ecently celebrating their 10-year anniversary as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah entertainment company, MAXED OUT, has been a part of more than 500 of these events around the city of Houston. Since they have seen just about everything when it comes to these special celebrations, the Jewish Herald-Voice sat down with the owner of the company, Cory Baum, to talk about all things party related.

What are the keys to a successful party? When the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child understands that the party is for them and they are on or around the dance floor, it really helps everyone else get into it with them. By having a good attitude and treating it like we are truly there to celebrate you, the party will be successful. It’s also important to understand the kind of party you want to have and execute a plan that lends itself to that setup. If you want everyone dancing, we would suggest keeping the extra activities at a minimum, and if you insist on having multiple activities, we would keep them near the dance floor area.

What are some hot songs on the 2016 Bar/Bat Mitzvah playlists? 2016 is an interesting year for music. The top songs used to be very upbeat, but this year it’s gone from the high tempo hip-hop and pop songs, which are more fun for all generations to dance to, to the rap songs. Instead of playing “Timber” by K$sha, we are playing “679” by Fetty Wap. Drake is our most requested singer, and there are also a ton of new names that we haven’t heard of. Usually, that name is preceded by “Lil.” Right now, the teens all really like a song called “Broccoli,” a song you would never think would get popular, especially after you hear it.

What are some cool Bar/Bat Mitzvah themes? When we first started out, there were the traditional themes like shopping, where the decorators would re-create brands and stores that you would see in The Galleria. We also had themes that highlighted places like New York and California, where the decorators re-created landmarks within the state. Now, themes are becoming more color oriented or focused on a tagline like, “Light up the Night.” With that particular theme, we had one family basically wallpaper a warehouse with LED screens from floor to ceiling, and it was unbelievable. We also had a family create a theme that highlighted the hip-hop culture, and among the many decorations, they had huge murals of hip-hop legends on the wall. As the teens would put it, the atmosphere was “LIT”!

What are some of the best party foods? For the kids, if you have the best chicken fingers, you will dominate the food game. That hasn’t changed since I had my Bar Mitzvah 15 years ago! I will give credit to Hotel ZaZa; they have this chicken finger that is wrapped with waffle mix, and it is an

Samantha and Sophie Sorkin shared their Bat Mitz

unbelievable take on chicken and waffles. For the adults, the bitesized foods like crab cakes and lamb lollipops are the best because they are constantly coming out fresh. For adults and kids, a mashed potato bar is great because you get a hot item and then get to put whatever toppings you want on it. The coolest dessert we’ve seen was a guy who combines caricature and pancakes. You get yourself drawn with pancake mix that resembles you, post a picture to social media, and then you proceed to eat yourself! I heard someone created a machine recently that can do this now – game changer.

How do you get the party started when you have all the boys in one corner and all the girls in another? We don’t have this problem as much as you would think, but we have some tactics to get everyone dancing together.

14 | Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 |

One thing we can do is a guy already separated themselves friendly competition out of it. W ping” to the center of the dan the slow song side, we do som There are a few ways we or way is what is called “Snowba the Bar/Bat Mitzvah kid in th they pick one person to slow “Snowball” or “Switch,” the tw someone else to dance with. it doubles, so 2 becomes 4, 4 b balls” to everyone dancing. It turned down, since it’ll be for the entire three-minute song.

Party Started

nd s , the me s and tips a mix of music from a few Katy Perry concerts so it sounded live. It ended with officers escorting her off the dance floor, and then we went right into the hora. We got emails after the fact, from families saying how awesome it was that Katy Perry was at that B’nai Mitzvah. Also, going back to the “Light up the Night” theme, there was one party where a dancer got on huge stilts and was dressed in a light-up robot costume. It was an attention stealer and got all the kids wanting to have a dance battle with the robot.

What are some of the more embarrassing things you’ve seen? I can’t repeat the most embarrassing thing that has happened at a party, but if you ask, I will tell. As far as what I’ve seen, during the hora one time, we had a group of parents slip on some confetti and everyone fell down like dominos. It was hilarious and made for a great memory. Sticking with the hora, one of the dads was being lifted in the chair, and the front side was exhausted from lifting the rest of the family beforehand. As a result, the front side was much lower than the back side, causing the dad to fall forward onto the shoulders of one of the chair lifters. Take a second to picture that. They proceeded to spin the dad without a chair in that same position, so there were no beats skipped.

