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spring2012 2013 Spring


Ultimate GUIDE to

bar & bat mitzvahs

PARTY ESSENTIALS the best venues, Photographers, entertainMent everything else!


Making it a


for the whole


budget tool: manage Expenses With Our Cost Calculator


SPRING 2013 |

6 | Editor’s Note

26 | Great Gifts

Traditions & Transitions

Dare To Get Personal With These Bar/Bat Mitzvah Presents

10 | My Big Day Local Rabbis Remember Their Own Bar & Bat Mitzvahs

14 | It’s All In The Details Tips, Trends, And Sound Advice On Venues, Entertainment, Photography, Party Planners, Florists, And Other Key Elements Of A Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebration

28 | What About The Parents? We All Know Whose Big Day It Is, But A Child’s Bar Or Bat Mitzvah Can Also Be A Good Time For Parents To Reconnect With Judaism And Strengthen Their Family Bonds

32 | Good Deeds Mitzvah Projects That Aid The Ailing

20 | A Time To Plan

34 | How Much?

A Step-By-Step Timetable For Planning Your Celebration

Our Handy Mitzvah Spreadsheet Allows You To Keep Track Of Your Expenses—And Hopefully Contain Them!

22 | Parties To Remember Photographer Sarah Merians And Entertainment Guru Darren Olarsch Recently Planned Bat Mitzvahs For Their Own Children—And Agreed To Share The Joy With Us

42 | The Last Word Everything Was Set For A Big Party Celebrating The Bar Mitzvah Of This Author’s Son—Until The Teen Revealed How He Really Felt

family Publication New York


Editor Eric Messinger Deputy Editors Whitney C. Harris Christine Wei Tali Rosenblatt-Cohen Art Director George W. Widmer


Contributing Photographers Michael Jurick


Publisher John Hurley Senior Advertising Managers Ceil Ainsworth Marty Strongin Production Manager Heather Mulcahey CEO Joanne Harras © 2013 Manhattan Media, LLC 79 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10016 t: 212.268.8600 f: 212.268.0577 New York Family is a division of Manhattan Media, publishers of AVENUE magazine

Visit our website at or email us at Mitzvah Spring 2013


TRADITIONS & TRANSITIONS As my own daughter’s bat mitzvah approaches in June, I find myself in the ironic position of reading Mitzvah with a much deeper appreciation than in prior years, when my family and I were not wrestling with all of these choices ourselves. Having edited eight editions of Mitzvah, which comes out twice a year, I’ve published the following advice from parents whose children have recently had their bar/bat mitzvahs so many times, it’s a tradition! Treasure this time, they always say in one way or another. Don’t get caught up in the party planning, they always add. Remember, what’s truly important is this special milestone in your family’s life. And now, as if I’m hearing the advice for the first time, I think I finally get it. For we are caught up in the party planning, but, at the same time, there’s this wonderful undercurrent of expectation and joy coursing through the family. It’s fed by many thoughts and feelings: our pride in how much Elena has put into her Hebrew education; our happiness to have “a big day” to share with our dearest family and friends; and love and appreciation all around. Can you imagine

the over-the-top speech I’m likely to give at the party? I’m sure you’ll feel the same way, but before you get there, please take a stroll through this issue, which is full of wonderful and helpful ideas of both a practical and spiritual nature. A few highlights: We asked three rabbis to reminisce about their own bar/ bat mitzvah experiences (page 10). Local mom Melissa Stoller reflects on how parents may use this special time in their child’s life to re-embrace We’ll be celebrating in June their own connection to Judaism and even to their family (page 28). And legendary event photographer Sarah Merians shares her own daughter’s special day with us (page 22). My daughter’s d’var Torah happens to be about transitions. I wish you and your family much joy and satisfaction as you engage this one. Eric Messinger Editor,

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Mitzvah Spring 2013

looking back

Rabbi Joshua Strom back in the day

My Big Day Local Rabbis Remember Their Own Bar & Bat Mitzvahs

pressure was probably that which I placed on myself. I wanted to do well, much more so than anyone else may have wanted me to. As we got closer to the date, I remember feeling increasingly confident in my knowledge of the material. That was until the weekend finally arrived. With family in from out of town and friends excited for the service and the celebration, I started to freeze up. I didn’t sleep well that Friday night (which was also my 13th birthday). I wondered: What would happen if I walked up to the lectern, opened my mouth, and nothing came out? That fear persisted into the morning and through the beginning of the service. But standing up there, in front of my friends and family and the whole congregation, once the words of Barchu somehow escaped my lips, the rest of the liturgy just flowed from me like water. Though I don’t remember this part so well: When I returned to my seat following the opening liturgy, the temple president congratulated me for a job well done so far. I apparently said something to the effect of, “Thanks so much. But the best is yet to come.” Among the most powerful memories from my bar mitzvah was the gift my father gave to me. He decided, as he had done with my older brother, that for my bar mitzvah day, he was not going to be the rabbi. He was going to be my dad. Two of his closest friends, also rabbis and known affectionately as my “uncles,” officiated the service, and my father just got to be a proud, smiling father—sitting in the front row of the congregation with my mom and brother, watching his son, coming up for an aliyah—like any other bar mitzvah parent. The one exception was the benediction, which he came up to deliver to me personally. Though I don’t remember exactly the words he shared, that moment was and remains one of the most powerful of my entire life. And even more powerful is the fact that I knew I would cherish it as such even while it was happening, even as a 13-yearold boy. And I’m thankful, among many reasons, that I was facing him and not the congregation, as tears streamed down my cheeks.

Last-Minute Jitters

Not Long Enough!

By Rabbi Joshua Strom of Temple Shaaray Tefila

By Rabbi Joy Levitt of The JCC in Manhattan

As a rabbi’s son, there was definitely a lot of pressure on me when it came to my bar mitzvah. Not necessarily from my parents, but from the community. Or at least it felt that way at the time. Whether I liked it not, it had become a synagogue event. A copy of my invitation was even plastered across the cover of that month’s temple newsletter. Looking back on it now, I realize that the greatest

I was one of those rare kids who liked Hebrew School. Maybe because I was good at it. So imagine my shock and dismay when, a year before my bat mitzvah, I was handed the shortest haftara in the class. As much as this was the “performative” aspect of the whole evening (in those days, girls in my synagogue could only become bat mitzvah on Friday nights), I was hoping to demonstrate my superb Hebrew skills for


Mitzvah Spring 2013

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my family and friends. I went right up to my teacher to ask for a longer one. The teacher calmly explained that the prophetic portions that we would chant at the service are connected to the Torah portion of the week; the haftara I received was the one being read on the day of my bat mitzvah. I was having none of it. I went straight to the Cantor to complain and request a longer haftara. After all, I was a terrific Hebrew student and would do this well. In fact, I deserved it. After he repeated my teacher’s explanation, I had a meltdown in his office. Although a lovely man, he had no idea what to do with a crying 11-year-old and, in any event, was clearly powerless to make any changes, so he sent me directly to the rabbi. Good, I thought. The rabbi will certainly understand the desires of a pious child to exceed expectations! But, no, once again, the rabbi patiently explained the system to me. Every week a portion of the Torah was read; the haftara related thematically in some way to that specific Torah portion read on Saturday morning, and his sermon was related as well. There was nothing he could do unless I wanted to change my date. It was, he emphasized, the tradition. When I look back at this episode, I am amazed both by my passion and chutzpah, but at the time, I was simply angry. “Rabbi,” I argued, “there is no tradition of girls becoming bat mitzvah and there is no tradition of reciting a haftara on Friday night. You just said yourself that it is linked to the Torah portion that is read on Shabbat morning. You just made this up so girls could do something. So if you’re making it all up anyway, why can’t we pick a long haftara from some other time of the year?” I will never know why he capitulated. Was it my 11-year-old logic? Was it my tears? Did he just want me to get out of his office so he could get back to more important things? Whatever the reason, long after I forgot the (very long) text of my haftara, it is this conversation—and its outcome—that has stayed with me. Fight for what you want. Don’t accept other people’s explanations without pushing back. Despite the fact that thinking about the story embarrasses me a little, my bat mitzvah was clearly a significant moment in my development as a Jewish woman.

Building Relationships By Rabbi William Plevan of Congregation Shaare Zedek Recently, I met a man who told me that he loved his bar mitzvah. This man was not a very observant Jew, so his comment was somewhat surprising to me. Perhaps I felt a little embarrassed as it occurred to me that I, a rabbi, do not remember loving my bar mitzvah. I didn’t exactly hate it, but I was not incredibly enthusiastic about it. As a child I generally loved Hebrew school at my large urban reform synagogue, but as I got to early adolescence I began to have mixed feelings about the whole bar mitzvah thing. Sometimes I


Mitzvah Spring 2013

Rabbi in the making: William Plevan, second from right

liked Hebrew school, but often I wondered why I was there and whether there were better uses for my time. Occasionally, I even questioned whether I had to have a bar mitzvah. When my parents responded gently but firmly that I was, indeed, going to have one, I resigned myself to its inevitability. I was a good sport about it. I practiced, prepared, went to the required quota of Shabbat morning services. I enjoyed planning a party entirely centered on me. But that only seems to underscore the point that I can’t honestly say that my bar mitzvah was a spiritually transforming experience for me—or that it had anything to do with me embracing Jewish observance and becoming a conservative rabbi. On second thought, though, there is another dimension to my bar mitzvah story that is not about services, Torah portions, or speeches. It is a story about relationships. The experience of my bar mitzvah laid the groundwork for some of the most important relationships in my life, particularly a relationship with a rabbi who inspired me to spend time in Israel, engage in serious Jewish study, and become a rabbi. I also developed a stronger relationship with the synagogue’s cantor, who several years later would help me prepare to read Torah on the High Holidays. My time in Hebrew school sustained relationships with peers who would continue with me in the synagogue youth group. And my bar mitzvah was a touchstone in my relationship with my parents who, while to this day may be perplexed by my decision to become a rabbi (and keep kosher), have been supportive at every turn. Perhaps the lesson to draw from my experience is that the most meaningful part of a bar or bat mitzvah is the way a young Jew builds relationships with his or her family, Jewish leaders, and a whole Jewish community. A bar or bat mitzvah isn’t just an opportunity to say, “We’re proud of you,” but also an opportunity to say, “We’re here for you, and we will always be here for you.” If every young Jew comes away from their bar or bat mitzvah knowing they will be supported and sustained by a loving family and community, then our people’s future will be bright indeed.


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party essentials

Pure Energy

Tips, Trends, And Sound Advice On Venues, Entertainment, Photography, Party Planners, Florists, And Other Key Elements Of A Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebration By Maria Bonello and Sothea Shreck


Mitzvah Spring 2013


J S photo

It’s all in the details

Whether you’re planning to go large or small, formal or relaxed, there’s a lot of research to be done if you have a bar/bat mitzvah party on the horizon. Hopefully, our reporting will provide you with some good ideas and inspiration.

Events by Alysa

A good party planner makes everything easier for the family hosting the party, while working with them to achieve the party they want within their budget. Hiring a planner can seem like yet another big expense, but between their experience and their relationships with vendors, planners often end up saving you money. And the stress you spare yourself by letting them do some of the work can be a kind of cost savings all its own. But how do you choose one? “You want to feel a click,” advises Alysa Katz of Events By Alysa. “You want to feel like the planner gets what you want [so] you’ll enjoy working with her. And it’s not only how you react to the planner, you also want to see how your child reacts to the planner and her ideas.”

A plethora of decisions are to be made: venue, flowers, décor, invitations, food and beverages, entertainment, music, favors, atmosphere, and more. Plus, as you get closer to the bar/bat mitzvah, you’re likely to come upon some little details that went unnoticed before. Party planners can help with all of it—or some of it, whatever the client wants. “What we bring to the table is our knowledge,” says Shai Tertner of Shiraz Events. Jessica Stewart of EMRG Media points out that “event planners can save clients a ton of time.” The planners can make the calls and set up appointments with venues and entertainment companies. Katz says that she’ll even stuff the envelopes for the invites, though “a lot of people like to do that themselves.” When you’re shopping around, keep in mind that planners will typically have a number of regular vendors they use in every category and will do the negotiating for you if you like. Let them. As Tertner puts it, a planner can “leverage their experience” to save you more money than you can. Moreover, there is one thing that everyone expects the planner to deliver. “A planner’s great gift,” Katz says, “is that she really knows how to make a room come alive.” But hiring a party planner doesn’t mean you don’t have to make some of your own decisions. Stewart explains, “We like bringing in our clients every step of the way. And that’s how they want it too. Most parents want to be involved; they want to make the big decisions.” Final tip: You’ll undoubtedly have a lot of questions when you interview a party planner, but be prepared to answer some as well. A good planner will interview you carefully about your hopes and vision. –MB


Party Planners EMRG Media:, 212-254-3700 Events By Alysa:, 732-299-5544 Shiraz Events:, 212-255-7001

Tenjune occupies a former garage in the Meatpacking District. This subterranean lounge oozes urban cool with zebra prints, a horseshoe-shaped dance floor and a bar covered in leather. Located at 26 Little West 12th Street. Contact: 646-624-2410 or Arena at 135 West 41st Street in Bryant Park has New York’s largest programmable LED lighting system and is home to some of Fashion Week’s swankiest affairs. Great for budding fashionistas to celebrate their milestone. Contact: Gina La Rochelle or Anthony Coppers, 212-2780988 x103 or

PHOTOGRAPHERS Nothing beats the value of great memories, so it’s important to invest your time in finding the right photographer. Michael Jurick of Michael Jurick Photography says, “It can be very helpful to look at a photographer’s blog. If they have fresh content, you can feel confident that they’re doing recent work… It’s [also] important to have a [personal] connection.” To make sure that every moment is captured, photographer Terry Gruber of Gruber Photographers says, “[I] always cover an event with two photographers, one dedicated to the adult’s party and one for the kid’s party.” As far as what’s been popular recently, Sarah Merians of Sarah Merians Photography & Video says,

This is New York. The are always new venues as well as classics to consider. Here’s a taste: Let’s Eat Plein Sud Restaurant’s main dining room is great for smaller to mid-size affairs. The French brasserie-style main dining room can hold up to 90 people for a sitdown dinner and 150 for hors d’oeuvres. The restaurant is located in the Smyth Hotel, which means one-stop shopping for out-of-town guests. Located at 85 West Broadway. Contact: Claudia Gismondi, 212-204-5561 or Opia Restaurant at 130 East 57th Street in Midtown has adjoining rooms which means you can host from 14 to 300 people for a sit-down dinner with dancing, or just serve drinks and passed appetizers. Price per person varies depending on menu and number of guests. Contact: Jimena, 212-688-8448 or jimena@ Guastavino’s window-filled building under the Queensboro bridge at 409 East 59th Street was named for the distinctive terracotta tiles adorning its arches and vaults. The look is classic New York—these are the same tiles that are in the subway stations and Grand Central Terminal. Contact: 212-980-2711, Apella Event Space at Alexandria Center at 450 East 29th Street can hold up to 300 guests for a cocktail reception, 250 seated theater style, and various other setups for smaller events. All food and beverage is exclusively catered by Tom Colicchio’s restaurant and sandwich shop, Riverpark, and ‘wichcraft. Contact: 212706-4100 or

Dance The Night Away

Lofty Ideas The Glasshouses at 545 West 25th Street offer a blank canvas of windowed walls. Choose from a room with 11- or 14-foot ceilings; it’s $7,500 starting price to rent either space, and both hold 150 people for seated dinners or 200 for cocktail receptions. Contact: Yumi Han, 212-242-7800 x19 or Espace at 635 West 42nd is a clean, modern space just steps from Times Square that can hold up to 600 guests for a seated dinner. Teens will be thrilled to discover the wireless Internet access with which they can post real-time updates of the evening. Contact: 212967-7003 or

Mitzvah Spring 2013


Michael Jurick Photography

The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers at Pier Sixty is a waterfront space that can hold 160 to 900 guests for a cocktail reception and 350 for dinner with dancing. Floor-to-ceiling windows have sweeping views of the Hudson and the lights of New Jersey. An outdoor patio makes this a perfect spot for a warm weather cocktail hour. Contact: Meredith Barsky, 212-336-6146 or

Something A Little Different Pre-event photography at its most adventurous

“There’s a new trend with LED lighting and color lighting, mainly purples and pinks for girls.” Jurick has also noticed an increasing effort in pre-event promotion through social media. That’s why he’s adjusted his services to fit the behavior and interest of his young subjects, by taking portraits that they can immediately share with their friends. “Instagram is a huge social media outlet for young kids. They’re not only waiting for the big day, they’re starting to promote it. It’s actually a lot of fun.” Final tip: As a guiding principle when shooting for bar/bat mitzvahs, Jurick believes that the celebration should always focus on family. “Parties are elevated to a higher status when mother and father are together on the dance floor with their child.” –SS Photographers Gruber Photographers:, 212-262-9777 Michael Jurick Photography:, 917-544-1871 Sarah Merians Photography & Video:, 212-633-0502


Michael Jurick Photography

For an important celebration like a bar/bat mitzvah, you want good food, especially during the cocktail hour when everyone is eager to devour it. The bar is usually set lower for the main course; people understand that it’s hard to serve fantastic food for a hundred or more people. But bring out the hors d’oeuvres already, will you? So what’s hot? “Anything with truffles is good, as well as mini

Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center at 431 East Main Street in Riverhead will take your guests on a private journey through the ruins of the Lost City of Atlantis. The adventure continues in your choice of aquatic-themed rooms. Kids and adults alike will marvel at the petting tanks and shark exhibits. Contact: Johanna Zucaro, 631-208-9200 x220 or Hard Rock Café at 1501 Broadway is ideal for a party that really rocks. Every room in the venue is filled with music memorabilia, and you can rent the café’s indoor/ outdoor space overlooking Times Square. Contact: John Pasquale, 212-991-1287 or Deb’s Family Disco at Club Arena at 135 West 41st Street, Bryant Park, is a colorful space known for catering to families. They offer a club, catering, DJ, dancers, performance artists, as well as photography and food, so you can focus on the important stuff, like what to wear. Contact: 212-586-7425 or The Craft Studio (and its prime UES location) can now be rented out for bar/bat mitzvah parties with a fun and creative feel. The venue has disco balls and high ceilings, and can be transformed to suit any theme, with plenty of space for additional furniture, tables, and decor. Plus, there’s a huge menu of craft stations to select from and space for up 75 people. Contact: Lindsay Peers, 212-831-6626 or New York Hall of Science at 47-01 111th Street, Queens, offers an out-of-this-world setting. Holding your affair in their North Wing gives your guests an opportunity to explore outer space, dance with the stars, and even check out the interactive exhibits. Contact: Jennifer Brunjes, 718-699-0005 x371 or Providence at 311 West 57th Street has a 13,500-square-foot space featuring three levels and four bars to cater to any preferences and tastes. Formerly a church and studio where Sinatra, Hendrix, Streisand, and Stevie Wonder recorded their music, this space provides for a grand party. Features include a state-of-the-art sound system, intelligent lighting, plasma displays, and projection screens, all designed to add personalized special effects to the party. Contact: 212-505-7400 or

Let The Games Begin

Lamb chop central!


Mitzvah Spring 2013

SPiN New York, which is partly owned by Susan Sarandon, takes ping pong out of the suburban basement and transports it to a sleek and hip setting. Now imagine that setting transformed in a bar/bat mitzvah party for kids, with all the dancing and hoopla, plus something else that you can’t get anywhere else:

Caterers Abigail Kirsch:, 212-696-4076 Butterfield Market:, 212-772-8782, ext. 3 Neuman’s Kitchen:, 212-228-2444

INVITATIONS Bar and bat mitzvah invitations are like the prelude to a great play, offering an idea of what’s ahead. Often, the colors, themes, and design of an invitation set the tone, which can be mirrored in various elements of the party itself, including decorations, photograph albums, and even foods. What are some trends to consider? Nanette Marks of Notes by Nanette says, “People want a thick card stock that doesn’t bend.” Jodi Zgodny from Love Laura Gifts and Laura Leigh from Alpine Creative Group agree, adding that square shapes and letterpress are very popular right now. No surprise on the colors. “Girls like pinks and blues, [while] boys like charcoal gray [and] navy,” says Zgodny.

Unconventional circles and squares

If you’re interested in pushing the traditional creative boundaries, Leigh has created invitations using materials such as wood, mirror, metal, and Lucite. Marks can even make stainless steel invitations, in which letters are embossed in the metal. Generally, the more creative and involved the invitation, the higher the price, though all three designers say there are many options that check off the key boxes: original, personal, and affordable. “There are a lot of tricks that you can do to get ‘that’ look and not have to spend for it,” says Marks. “If [a] person likes the look of [an invitation], we figure out a way to make them happy within their price point,” assures Zgodny. “That is one of the most fun things.” Final tip: Invitations are more varied than when you, dear parents, had your bar/bat mitzvah. So have fun with it! –SS Invitations Alpine Creative Group:, 212-989-4198 Love Laura Gifts:, 212-744-0754 Notes by Nanette:, 646-262-1596

ENTERTAINMENT When shopping around for an entertainment company for your child’s bar/bat mitzvah, chances are you’ll meet with representatives based on recommendations, a known reputation, or firsthand experience from other events. But before you tell any of them what you’re looking for, Gregg Mistretta of Pure Energy advises to let them do the talking first. “Let them tell you about their approach and philosophy toward events,” he says. “Otherwise, if you give them too much info, then they’re going to cater their talk to you and tell you exactly what you want to hear.” Once they’ve spoken and you’ve spoken, Mistretta suggests evaluating the vibe of the encounter: “Is the conversation easy? Does it feel right? Do they really seem to understand your needs and have experience delivering on your kind of party?” He adds, “Don’t go by reputation. Don’t go only by price point. Trust your gut.” Nowadays, most of the larger and established

Mitzvah Spring 2013


Love Laura Gifts

Alpine Creative Group

mac and cheese and mini grilled cheese,” says Joelle Obsatz of Butterfield Market. “Mini is very popular at the beginning of the party.” Paul Neuman of Neuman’s Kitchen says the oldest favorite in the book is still a favorite: “Pigs in a blanket have lived beyond any of our expectations. ” And at the end of the party? “Everyone’s asking for donuts and candy stations,” says Obsatz. Presentation can get highly creative, and there’s been one fresh trend in how the food is delivered. Alison Awerbuch of Abigail Kirsch reports, “The food truck has become popular. We’ve created roaming food carts that move around an event.” These trucks often offer beverages, hors d’oeuvres, main course foods, desserts, and snacks, so both children and adults enjoy the interactivity and participation that comes with food carts and moving mixology stations. With all this creativity, the costs of catering can quickly soar, but there are ways to try to control them. The trick is to offer a buffet instead of plated meals. According to Neuman, “there are three primary costs of catering: food, labor, and rentals.” By offering a buffet, you can easily save on the cost of servers and often on rentals. Another way to save big is to offer only one catered meal, rather than a traditional catered Kiddush luncheon after the service and a dinner later on. Final tip: New York has never been more foodieminded. So if for any reason you’re not happy with your caterer, keep looking until you find someone whose food you love and who wants work within your budget and expectations. “Try to find [someone] who’s really compatible with what you’re doing,” says Neuman. “Find someone who understands the niche that your party’s going to be in [and who caters to that].” –SS

Gruber Photography Let’s get this party started!

entertainment companies are one-stop shops, meaning that in addition to supplying the music and the emcee and the dancers, they also offer a lot of the side-show fun, like photo booths, beauty bars, and craft centers. Marc Jason of Total Entertainment equates a successful bar/bat mitzvah with baking a cake—much like its presentation, “the ingredients are everything.” Beyond the music, entertainment companies focus on what they can do to enhance the atmosphere of an event. As Jason puts it, “the existing atmosphere is really not that important. You have to create the atmosphere.” What’s trending? Matt Toubin of Shine Events reports that events have been straying away from themes, increasingly becoming “based in color, with an overall event design, incorporating adult tables and a kids’ lounge area, dance floor, writing, and media around the room to create an environment.” To create the perfect mood, you often need lighting effects. Liz Kirschner of Levy Lighting says that people are always amazed at how a stark and dim venue can be transformed to a whimsical, trendy, or intimate environment with just the right lighting. At Pure Energy, Mistretta says he favors added elements that keep the party on the dance floor (rather than away from it). “We’ve been doing amazing things with elements like acrobats, contortionists, and lighting. And adding a live instrument can be an amazing touch—the electric violin is very hot.” Final tip: It’s perfectly acceptable and quite common to contact an entertainment company within six months of the party. Just keep in mind that favorite emcees get booked early. –MB Entertainment Levy Lighting:, 212-925-4640 Pure Energy:, 732-536-3688 Shine Events:, 845-535-3100 Total Entertainment:, 201-894-0055

FLOWERS & DESIGN It’s a good idea to think about florals after the other


Mitzvah Spring 2013

lots of ping pong fun and games. Contact: 212-9828802 or USTA Tennis Center’s President’s Dining & Lounge overlooks Arthur Ashe Stadium, giving tennis fans the wow factor. Located in Flushing Meadow Park, the stadium is home to the U.S. Open and the largest outdoor tennis-only venue in the world. Up to 300 guests can be entertained with dinner and dancing. Prices start at $11,000 to rent the space. Contact: Jennifer Matthews, 718-595-2420 or Yankee Stadium at East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx is a dream come true for baseball aficionados. The Legends Suite Club extends from home plate down each baseline for unparalleled views of the ball field. Or try the Great Moments room, which is adorned with images of historic plays in Yankees history. Contact: 646-977-8400 or Dave & Buster’s at 234 West 42nd Street, 3rd Floor. Everyone can let their inner child out at this 31,500-square-foot gaming venue. D&B can hold parties for as few as 10 or as many as 1,200. Contact: Benjamin Maddy, 646-495-2011 or benjamin_maddy@ Lucky Strike Lanes at 624-660 West 42nd Street. They’ll have fun to spare at Lucky Strike Lanes. Hold your party in the main bowling area or rent the ultraprivate Luxe room for fetes up to 200 people. Contact: Matt Miller, 646-829-0180 Wine and Dine, brought to you by former New York Knicks star Clyde Frazier, is a perfect spot for basketball-loving bar and bat mitzvah kids. This 10,000-square-foot restaurant, located at 485 Tenth Avenue, features a free throw court in addition to the typical dining room and bar and lounge spaces. 42 TV screens, a nine-screen video wall, and treats by a Latinfocused culinary team rounds out the entertainment offerings. Contact: Walter C. Rauscher, 212-842-1110 or Bowlmor Lanes Union Square/Greenwich Village Country Club at 110 University Place is the only indoor spot in New York where you can play mini golf, bocce ball, bowl, drink, and hit the dance floor all in one night. Contact: 212-255-8188 or