If you could offer advice to Mom and Dad going into a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, what would it be?


zvahs on Feb. 13, 2016, at a Houston country club.

y’s vs. girl’s dance-off. They’ve s for us, so we create some We end it with everyone “wopnce floor as one big group. On mething that we call “Switch.” rganize it, but the traditional all.” We play a slow song with he center of a large circle, and w dance with. When we say wo dancing in the center go find Every time we say “Snowball’ becomes 8, etc. until it “snowt’s great because nobody gets 15 seconds of the song versus

What are some of the must-have dances to make a Bar/Bat Mitzvah successful? The Wobble is by far the most popular must-have dance. Sometimes, we will bust out “Gangnam Style” or “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” to feel out the crowd. After the hora, even though it’s usually on the “Do Not Play” list, the Macarena is heavily requested and always gets everyone going. Watch Me (Whip/ Nae Nae) is popular with the kids right now, too, and we also create our own dances that we get to teach to everyone.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at a Bar/Bat Mitzvah? We’ve seen a lot of crazy things over the years! Last year, at a California-themed party, a Katy Perry impersonator came out to the party that looked so real, due to some good planning. We played

This could easily be a multiple page answer! The first piece of advice is to set your budget and try to stick to it. It is easy to get carried away. Know that everyone wants something that is “different” or “unique.” One of the most different and unique things you can do is to have a theme-fitting form of live entertainment right after the video montage that will ultimately lead into the hora and kick off the rest of the evening. People will definitely leave talking about it! Also, use vendors that know what they’re doing when it comes to Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, specifically. There is a lot going on at various times, so it’s the small things like knowing to notify the family and photographer about key events, like the video montage or the hora. This knowledge only comes with experience in doing these types of parties, specifically.

Is there a good, unbiased resource where families planning their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah party can have all of their questions answered? Yes! I would ask the people who have been through it already. The parents of the eighth-grade EWS [Emery/Weiner School] families are one of the best unbiased resources, and they should be more than happy to let you pick their brains, since they understand how stressful the process can be. We are also working with several other vendors in the industry to create a Bar/Bat Mitzvah extravaganza, where we can all share our knowledge on a more personal basis from an even broader experience. Look in the upcoming JHV for more information regarding the inaugural event anticipated for early December 2016.

Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | 15

Coming of Age as a Bar Mitzvah By KATHY ZIEBEN | For the JHV


Jewish boy automatically becomes a Bar Mitzvah upon reaching the age of 13. According to Jewish law, a Bar Mitzvah does not require a specific ceremony to endow the rights and obligations of becoming a Jewish adult. In the “olden days,” the morning after your 13th birthday, on the Jewish calendar, you were considered a Bar Mitzvah. It was as simple as that. You didn’t need a large, extravagant or expensive party. You made it there just by “living long enough.” The way in which most Bar Mitzvahs are celebrated today were not even imagined 80 years ago! The history of the Bar Mitzvah dates back to a fifth-century rabbinic text, which references a blessing (still part of a traditional Bar Mitzvah) recited by the father thanking G-d for freeing him from responsibility for the deeds of his child, who now is accountable for his own actions. A 14th-century text mentions a father reciting this blessing in a synagogue when his son has his first aliyah. By the 17th century, boys celebrating this coming of age also were reading from the Torah, chanting the weekly


Sidney Moran, at 83, still uses his Bar Mitzvah tallis. At right, he was featured in his local paper, after receiving a letter from Albert Einstein.

country, to reflect on their own Bar Mitzvah experiences. Although a decade or more separates the men, each one had a very similar, and meaningful, Bar Mitzvah.

prophetic portion and leading services. In some communities, a man who has reached the age of 83 may observe a second Bar Mitzvah. As the Torah refers to a lifespan of 70 years, an 83-year-old can be considered 13 in a second lifetime. The Jewish Herald-Voice asked four gentlemen, who grew up in different parts of the


Sidney Stuart Moran Sidney Stuart Moran was born on Oct. 22, 1932, in a small town, St. Joseph, Mo. When he