Chic Choices The Liberty Theater at 233 West 41st Street in Times Square was originally built in 1904 and for many years was home to some of New York’s finest theatrical productions before undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation in 2007. It’s now a restaurant and event space that can accommodate parties of almost any scale. Contact: William Curran, 212-997-1015 or The Edison Ballroom, the former Times Square Supper Club, retains its Art Deco style in a space that can hold up to 600 people. Use their kitchen staff or bring in your own. Prices range from $100 to $180 per person. Contact: Sean Campbell, 212-201-7650 or Broad Street Ballroom at 41 Broad Street retains all the elegance from its original use as a banking hall. The 5,700-square-foot ballroom is wrapped in a 220-

Pirate centerpiece by Michael George

key pieces are in place, mainly the venue and the theme (or the general atmosphere you want), along with any special touches. With that information, a talented florist and designer can take your ideas and transform them into a dazzling and original synthesis of beauty, whimsy, and excitement. “It is really to each his own,” says florist and designer Michael George. “There is no limit.” The mistake is to think of the florist as only having flowers in their tool kit. These days, the florist is often the key person to coordinate with to create the look and feel of the whole room—and flowers may be just one part of the solution. So consider what else you might want to add in the way of decorative flourishes. A piece of Hollywood? Major League Baseball? For a teen ballerina’s party, George created a centerpiece donning a tutu, complete with pink frills and flowers; for a young pirate, he created a trove of gold coins, pearls, and other riches spilling out of a treasure chest. Maria Christina Nino of MCnino Designs says it’s all about the props, but she recommends making rather than renting them, which not only saves money for the client but provides completely original décor for the party as well. “You’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of the kid: What would they like? What would I like if I was 13 years old?” Nino says. Blooming Affairs Owner Udi Harush thinks creativity is key when it comes to doing florals for an event. “It’s very easy to say ‘soccer,’ but anybody can do soccer or soccer balls. The idea is to put out ideas that people don’t see all the time,” he says. What’s trending in mitzvah florals right now? Harush says that lighting the inside of flower vases to match the venue and overall atmosphere has been popular. Nino notes that floral spheres suspended from the ceiling have shown up frequently this year. Final tip: This may seem obvious, but a lot people don’t do it. For florals and other décor, use the internet (Pinterest, anyone?) to find some great ideas! –MB Florists Blooming Affairs:, (212) 262-0004 MCnino Designs:, (781) 383-2424 Michael George:, 212-883-0304

foot mural chronicling the history of commerce by sea. Features include a state-of-the-art AV system perfect for showing a photo montage and seating for up to 300 guests. Contact: 646-624-2524 x360 or raquel@ Harmonie Club at 4 East 60th Street is the second oldest social club in New York City, dating back to 1852. Its posh Beaux Arts design outside and traditional wood paneling inside make this locale a classic choice. Contact: 212-355-7400 Eventi offers a sleek and chic setting in a scenedefining neighborhood located at 851 Avenue of the Americas. Popular features include the Big Screen Plaza, a giant multi-media art screen, to display footage or branded logos, distinctive catering, a large veranda terrace, a sit-down dinner for 250, and much more. Contact: Lisa Benoit, lisa.benoit@eventihotel. com Bryant Park Grill at 25 West 40th Street is situated behind the New York Public Library and overlooks Bryant Park with an attractive, modern interior. The space can hold up to 150 guests for an evening of dinner and dancing. Contact: Walter Rauscher, 212-2068815 x106 or Angel Orensanz Foundation at 172 Norfolk Street was built in 1849 and is the oldest surviving synagogue building in New York. They don’t build them like this anymore—the interior was designed to resemble Paris’ Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the sanctuary was designed to resemble the Sistine Chapel. It can hold up to 250 for a sit-down dinner with a dance floor (for 300 guests, add $500). The price ranges from $15,800 to $17,800 Monday through Thursday and $19,800 to $21,800 Friday through Sunday. Catering not included. Contact: Maria Neri, 212-529-7194 or Stage 6, Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, 15 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, is located in a major movie production studio. The modern ballroom has walls of paned glass offering dramatic views of lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges, and the Empire State Building. The venue can hold from 150 to 600 people for dinner and dancing. All catering must be done through Abigail Kirsch Productions with prices ranging from $150 to $250 per person. Contact: 718-237-1919 or

A Good Deal DOROT, Inc., at 171 West 85th Street, offers the Susan Resnick Fisher Auditorium, a beautifully renovated party space that holds up to 60 people and is available on evenings, weekends and some holidays. Add a DJ, some pizza, and you’re all set. Perfect for a kids-only dance party. The room rental charge is a bargain at $200 an hour. Contact: Judith Logan, 917-441-3753 or

Mitzvah Magazine would like to thank Amy Katz Events, Mario Stewart Events, Heidi Green Photography, and Shirley Serure Photography for helping us to identify some of this year’s most popular venues.

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A Time to Plan

Gruber Photography


A Step-By-Step Guide To Planning A Celebration By Elyssa Yazowitz

Although your child may have just hit double digits, it’s likely you’re already dreaming about his or her upcoming bar/bat mitzvah. Many synagogues assign dates two, three, or even four years in advance, so there’s no reason you can’t start looking for a place to host your celebration, asking for business cards when you hear a DJ you like, or thinking about a theme as you start the planning process. After all, the more you do in advance, the more relaxing the last few months and weeks leading up to your simcha will be. Here’s a timeline to keep you on track:

2-3 years before: Get the date from your synagogue. Start thinking about what this rite of passage means to your family and your child and about what type of celebration you want to have.

12-18 months before: Draft a guest list so you have an estimate of the number of people (this will help you choose the venue). Decide on a style for the event that suits your child, family, and budget so you’ll know what to look for. Ask friends and relatives who have planned similar events for advice and recommendations. Get price quotes from potential caterers, photographers, entertainers, venues, and party planners. Give deposits to any you’re seriously considering, keeping in mind that the money may be non-refundable.


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1 year before: Lock in a location, band or DJ, caterer, and photographer/videographer. If you’re using a theme or color scheme for the event, choose it now to help in related decisions. Book a block of rooms at a nearby hotel. Send out save-the-date cards. This is especially important if your event is over a holiday weekend or you have many out-of-town guests who will need to purchase plane tickets. Include hotel information for advance reservations. Look up your child’s Torah portion and discuss its meaning. Help your child choose a mitzvah project.

6-8 months before: Have your child begin tutoring to learn the Torah portion. Make time for such appointments, studying, and meetings with the rabbi and cantor. Develop a guest list with current addresses. Set

Gruber Photography

up a spreadsheet to keep track of RSVPs, presents received, and when thank you notes are sent. Select and order invitations, thank you notes, and personalized kippot. Choose and order centerpieces, decorations, and party favors. Organize photos for a video montage or sign-in board. Plan any other events for the bar/bat mitzvah weekend, such as a Friday evening Shabbat dinner or a Sunday brunch.

3 months before: Finalize menu, centerpieces, and decorations. Shop for clothing for all family members. (Wait until one month beforehand to have a growing boy’s suit tailored.)

 2 months before: Weigh invitations to ensure proper postage, then mail­—the earlier the better. If you get lots of regrets, you may still have time to invite some people from your second-tier list. If you’re holding a candle lighting ceremony, choose the people to be honored, work with your child to write any introductions, and choose corresponding music. Develop a timeline for the event that includes formalities, horas, entertainment, and food service. Coordinate with the entertainers and caterers. Make appointments for hair stylists, barbers, and manicurists.

Make a playlist as well as a do-not-play list for the DJ if there are songs you and your child definitely don’t want.

1 month before: Reconfirm all service providers and the time they are expected to arrive; discuss any special instructions (i.e., give a list of photographs you want taken to make sure the photographer gets them). Create a seating plan as RSVPs arrive. Call anyone you haven’t heard from. Make place cards and alphabetize them. (If many RSVPs are still not in, add table numbers later as you finalize seating.) Coordinate a rehearsal time with your synagogue. Some will allow you to video this event instead of the actual service. Arrange hospitality baskets for out-of-town guests. Include a schedule of events and detailed directions. Write speeches and toasts. Have final clothing fittings.