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was 9, his family moved to Tulsa, so his older brother, who was 11 at the time, could begin his Bar Mitzvah training. “I remember we belonged to Congregation B’nai Emunah, which was somewhat Conservative leaning towards being Orthodox,” Moran told the JHV. “We always kept a kosher home and went to services regularly. The service on Saturday was short and sweet.” Moran always walked to shul with his paternal grandmother, who lived with them. He started going to Hebrew school every day after school and, about a year before his Bar Mitzvah, intense training began. “It was a very serious endeavor back then,” he said, “and I wanted to do my best. You had a choice as to how much you wanted to do and I wanted to do it all!” He also had a custom-made Bar Mitzvah suit, as a yet-to-bediagnosed thyroid problem caused him to be “extremely fat.” Moran’s synagogue held a few hundred people, and it was totally full that day. His parents gifted him with a tallis, which he still uses today. “After the ceremony, we went down to the social hall and had corned beef sandwiches and a Coke,” he said. “But, the one life-changing gift I received was a book on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity,” said Moran. “That inspired me to write to Albert Einstein about a theory I felt was just not right.” Einstein answered his letter, for which he was very proud, and the local paper took his photo. One of the greatest takeaways from his Bar Mitzvah was that, as an adult, he could travel anywhere in the world, walk into a synagogue and be able to follow along and understand the service. He attributes that to his excellent Bar Mitzvah preparations.

Murray Schoendorf Since the 1970s, the adult Bar and Bat Mitzvahs have been growing in popularity. Some adults choose to have Bar or Bat Mitzvah rituals at an older age, many because they were unable to when they turned 13. Such was Murray Schoendorf’s experience. Schoendorf was born on April 13, 1928, in Asbury Park, N.J. He was quick to tell the JHV that it was on Friday the 13th. Schoendorf grew up going to public school at Bond Grammar School, which FOR THE JHV: KATHY ZIEBEN went through eighth grade. He Murray Schoendorf, age 88, had his Bar always knew he was Jewish, Mitzvah in 1985 in Israel. but his family didn’t belong to a synagogue. “I grew up during the Depression,” related Schoendorf. “My parents owned a very successful restaurant, which they lost. It was during that time that they became very disillusioned and angry. My parents told me to go to the synagogue by myself, so we never went as a family.” The young man had no religious training, but still celebrated the Jewish holidays at home. When Jewish males turn 13, as Murray did in 1941, he knew that he was a Bar Mitzvah, even without the ceremony. “I don’t remember any of my friends having Bar Mitzvahs either,” he said. Over the years, Schoendorf moved around from Bowling Green, Ohio, to Fort Worth, Texas, and on to Houston, where he fell in love with the city. He was the co-owner of Kitchen Designers. He and his wife, Diane, had an opportunity to visit Israel in 1985 with Rabbi Jack Segal of Congregation Beth Yeshurun. It was on this synagogue trip where he had the opportunity to have the Bar Mitzvah ceremony he always wanted, even at age 56. For many Americans, a Bar Mitzvah in Israel provides an unbreakable link with what it means to be Jewish. Schoendorf’s Bar Mitzvah in Israel was celebrated with 10 other men at the Kotel. “A huge sense of accomplishment that I totally didn’t expect washed over me,” he said.

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Naman Lipinsky, age 94, became a Bar Mitzvah in 1935 in Waco, Texas. He sang in the choir, below, age 13, second from the right.

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Naman Lipinsky was born on Feb. 22, 1922, in Waco, Texas. His family attended an Orthodox congregation, Agudath Jacob. He was the baby of his family, so he doesn’t remember his older brothers having their Bar Mitzvahs. But, it was instilled in him, starting at the age of 9, that you went to Hebrew school and studied Torah. “I did not like school, and I really didn’t enjoy studying. I was not a good student, and the rabbi, who was actually not an ordained rabbi, would hit my desk with a ruler to get my attention,” he told the JHV. When Lipinsky turned 13, he was well-prepared for his Bar Mitzvah. His parshah, he remembered, was Yitro. The congregation held about 150 people, and it was totally full. The bimah was in the center of the room with the Ark behind it. “I stood very tall up there as a young man with everyone’s eyes on me,” he remembered. “I enjoyed singing the prayers, and I thought I did a great job. After the service we had cookies and wine, herring and gefilte fish, in an adjacent hall.” Lipinsky’s Bar Mitzvah probably cost $35 or $40. His father, a tailor, made his son’s suit.

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18 | Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 |

Sam Hyman Segal Sam Hyman Segal was born in Poltusk, Poland, on Sept. 29, 1921. His father, already in the U.S. (to avoid serving in the Russian Army), raised enough money to send for his mother, two sisters and himself. They sailed for America in 1929 when he was 7. Segal’s father was in Houston, staying with relatives, when the family joined him. His father was a shoemaker by trade, and Sam would grow up in a very Jewish neighborhood, attending Congregation Adath Yeshurun. “I remember my family being very religious,” Segal told the JHV. “We were Orthodox and we kept kosher. The only time I ever ate something that was not kosher was when I was in junior high school at Johnston. I ate a hot dog at a school May Fete I attended.” Segal received his Bar Mitzvah training five days a week after regular school at cheder school, which was taught by Alter Greenfield. “I can still remember how smart that man was!” he said. “Going to cheder school was just a necessary thing. I didn’t give it much thought.” So many people attended Segal’s Bar Mitzvah that the women who arrived late had to climb up the stairs to the balcony to sit. During the Bar Mitzvah, the men were bidding money to read from the Torah. Sam remembered that Ben Proler wanted a specific aliyah, and he kept biding more money to get it. When the service was


Sam Segal, age 95, holds his Bar Mitzvah siddur. Segal at 17 on the right.

over, his parents hosted a party at their house and only relatives came. “They didn’t have a lot of money in those days, so they did what they could.” Unfortunately, his sister, who was two years older than he, had passed away right before his Bar Mitzvah. “There was still a shadow of sadness that hung in the air. We were very close,” he said. The best gift Sam received for his Bar Mitzvah was a set of tefillin made by his maternal grandfather, Chaim. His mother had saved them for his

Bar Mitzvah. He noted that his Hebrew name is Shlomo Chaim, in memory of this grandfather. He also received a tallis from his parents, which was used as the chuppah at his daughter’s wedding. Segal also had a special siddur that he kept from his Bar Mitzvah. A common thread in these stories is the Bar Mitzvah training, which forms a bond with past and future generations. Although today’s Bar Mitzvahs conjure up images of extravagance, it is the richness of reading the ancient prayers from the Torah where the true substance, celebration and memories remain.

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20 | Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 |

‘Love & family’


Ethan Guinn celebrates his Bar Mitzvah in Tokyo with (top) Carl Guinn, Ilene Guinn and Paula Lester. He is later lifted in the chair by Greg Leviton and Carl Guinn.

Stairway to Bar Mitzvah took 3 years, 6,000 miles



n November 2015, Ethan Guinn – formerly of Houston – was called to the bimah for his Bar Mitzvah, almost 6,000 miles from Houston. He began his speech, titled “Stairway to Heaven,” saying: “My Torah portion talks about Jacob and his journeys through life ... and the portion that really interested me was Jacob’s dream. Jacob dreamt about a stairway to heaven that had angels climbing up and down it. Jacob was on a long journey from his house to Haran and Syria. “Back at his home, he made many mistakes, including stealing his brother’s blessing and birthright. At that time, Jacob was not a good person or reaching his potential. His journey from Haran to his home was where he learned to be a better person. “During this dream, G-d stood beside him and told Jacob he wanted him to have the land where he is sleeping. G-d also told Jacob his descendants would be blessed by all the families

of the Earth. “When Jacob woke from his dream, he said, ‘How awesome is this place!’ He then made a pillar, poured oil over it and named the land Bethel. Jacob also vowed that if G-d stayed with him, he would stay with G-d. In the end, Jacob made it safely home, changed his ways and led a good life. “I liked this portion because of two reasons. First, it reminded me of the song, ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ by Led Zeppelin, from the 1970s. I had never heard this song, so I listened to it. My parents said it was a classic, but I didn’t like it. “I also liked that this Torah portion is about love and family. No matter what, I know my family will stay by me and always love me. Like Jacob, I have made mistakes and will probably make more as I grow up, but I will have my family and my faith to guide me. “Like Jacob, I have been able to travel and live in many places around the world. I have had the opportunity to live and experience life in America, Europe and, now, Asia. I know the friends I have made and the places I have