1 week before: Confirm final guest count with caterer. Remember: Once you have guaranteed a number, this is what you will have to pay for, even if fewer guests show up. Drop off seating cards at party location. Get checks ready to pay any vendors on the day of your event. Remember to keep cash available for tips. Take formal family pictures in the synagogue. Relax and enjoy this special time with your child, family, and friends!

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the details

Two Legends Of The Local Event Industry, Photographer Sarah Merians And Entertainment Guru Darren Olarsch, Recently Planned Bat Mitzvahs For Their Own Children—And Have Agreed To Share The Joy With Us Emily Silverstein Celebrates At Eventi By Tali Rosenblatt-Cohen Sarah Merians, who owns one of the top event photography studios in New York, knows a thing or two about parties. And when it came to her own daughter’s bat mitzvah, Sarah had a good idea about the party she was hoping to plan. Because of Sarah’s high profile in the events and entertainment community, her blog (found at has attracted a wide following for its insider perspective and practical approach to planning a meaningful, festive, and personal day for any child. Which, of course, is exactly what she tried to do for her daughter, Emily.

aggressively about 5-6 months before. I knew I could pull it off and I started with location. Can you tell us about the look and feel of the space? Everyone arrived to a cocktail party on an outdoor terrace, and then we went to the reception room. It was a nightclub feel—dark with lots of colored lighting, very purple and pink. We had lit up tables and cupcake centerpieces for the kids and for the adults. I had beautiful flower arrangements in cylinders. What kind of entertainment was there? I worked with E Three Productions’ Evan Tyler, who was the DJ. We also had a photo booth, a Lid’s hatmaking booth, and a basketball and knock hockey game for the kids.

Tell us about Emily’s bat mitzvah. We had a daytime luncheon and kids’ party right after the service. After digging through a lot of pictures and finding so many baking shots, the theme evolved into Sweet Emily. The logo was a cupcake and, because her name is Emily Rose, the icing was a rose, and we had pictures everywhere of Emily baking.

What role did your daughter play in the decision making? I narrowed down a lot of things and gave her choices. I also spoke to vendors in advance and gave them my price point so that when we got there, she wasn’t disappointed about what she couldn’t have. And Emily gave me her feedback on everything.

How far in advance did you start planning for the party? Not as long as I would have liked! I started

What about the day was most important to her? She wanted her friends to have a good time, so she


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Sarah Merians Photography & Video Company

What were the invitations like? They were lavender and purple, very soft and very pretty. We put some thin artwork rose petals on it to go along with the theme. It was a fold-over with a beautiful ribbon, and in the pocket was all the [information] like transportation and parking and a card about the service before and the party afterward.

was focused on the music and the games. She also really cared about dessert! She really wanted the chocolate fountain and she was all about the candy table. How many people did you have? It was small: 90 adults, 60 kids. How did you choose who from your own company would photograph the party? I went with who was available, but within that I looked at their particular strengths and had four people each doing three- or four-hour windows instead of the whole day. One is a little funkier; she did room shots and outdoor portraits. Another did indoor portraits. Another did the photo booth—he’s newer and was great with the kids—and one, who has been with me forever, did the rest.

What part of party were you particularly proud of? Because I’m a photographer, I have 100,000 pictures—no exaggeration—of my daughter. I was able to narrow it down to 403 pictures and created a 20-minute montage. Talking about my daughter and how proud I am of her and then introducing the montage was my favorite moment. Was there a scene that will stay with you? When I thanked everyone for being there, I looked around the room. I lost my parents rather young. My father died when I was 23 and my mom passed away three years ago. So for me, looking around at all the people in that room, they fill that void. I also do parties for a living so to be at my own instead of everyone else’s, I think that really was awesome. What advice do you have for parents planning mitzvahs? Really simple: It’s all about organization. Put together a big list and then look at timelines, dates, priorities, and specifics instead of looking at everything, which

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is completely overwhelming. First, figure out who you’re going to invite and send out a save the date— that’s the most important thing. You want to have people there who you love, so regardless of how late you are with everything else, at least people get it on their calendars. I also strongly advise that parents be a very united front about what you want and what you can afford before you present anything to your children. Children shouldn’t make the decisions; they should make choices. Any final thoughts? Pick a photographer and a videographer who are excellent. After all your planning, you want to make sure you have great pictures so you can relive it over and over again. I’d say that even if I wasn’t a photographer! And enjoy the planning because the party is only four hours and you’re done. So it’s the ride, like anything in life, not just the day of. I was incredibly proud of my daughter through the whole process. At the end of the day, she’s standing up in front of all her family and friends and it’s a big deal.

Vendors For Emily’s Party Venue: Eventi, Photography, Montage & Video: Sarah Merians Photography & Video Company, Entertainment: Evan Tyler of E Three Productions, Florals: Diana Gould Floral and Event Décor, Invitation: Judy Paulen Designs (Jessica Glick), Cake: Sylvia Weinstock Cakes, Emily’s Dress: All Dressed Up, Mom’s Dress: Bergdorf Goodman, Makeup: Laura Geller,

Steve Glaser Photography

Jessi Olarsch Celebrates At Providence By Eric Messinger

that. He prides himself on creating a company that offers his style of entertaining, with an emphasis on classiness and fun. Not surprisingly, he organized just that kind of party for his daughter and was very happy to look back on the occasion with us. Is it easier to plan a bat mitzvah if you happen to be in the industry? Let me put it this way: Where most people would have started much earlier, I waited and waited because I knew I could pull it together pretty quickly, given all my friends in the industry. But actually there is a lesson here for everyone. I tell my friends and clients the same thing: You don’t have to sweat it if you haven’t planned far in advance. The days of calling every vendor two years prior to the party are over, unless you want to be really neurotic about it. The only issue is if there’s specific talent you want, [in which case] book early, because the best get booked up. But generally speaking, you don’t have to book everything very early on to put together a great party. How long did you wait? I waited a day or two before I had to mail the invitations—that was between two and three months out. And, later, we decided to switch venues about two weeks before the party! What happened? The Metronome Group owns several properties, and we originally booked one of their other properties. But our list of people kept on growing—plus, we were planning to do the service on site—so I asked if their larger space [Providence] was still available, and we ended up switching. It ended up being about 120 kids and 45 adults. Was there a theme or overarching look or feel to the party? The way we designed the party, it felt just like a night club. We were commuting in from northern Jersey, so it was a treat for most of these kids to come into the city, and we really didn’t want it to feel like a country club or a hotel bar. And because of where we had it, we didn’t need to do much, which was a key reason we chose [the venue]. We own a lot of lighting ourselves, so we enhanced that a bit to make things more festive. But in terms of the décor, we didn’t even hire a florist or designer. My daughter and wife actually did some tall centerpieces themselves. What were the centerpieces? There was a camp theme. It wasn’t a heavily themed party, but it was Camp Jessi. They made little baskets with lanterns and camp supplies. It was very cute.

Darren Olarsch has been running his own entertainment company, On The Move, since 1993, and started in the business a few years before


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Were you and your family satisfied with how it all worked? In every respect. It was casual, not over-the-top. Everyone loved it. The only thing that made me

Steve Glaser Photography

nervous were the buses. I’ve been to too many parties where I’ve seen buses get lost or be late. You have 100-something kids who are the bulk of the party, and they’re late. That’s torture. When our buses showed up on time, it was a big sigh of relief. We assume On The Move provided the entertainment? Of course I used my own crew, so I had all the confidence in the world in them, and they seemed liked they were extra happy to be doing my daughter’s party, which I really appreciated. How many dancers? Any live instruments? Six dancers. And I had my saxophonist there. A sax? That’s sounds cool. Yeah, the kids enjoy the musicians, but for most of them it’s more important to hear the music straight from the DJ. The adults, however, love when there’s some live talent.

To what degree was your daughter involved in the planning? She had a hand in a number of things, especially with the décor and the cake. She designed the cake and she wanted to bake it too, but we convinced her to leave that to the baker. She’s also pretty easygoing— in terms of the music, she was like, ‘Dad, just do it.’ What was your favorite moment? When I gave my speech to my daughter, we connected and laughed throughout it. I told her how special she was and what a great future she was going to have and how she was turning out just like her mom, who looked gorgeous! Any advice for parents planning a bar/bat mitzvah? Always focus on the music! I would just say to keep in mind that the party is, first and foremost, about your child. And if you have any questions or doubts about anything, ask her what she thinks.

Vendors For Jessi’s Party Were there other forms of entertainment? A couple sports tables for the boys; two photo booths, one where they’d take your photo, the other like a Coney Island-style booth where you get in and have fun; an illusionist, who was amazing; and a body artist. We wanted an event with a casual, fun vibe, so I tried not to go nuts on this stuff. I think I did it tastefully.