visited will guide me in how I make decisions as I grow up. “As I grow into a Jewish adult, I hope the choices I make are good, not only for me, but for others, as well, that I can pay it forward.” Indeed, Ethan, who was approaching his 14th birthday, could closely identify with Jacob’s journeys because, even as a teen, Ethan’s life had been a journey of many miles. Several years before his Bar Mitzvah in Tokyo, Ethan had begun his studies at Chabad West Houston. These concluded when his parents, Ilene Lester Guinn and Carl Guinn – employees with the United States Department of Defense – were reassigned to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and then to Naval Air Base Atsugi, Japan (about an hour’s drive south of Tokyo). At each stop, Ethan continued preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Ethan used FaceTime on his smartphone to study with his B’nai Mitzvah class in Tokyo, as most of his classmates live in the capital city. According to Ilene, “The Jewish community of Japan, a Conservative synagogue led

Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | 21

by Rabbi David Kunim, is made up of about 100 families and is in Tokyo, where our family attends weekly Sunday school.” She estimates Japan’s Jewish population numbers close to 1,000, including ex-pats from North America, Europe, Israel and Australia. There are a handful of Jewish families on the base, and for the past three years, the Guinns have attended Friday night services there. “On the Naval air base, the congregation is mostly Reform and is led by Chaplain Rabbi Steven Ballaban,” said Ilene. While Ethan’s preparation for his Bar Mitzvah spanned about three years from the time he began his first lesson in Houston, his parents invested about 18 months in planning his simcha around the theme of Greek mythology. “Friday night was family Shabbat, which our family attended and all the Sunday school classes helped lead,” Ilene said. “Saturday morning was the Bar Mitzvah and Saturday evening, we hosted the party at the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo, a property used solely by members of the military and civilian employees at the nearby military base. “Sunday, my mother, Paula Lester, who traveled from Lakeland, Fla., for her grandson’s Bar Mitzvah, hosted a breakfast for the guests, who had stayed the night at the hotel,” she said.


Ethan Guinn became a Bar Mitzvah in Japan.

Ethan, like every Jewish teen anywhere in the world, met all the traditional requirements for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. He led most of the traditional Sabbath service and chanted from the Torah and Haftarah. He wore his late maternal

grandfather’s (Stewart Lester) tallit during the service, and afterwards, family, friends and guests enjoyed challah, wine and light snacks, including fruits, nuts and cookies. “Here in Japan, we ask a special guest of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child to say a prayer for Japan,” Ilene noted. “This is the only portion of the service that is done in Japanese.” Ethan also had a special Bar Mitzvah project. “For my Bar Mitzvah project, I chose to help support the organization CureSMA. When I was 2 years old, I met Micah. She has spinal muscular atrophy. We were in preschool together. Her legs didn’t – and still don’t – work, but Micah is an amazing person. She is so smart and so strong in so many ways. I wanted to support something that would help someone that I knew personally, and that is why I chose this organization. I hope the money I helped raise will make a difference in Micah’s life and the lives of other people who have SMA.” Ethan raised more than $3,000 from online fundraising and holding Hula Hoop and jumprope competitions after Sunday school. In retrospect, Ilene said one of the most challenging parts of preparing for the event was finding items related to Greek mythology. “The hotel staff was tremendously helpful and really went out of their way to make sure every detail was perfect,” Ilene said. “They







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22 | Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 |


Ethan Guinn became a Bar Mitzvah in November 2015.

researched what a Bar Mitzvah was and even made sure we signed a release in order to use the chair for the hora. It was funny ... and we had a great time.” Ethan’s favorite part was providing a new experience for his friends who never before had attended a Bar Mitzvah. “Being so far away from home, you make family living a lifestyle,” Ilene said. “We were so fortunate to find the Jewish community of Japan. They are like family to us.” “Ethan now is a teacher assistant at Sunday school and has some amazing friends. We are so happy to have had his Bar Mitzvah here,” she said.

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Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | 23

A Bat Mitzvah Nightmare, a.k.a. Confessions of a Sleep-Deprived Bat Mitzvah Mom, by Anonymous BY YAEL TRUSCH | JHV


ear Daughter, I just woke up in a cold sweat. A dream? A nightmare? Both? It was so real … We arrived at the venue for your Bat Mitzvah. We both looked fabulous … hair and makeup ready, our dresses, shoes. It was going to be the perfect night … Fabulous, just fabulous! (Just between the two of us … after all the money your father and I spent on this event, it had better be fabulous!) We walked into the hall, anticipating the sight. But, the hall did not look at all as planned. Where was the lighting? The neon sign with your name? The ghost chairs? The flowers? The DJ? The dance floor? The photographer? The videographer? (“I arranged for surprise hip-hop dancers to perform for you and your friends … Fabulous! Where are they? They better show up!”) “What’s happening here!” I yelled. “Where is everyone?” I yelled some more. “Three hundred people are arriving in an hour! Hello! Could we have gone to the wrong address? Let’s go check. Did we tell everyone the wrong date? Did I get the date wrong?” I checked my smartphone. Everything was correct. “Wait, how come I don’t have the event planner’s number here? And, WHERE IS SHE!” I can’t breathe. Chest pains. “Oy! Should we call the paramed-

ics?” I’m crying. “Oh shoot, my makeup must be running, and we have pictures soon.” “Mom, you have no makeup,” you say. “What do you mean? We just spent two hours with the makeup artist,” I answer. Then, I look at you and gasp! “Where is your makeup!? Where are your party clothes? What in the world are you wearing? Your hair, what have you done to it? Stop it right now! Is this a joke?” In storms that event planner of ours. She’s tiny and cheerful. Why is she so annoyingly bubbly? I knew I shouldn’t have hired her. I should have done it all myself. She grabs you by the arm and says, “Ready? Ready? The sun will set soon. Your big day is arriving.” I don’t know who looks more confused, you or me. “Ladies, come, we have to prepare,” she says. “Prepare? Really? I hadn’t noticed. And, how exactly are you going to get this place ready, in LESS THAN AN HOUR?” Did I mention I was yelling? I’m about to grab her little body and strangle her, but you stop me. (“Why is she so skinny? It serves me right for hiring an event planner that is skinnier than me. Remind me not to make that mistake again when your wedding comes!”) You tell me, “Mom, calm down and listen. Let’s listen.” The event-planner-turned-fairy-from-hell says to me,

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“Mom, tell your beautiful daughter your speech.” “Speech? Who cares about a speech!? Lady, w-h-e-r-e is the lighting, w-h-e-r-e are the centerpieces? Did I mention 300 people are showing up in less than an hour? The Schwartzes, the Goldshmitts, the Levys, our relatives, business associates … E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. Produce a party immediately, or you’re fired!” “No worries, we will have a party,” she says calmly. (“Oy, is her voice annoying!”) She goes on, “First things first. Mom, come on, tell your daughter: ‘Why is this such a special night? What will be different in her life starting tonight?’” (“Seriously? When did this turn into the Ma Nishtanah?”) “Ok, Mom, go, you’re up!” she says to me, smiling broadly as she pushes me to the center of the stage. The fairy is now getting feisty. I knew I shouldn’t have hired her. The nerve. I open my mouth and words begin to come out.

Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 | | 25

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*** You hugged me. I think we were both crying. Our makeup was not running, though. I felt the photographer take a picture of our embrace. I heard people clapping. I looked around me. I gasped in astonishment. Oh, everything looked beyond fabulous! Much more beautiful than we had planned. As I walked back to my seat, I noticed the waiters serving brisket. Brisket? Smells fabulous! (You’re right, I do use that word too much.) I whisper to that tiny event planner of ours, “Did they run out of the chicken parmesan we ordered?” She answers, “Oh, wait till you try this, you’ll be glad we switched to that kosher caterer. She really is the best in town. Enjoy and Mazel Tov again!” I have a feeling she’s right … You know? I couldn’t have chosen a better event planner. This has been the perfect night … Just fabulous! *** Yael Trusch writes the column, “Defining Jewish Women,” on the third Thursday of every month in the Jewish Herald-Voice. She is the author of the bilingual Jewish lifestyle blog, “Jewish Latin Princess,” inspiring Jewish women with her warm and refreshing approach to Jewish life. She also travels around the world addressing Jewish women audiences, in both English and Spanish. Email her at