Venue: Providence,  Photo Booths & Staging/Lighting: On the Move, Photography: Steve Glaser Photography, Cake: CMNY Cakes, Invitations: Alpine Creative Group,

Mitzvah Spring 2013



GIFT guide

Gifts Dare To Get Personal With The Following Bar/Bat Mitzvah Presents

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By Meredith Greene Giving money is the easy way. Finding an object that would make a personal and memorable bar/bat mitzvah gift is a lot harder. To provide you with some inspiration, here are eight gifts we’d be comfortable giving: 1. The whimsical, creatively designed Bergino Judaica Baseballs make the perfect Jewish-themed gift for the young sports fan. These collector baseballs, which come with a gift box and turf base stand, are available with the Hebrew words “Mensch” or “Mazel Tov!” or with a colorful city map of Jerusalem, complete with ancient landmarks of The Old City. $20, 2. A luxury pen is a sophisticated yet practical gift that will forever remind the young writer or student of his or her mitzvah celebration. The Cross Classic Century Sterling Silver Ballpoint Pen has a simple, sleek design and can be specially engraved. With a


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lifetime mechanical guarantee, this timeless pen will be treasured year after year. $110, 3. There’s a reason why girls of all ages love charm bracelets. Composed of many different charms, each bracelet is unique to its wearer, and with more charms always being added, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. We love the adorable Cupcake Charm by Tiffany & Co., which can adorn either a bracelet or necklace chain. $200, 4. A Personalized Memory Box from LeatherTree is a great way to for the bar or bat mitzvah boy or girl to memorialize his or her coming of age. These leather boxes store treasured keepsakes from the special day and include space for a photo on the box cover as well as a free personalized engraved plate. $155,

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5. For a gift with a personal touch, the Sterling Silver Spinning Engraved Ring is both elegant and mitzvah-related. Each piece has a customized inscription of your choosing, engraved on the center band between two sterling silver or 14k gold rings. Select a traditional Hebrew saying or have your own personalized sentiment translated to Hebrew. $139,

7. Alternatively, print books are a perfect gift for any occasion. There’s a great variety of Jewish-themed books, ranging in topics from morality to coming of age, from the history of Judaism to modern-day Jewish living. Our favorites include: The Big Jewish Book for Jews ($16), The Book of Jewish Values ($20), Jerusalem: A Cookbook ($19), and Jewish Wisdom ($17).

6. The Barnes & Noble NOOK Simple Touch is an affordable eReader for young bookworms with a paper-like display, WiFi, two month-long battery life, and 3 million titles to choose from—not to mention the books you can borrow from friends or the library. Bonus points if the gift is pre-loaded with books specially chosen for the boy or girl of the hour. $79,

8. And for something completely different, what about an experiential gift instead of a material one? In a city with an excess of enriching cultural offerings, a year-long family museum membership makes a fun and lasting gift that can be shared with those you love. For a fitting theme, give the bar or bat mitzvah student and his or her family a membership to The Jewish Museum or The Museum of Jewish Heritage. $135,; $180,

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Funico Studios

the big picture

Melissa Stoller and her daughter, Jessie.

What About The


We All Know Whose Big Day It Is, But A Child’s Bar Or Bat Mitzvah Can Also Be A Good Time For Parents To Reconnect With Judaism And Strengthen Their Family Bonds By Melissa Stoller


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A bar or bat mitzvah is a time to focus on your child as he or she prepares for an incredibly meaningful journey. But what about the parents? What can moms and dads gain from the experience besides considerable joy from watching their son or daughter reach this milestone? Parents should be able to mine the experience for their own personal journey, while providing coaching, love, and support for their child. Indeed, going through this process might prompt parents to reflect on their own Jewish identity, to engage more deeply with Judaism, and to connect with their families in new and different ways. During this important time, parents often revisit their Jewish education and become interested in learning more about Torah studies or about Jewish culture, history, and politics. Adults can take this chance to become

more engaged with their synagogue, their Jewish community, or Israel. Many will decide to foster enhanced connections with their families surrounding the Jewish holidays or during Jewish rituals. It’s also a perfect opportunity for parents to reflect upon what it means to have a child who is gearing up for this major life event. It’s often hard for parents to believe that their child is reaching this point of adulthood in the Jewish tradition. The adolescent years may be fraught with conflict as children reach for independence while parents try to hold on to those magical moments of childhood, so it’s important to take the time now to forge connections through shared experiences, to convey your family’s values to your child, and to build upon this experience by enhancing and modeling your own Jewish learning, spirituality, and commitment. To help you get started, here are some practical tips about how to make the most of the time for strengthening your Jewish identity and deepening your connections to your family before your child’s simcha. Share Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah Experience If you celebrated a bar or bat mitzvah yourself, this is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your child over a shared experience. If possible, compare your Torah portion with your child’s, discussing how each relates to your lives. Try to recall your feelings at the time of your bar/bat mitzvah. Discuss how you prepared and studied, and reminisce with your child using the photo album from your celebration. You can even discuss your relatives and friends who attended—who knows what laughs clothing and hairstyles from the past might bring! Interview Older Generations About Their Experiences With the child who will soon have their bar or bat mitzvah, speak to family members about their mitzvah experiences and memories. Older grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins often tell fascinating stories about their lives as young people. Ask about how they kept a Jewish home and whether they encountered any obstacles along the way, then create a scrapbook of family photos with annotated notes to memorialize their stories. Become More Active In Your Synagogue Join your synagogue’s religious school committee to stay informed and make positive contributions to your temple. Think about ways you can help make your child’s religious education more experiential; perhaps ask other parents to demonstrate Jewish cooking, Jewish songs, or Jewish arts to the students. Work with your religious school staff to find adults who can volunteer for field trips to observe Jewish rituals or history. Here’s a timely one: Start a committee for parents going through the bar/bat mitzvah year to provide support, advice, and practical suggestions for one another leading up to the special day. continued on page 30

What The Big Day Meant To Me MARLA TRUGERMAN, MOTHER OF THREE: “I was thrilled to help my two oldest daughters with their bat mitzvah studies. I was brought up in the conservative tradition and studied for my bat mitzvah and confirmation. I was happy that I could still read Hebrew and remember all the prayers and songs. Although children are 12 or 13 years old during their bar and bat mitzvah preparations, and don’t always acknowledge the auspicious nature of the moment, I know that my children will appreciate the accomplishment as they get older.” ELYSA NEWMAN, MOTHER OF THREE: “Going through this process with my older daughter allowed me to reflect upon my own upbringing. Although my mother is not Jewish, I was raised in the Jewish faith. However, all the traditions were not woven into my everyday life. I did not have a bat mitzvah, so I was not connected to the idea of passing on this tradition to the next generation. Now, my husband and I care very much about instilling a strong Jewish background in our children. My oldest daughter just celebrated her bat mitzvah. This unique experience really makes you think about yourself and your identity, and it allows you and your family to solidify your relationship to the religion so that it becomes a part of who you are.” DR. DEBRA MESNICK, MOTHER OF TWO: “I recently returned from a nine-day mission to Israel with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project ( This group, which offers almost fully subsidized missions to Israel for over 1,000 women each year, presents lectures filled with spirituality and values that the women can bring back home to their families. I met incredible women from all over the world and we learned about the State of Israel as well as parenting from the Jewish perspective. In preparing for my son’s bar mitzvah in a few years, my husband and I want to set the example that Jewish learning is lifelong learning. We want to model and reinforce the idea that their bar and bat mitzvahs are not the end but really just the beginning of their spiritual travels.” MELISSA SAPERSTEIN, MOTHER OF THREE: “I am very active in my synagogue, I attend Shabbat, and my children attended a synagogue preschool. Yet I didn’t have a bat mitzvah during my teenage years and I didn’t grow up going to synagogue. I felt like I was missing something, so I celebrated an adult bat mitzvah just recently. I started by taking a beginner Hebrew class so I could participate more fully in services, and then my commitment evolved into the adult b’nai mitzvah class. We became educated together, we did a group mitzvah project, and a few of us with similarly aged children travelled to New Orleans with our families on a synagogue service learning trip. We have even talked with our rabbi about continuing on to Confirmation! There is definitely a ripple effect for children to see their parents working hard and learning more about Judaism.”

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continued from page 29

In the same spirit, start attending more synagogue services as a family. It will help you become more familiar with the songs, the prayers, and the order of the bar/bat mitzvah service. Also, attend special holiday services or other special events offered at your synagogue. Celebrate Shabbat, Festivals, And The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Period Invite family and friends to festive meals to celebrate Shabbat and the Jewish holidays. In particular, include the families with whom your child may be sharing the bimah for the bar or bat mitzvah simcha. Start a mitzvah club with your friends or through your temple and get together monthly with the families celebrating around the same time. It can be purely social to strengthen the ties within your community or you can add an element of Jewish study or culture to the occasions. You can either meet at someone’s home or at a famous landmark restaurant such as Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side. Engage With Jewish Culture And History Participate in adult education classes to further your own learning. Both The JCC in Manhattan and 92nd Street Y are wonderful spaces for classes, lectures, and community events, and most synagogues also offer adult learning opportunities to their members. Learn conversational Hebrew or delve into Yiddish. Join a Torah study class at your synagogue or form your own study group. I also highly recommend attending Jewish film festivals. Presented by The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, The New York Jewish Film Festival takes place every January and highlights movies from around the world that deal with issues of Jewish identity. In Westhampton Beach every August, The Hampton Synagogue, in conjunction with the Hamptons International Film Festival, presents the Westhampton Jewish Film Festival. For the musically inclined, attend concerts featuring Jewish musicians. Try the annual Sephardic Music Festival or the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on its next visit to New York. Attend a klezmer jam


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Jamie Watts

The author with her mother-in-law, Milly, and her mother, Connie (seated), at Shabbat dinner in Israel.

in your neighborhood or join your synagogue’s choir to participate in music-making yourself. Get involved with the Kulturfest International Festival of Jewish Performing Arts, which is currently slated to take place in 2015. If you want to get social, involve your neighbors and friends in finding Jewish cultural opportunities. My family and I recently read and discussed My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok, and then saw the novel come to life in an Off-Broadway production. Start a book club with your friends and read Jewishthemed books. Hold your discussion group over a dinner of brisket or chicken soup. Or start a parentchild Jewish-themed book club to make meaningful connections with your family through reading. Or wander through Jewish historical areas like the Lower East Side and Ellis Island. Visit Jewish museums like The Jewish Museum of New York or The Museum of Jewish Heritage. Take in Jewish art either at museums and galleries or search online for Jewish artists such as Pissarro, Chagall, Soutine, and Modigliani.

The Newman Family celebrates!

Finally, learn more about the contributions Jews have made in fields such as the arts, sports, science, and politics. There are many good books filled with fun tidbits about prominent Jews and their contributions to their societies. Read about a Jewish topic that interests you. Become an expert in Israeli politics or Jewish literature. Perform Tikkun Olam With Your Family Volunteer at your synagogue’s Mitzvah days or for other Jewish causes through the UJA, JNF, or other Jewish service organizations. Join an organization like Hadassah and get involved in the wider Jewish community. Travel To Jewish-Related Places Consider visiting Israel with your family or going on a volunteer mission for adults. Otherwise, try to visit a local synagogue or JCC when you’re out and about in general, to get a sense of the Jewish community in that area. Melissa Stoller is the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, and has written numerous articles about family life.

Mitzvah Projects That Aid The Ailing By Tashween Ali The Most Rewarding Spring Collection In Fashion Project by Harley Sherwood Be hopeful, be helpful. That is the guiding philosophy behind Harley Sherwood’s mitzvah project-turnedambitious organization, which collects dresses for cancer patients. Since fifth grade, the 16-year-old high school junior has been gathering new and used dresses for patients to wear to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Department of Pediatrics’ annual Spring Prom. Two weeks before the prom, each attendee gets to pick outfits from “Promingdale,” a collection of beautiful dresses and suits donated by Sherwood and others. Then comes the event itself, in which the hospital cafeteria is transformed into a ballroom. “These children can use a little magic,” said reporter John McKenzie, who covered the event for ABC News in New York. “Many have endured months of painful treatment. They not only feel different, many [also] look different. Many began to socially withdraw.” Which is exactly why the dresses, perhaps a small gesture at first glance, actually signify something so much more. “This is a night for these patients to be ‘normal.’ Donating a dress is symbol of hope from the outside world,” Sherwood says. “Just for one night, you’re really changing their life, and it makes me want


Mitzvah Spring 2013


GOOD Deeds

Jack Getman

to collect as many dresses as possible, so every single patient there can feel special through whatever dress they feel is perfect for them.” Sherwood’s special connection to the effort began with a woman she never met: her maternal grandmother, who passed away from breast cancer when her mother was young. For this reason, Sherwood has long felt an interest in helping others with cancer—not to mention that she’s wanted to be a doctor since she was 7. Sherwood was introduced to the idea of collecting dresses for donation when, at 10, she attended the Bunny Hop at FAO Schwarz, a big annual charity event to benefit the Society for Memorial SloanKettering Cancer Center. Since the center is one of the nation’s leading hospitals for cancer research and treatment, Sherwood knew it would be a great partnership. “Everything [Sloan-Kettering] does is a worthy cause and could potentially impact a lot of people who suffer every day,” she says. “I knew they could make difference in a child’s life and I wanted to help them.” The first year, she donated from her own closet along with soliciting family and friends, collecting 80 dresses in total. After that, she realized that she wanted to extend the personal endeavor into her mitzvah project and beyond. Over the years, Sherwood has managed to establish programs not only in her school, but also in her friends’ schools, each holding a drive for dresses over a period of two

Harley Sherwood and her sister Regan

weeks in the spring. Last year, to promote the drive, the community service board members at the Hewitt School (which Sherwood attends) dressed up in prom dresses for the day to encourage other students to ask questions and learn more about the cause. To date, Sherwood has helped to gather over 750 dresses. “I wanted a [mitzvah] project that I could really care about. And I still care deeply about it—sometime in the far, far future I hope to collect one million dresses,” she says. Being in it for the long haul is more than just words with her. Presently, she’s working on a business plan to turn her organization into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Be Hopeful, Be Helpful. And even though Sherwood herself has not yet been able to actually attend the prom—she has to be 18 (a legal adult)— she’s working harder than ever to keep the dresses in the pipeline. “As soon as I turn 18, I will be there, volunteering, helping [patients] get ready, and everything,” she says. “I can’t wait to be there for that experience... I’ve been looking forward to it.” For more information about Memorial SloanKettering’s Pediatric Prom, visit pediatric-prom. To contact Harley Sherwood about donating a dress, email her at HarleyCSherwood@

A Guide To Gluten-Free Living Project by Jack Getman “Celiac does not, will not, and will never define who you are as a person,” says 14-year-old Jack Getman. “You are still you, even if you can’t eat bread.” When Getman, now in eighth grade, began brainstorming mitzvah projects, his rabbi advised him to choose a project personal to him. Getman was inspired to found WiGF (What is Gluten Free), a pamphlet to help newly diagnosed patients make the transition to gluten-free living.

Getman’s personal journey with the disease began four years ago when, after years of misdiagnoses, doctors finally figured out that he had celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that affects the digestive process. When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten—a protein found in grains likes wheat, rye, barley, oats, and malt—the individual’s immune system responds by attacking the small intestine. Getman uses a clever analogy to explain to his friends what happens when gluten enters the body: “A healthy small intestine is lined with millions of villi. Villi are responsible for sucking in all the nutrients from the food you eat. Imagine the villi are trees. The gluten cuts down most of the trees so that they die and can’t take in the nutrients. But with a gluten-free diet, the trees grow back very quickly.” The first few weeks of going gluten-free proved difficult for Getman. “There’s nothing you can really do but accept it; it’s a dramatic change to your lifestyle,” he says. Getman remembers each “victory“— like when he found an awesome gluten-free donut. “It’s unusual for gluten-free products to taste ‘normal,’ and when they do it’s really a good feeling,” he says. “It’s difficult for kids to give up their favorite foods,” adds his mom, Heather Getman. So for his mizvah project, Getman created educational materials offering basic background on the disease as well as a lot of practical information on how to make gluten-free living feel normal and manageable. While awareness of the disorder has grown exponentially—many supermarkets now have aisles devoted to gluten-free items and restaurants feature gluten-free dishes on their menus—he brings a fresh kid perspective to the discussion. Writing with the maturity of an adult who has had the disease for years, Getman provides tips for patients of all ages, including issues of special concern for his peers, like handling social situations such as birthday parties and sleepovers. The final pages are devoted to a list of his favorite gluten-free restaurants and products, and he continues to update the pamphlet as he makes new diet-related discoveries. It’s clear that Getman has decided that celiac disease will not over-run his life. He plays the electric bass in the school band, practices photography, plays tennis, and reads a book a week. When he was preparing for his bar mitzvah, it meant a lot to him that he could relate his disease to his torah portion, Tazria, which has to do with leprosy. “A modern-day connection to my torah portion involves the fact that much of modern medicine is still a mystery. In those days, no one knew what caused leprosy, and there are many diseases today that people don’t understand, even doctors,” he said in his bar mitzvah speech. While there’s still much to learn about celiac disease, Getman has distributed over 100 copies of WiGF, through doctors and at personal requests. “Celiac can be isolating, but doesn’t have to be,” he says. If you would like a hardcopy of the WiGF pamphlet or have questions for Jack Getman, you can contact him through his blog at or via email at

Mitzvah Spring 2013



How Much?