You have to help her assert her needs. Her needs? Yes, and often they might be different from your wants. When you want to sleep, she needs you to wake up early to help someone else. When you want to spend all the money you received on your birthday, she needs you to donate 10 percent of it. When you want to go out on a Friday night, she needs you to light Shabbat candles. She loves those candles. Oh, and then she loves to spend Friday nights at home with family and friends at a fancy, home-cooked meal. While we’re on the topic of fancy, … Fancy stuff? She doesn’t care too much about that; only sometimes. Only when G-d wills that it’s important that we do fancy stuff. Like that fancy kosher brisket that Bubby makes. She likes you to eat that, and she likes a fancy kosher wine on Shabbat and holidays. Surprised? You just have to get the hang of her. But, in a nutshell, this soul of yours really only knows G-d’s will. Really, connecting to G-d is all she needs. When she gets that, she’s healthy and strong. And, that’s all to your advantage. Because then, you can really change this world for the better, all while being who you truly are. From now on and for the next 108 years of your life, my beautiful child, you should pay heed to the real girl in the mirror. Know that every time you are true to her, you are on your way to being your most fabulous, beautiful self and living a fabulous, beautiful life. I love you forever, Mom

Words I don’t recognize, at least initially. But, then I do. They feel so real, so genuine. It was me, speaking to you: *** Earlier today I watched your reflection in the mirror as the hairdresser did your hair and the makeup artist applied light makeup on your beautiful face. You are so beautiful. I’ve always thought so. But today, I saw something more real than what one usually sees in a mirror. I noticed YOU. Your beauty really comes from deep within you. There’s something that makes you who you are. Something that will never change, no matter how you age, what hairstyle you choose or what makeup you put on. You have a soul. A beautiful soul. Tonight, we celebrate that you have a soul – a G-dly soul, a piece of G-d. Tonight, we celebrate that on your 12th Hebrew birthday, G-d entrusts this soul to you. The party, the gifts, the dancing are all great, but G-d’s gift – your soul – is, by far, the greatest Bat Mitzvah gift you’ll ever receive. Tonight is the night G-d says, “I believe in you. You’ve got what it takes to help Me perfect this world.” I, of course, couldn’t agree more. I always knew you were destined for fabulousness. Now, there’s one catch: What you do with that soul is entirely up to you. She’s kind of quiet, you know. She doesn’t fuss much. She would love for you to nourish her, to keep her strong and thriving, but she won’t impose.





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108 years ago in the JHV The first-ever Bar Mitzvah announcement in The Jewish Herald appeared in its third issue, October 8, 1908. An account of the party was made on Oct. 16, 1908. *** A reflection on days long gone: In its inaugural year, The Jewish Herald – which would later become the Jewish Herald-Voice – cost $1 for a year’s subscription. The paper stated: “Cut out the subscription blank on page six and mail to us with $1.00 at the earliest possible date to insure your receiving the Jewish Herald continuously. Watch us from the start.”

LOCAL ITEMS Invitations have been sent out by Mr. and Mrs. Hurwitz of 813 Hamilton Avenue to the young people to attend a party in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of their son Abe, Sunday afternoon, Oct. 10. The Bar Mitzvah party of Abe Hurwitz was attended by a large gathering of children, who were royally entertained. Numerous games were played and prizes awarded. The winners in the “bean guessing contest” were Hennie Schlone and Max Juran. The prizes for pinning the fly on the clown’s nose was awarded to Lena Mendelsohn and Isadore Epstein, S. J. Westheimer securing the “booby” prize. Refreshments were served. Mrs. P. Hurwitz, Mrs. S. I. Schlona,

28 | Jewish Herald-Voice | Bar/Bat Mitzvah Party Planner | October 2016 |

Mrs. Esther Marks assisting Mr. and Mrs. Hurwitz, Mr. Ben Hurwitz acting as master of ceremony. *** Prices for the Jewish Herald-Voice certainly have changed, but so has the coverage expanded for the Greater Houston Jewish community. Make it a point to email your child’s Bar/ Bat Mitzvah announcement to simchas@ Announcements may be submitted for publication either preceding or following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Glossy copies of the announcement, suitable for framing, are available for ordering. For details and deadlines, call 713-6300391 or email




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2016 JHV Bar Mitzvah magazine  
2016 JHV Bar Mitzvah magazine