Alpine Creative Group

Our Handy Mitzvah Spreadsheet Allows You To Keep Track Of Your Expenses—And Hopefully Contain Them! By Chrissy Makris A child’s bar or bat mitzvah is a special religious ceremony celebrating thirteen years in the making; a day many Jewish parents dream about since their child was teetering around in diapers. While many families tend to keep their budget between $15,000 and $30,000, it’s very possible to plan a modest bar or bat mitzvah for just a few thousand dollars


Mitzvah Spring 2013

Sarah Merians Photography & Video Company


by getting creative with your resources. Not that it’s a rarity for some affluent families to shell out over $100,000 for an extravagant event in New York City, either. If these numbers leave you feeling a little schvitzy, fear not! Our comprehensive list will help you get organized, begin your planning process, and figure out a realistic budget that best suits your family.


Sunday Brunch


Room Rental




Total Cost







Total Cost

Table Cards/Seating Cards

Friday Night Dinner Total Cost

Party Transportation Venue/Caterer Rentals (if separate from venue)

Thank You Cards Postage Total Cost

Party Planner Total Cost


Alcohol (if separate from caterer)





Bar/Bat Mitzvah Child


Other Siblings


Total Cost

Party Favors





Bat Mitzvah Child

Total Cost

Other Family Members

Kiddush Total Cost

Photography & Videography Photography Videography

Total Cost

Miscellaneous Total Cost

Total Cost Of Bar Or Bat Mitzvah:

Total Cost

Mitzvah Spring 2013



Cheryl Fleming Photography 212.717.6959

Cheryl Fleming is a master event photographer who can make your once-in-a-lifetime mitzvah pictures as perfect and memorable as your occasion. Flexible, hip and with a superb eye for capturing unique moments in pictures, you’ll find Cheryl a breeze to work with. Perhaps most important, your mitzvah guy or gal will love her too. Like them on their FB page- receive your special gift when you book your event.


Milk & Honey Productions New York, NY (212) 725-0014

Milk & Honey Productions introduces a sensitive blend of artistry and experience to event films. Known as NY’s premiere videography company in the wedding industry, they have introduced their innovative approach to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. With experience in documentary filmmaking and television production, their filmmakers capture the day unobtrusively and deliver a film which is truly reflective of this important day. Also recognized for their dazzling montages, wallpapers and tribute films, it is the place to go when you want to make your child’s event a hit and to ensure this milestone is captured with dignity and warmth.


Your Broadway Song 917-232-0070

Make your event a truly unique and memorable one with Your Broadway Song. Professional composers create an original song all about the honored Bar/Bat Mitzvah! Sung by Broadway performers! We are a team of professional musical theatre writers whose shows have been professionally produced across North America. Our talented team members belong to the prestigious BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, they are Jonathan Larson Award Winners and have worked with Tony-Winning writers and performers. We bring professional Broadway singers and even Broadway Stars to sing these original songs written about the guest of honor. Use promo code Mitzvah Mag to receive 10% off. Give your child the most unique gift ever!


ShimmerNYC 646-524-6491


EMRG Media 60 Sutton Place South, Suite 8LS New York, NY 10022 212-254-3700

Your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Make it a celebration for all time with EMRG Media is New York’s leading full service event planning firm with a division dedicated to Bar and Bat Mitzvah planning. Our attention to detail, hands on approach and individualized event development separates us from the rest. EMRG Media has consistently received accolades and extensive press recognition from USA Today, The New York Times, CNN, NBC, and numerous spots on MTV. If you’re planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, EMRG Media can assist you in all aspects. EMRG Media brings the very best venues, decor, music and entertainment to all of their clients. EMRG Media guarantees that your child’s event will be one to remember.

ShimmerNYC, founded by Nancy Hoehler, combines her life-long love of entertaining, detail oriented focus, and a successful 25 year Wall Street career to address the needs of those seeking the very best in entertaining. ShimmerNYC is a full service event planning company which is passionate about making your Bar/Bat Mitzvah a memorable event. We will work with you to make sure every detail is perfect. ShimmerNYC becomes your partner by getting to know your style and vision, working within your budget and making it your best day ever-your job is to come and enjoy yourself and your guests!

EMRG Media works with over 100 top venues & services including: Top Event Spaces, Hotels, Night clubs, Restaurants, Lofts, Entertainment Companies, Florists and more. If you are planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in New York City or any other occasion, contact us. Let us handle the details–so you can relax and celebrate.


Bowlmor Lanes Union Square/Greenwich Village Country Club

Bowlmor Lanes Times Square/Carnival

110 University Place (btw 12th and 13th St) New York, NY 10003 212-255-8188

222 West 44th St (btw 7th and 8th Ave) New York, NY 10036 212-680-0012

Bowlmor Lanes unique, fun, and exciting venues are perfect for any Bar/Bat Mitzvah. With multiple locations in New York City, each with award-winning style and service, the possibilities are endless. Winner of BizBash’s Best New Venue Award, Bowlmor Lanes Times Square in boasts 50 lanes of luxury bowling divided into 7 private, NYC themed lounges. The 90,000 sq. ft. entertainment palace is also the new home of Carnival, a chic event space complete with a stage, dance floor, and retro boardwalk games. Each space within the venue can be rented separately or combined to suit your individual party needs. The Union Square location, a NYC legend since 1938, features 42 lanes of glow-in-the-dark bowling on two floors, a private VIP party room, and the newly launched Greenwich Village Country Club. Voted the Most Anticipated New Venue of 2011, GVCC is New York’s only indoor mini golf with 3 private party spaces including an exclusive nightclub room with DJ and dance floor. All Bowlmor properties feature completely customizable catering menus with extensive food and beverage options. Bowlmor’s experienced Event Coordinators guide you through every step of the Mitzvah planning process- they do all the work while you take all the credit. From bowling, to mini golf, to boardwalk games and everything in between, there is so much to see and do at a Bowlmor Lanes Bar/Bat Mitzvah! For more information visit or email


Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine 485 10th Avenue (Between 37th and 38th St) New York, NY 10018 Contact Info: Walter C. Rauscher 212-206-8815

There’s no better place to celebrate your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah than at Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine, a restaurant that celebrates the unique style of iconic NBA All-Star Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Located in Manhattan’s West Side, Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine is a 10,000 square foot, uniquely designed space, which includes a dining room, bar and a lounge/VIP area. It also has its very own regulation-size free-throw court, the only one of its kind in NYC, making it a perfect venue for your private event. The space can be made versatile to accommodate your needs, and with 44 TV screens throughout the restaurant and a giant 9-screen video wall, you can be sure to keep everyone entertained. There’s no need to cater, as our Culinary Team will design a menu, from a selection of contemporary American fare with Latin flourishes, to meet your tastes. Kosher and Glatt Kosher options are also available. Rest easy, our professional Special Events Coordinators will make sure that you get premiere quality service and an unprecedented level of attention. They will ensure that every detail is accounted for and that everything is perfect for your special event. With the perfect setting, the highest quality service and delicious cuisine, Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine is NYC’s premiere Bar/Bat Mitzvah event space. For your child’s special day, it’s a slam dunk.


Chelsea Piers Special Events at Chelsea Piers 23rd St. & Hudson River Park Pier 61 212-336-6777

If you’re looking for a unique, riverside location for your son’s or daughter’s special celebration, look no further than Sunset Terrace at Chelsea Piers, a 3,400 square-foot reception space with panoramic views of the Hudson River. The stunning skyline becomes the backdrop for unforgettable Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations accommodating up to 150 guests for dinner and dancing. Enjoy fine food and service from our preferred caterers, including Kosher and Glatt Kosher options. Our caterers work with you to customize a menu to suit the tastes of all your guests. After a delicious meal, your guests can dance the night away as the sunsets over the Hudson River. Looking for more action and adventure for your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah? The Field House at Chelsea Piers is the ideal location for an active, sportsfilled party, featuring activities such as rock climbing, basketball, batting cages, soccer, and much more. Our state-of-the-art sports facility provides the canvas for your child’s favorite sports activities, all in one location. Certified sports facilitators ensure that your child’s friends and guests are engaged throughout the party in a safe environment. With riverside reception spaces and a variety of activity options, Chelsea Piers is versatile enough to accommodate all of your event needs. Our experienced event managers will create a unique and memorable party that allows you to enjoy the event alongside your guests, while we take care of the details. We invite you to explore our venue and learn why it is one of the most popular venues for Bar & Bat Mitzvah celebrations in New York City.


Deb’s Family Disco At Club Arena, 135 W. 41st. (off Bryant Park) Midtown Manhattan 212-586-7425, or traveling entertainment at your venue

Family Disco has been the Chosen One over and over again for their “best” parties (New York Magazine’s “BEST OF” four years running). Club, catering and entertainment—we’re one-stop shopping! Traveling to your hall or entertaining at our venue—a magnificent discotheque that can host hundreds handsomely, or be curtained off so that smaller fetes find their perfect fit. Gourmet catering with creative choices (like our crepe chef who flips crepes fresh before your eyes, or the wok wiz who mesmerizes with his fast flying knives). Deejay, emcees and dancers that hit real cool right, never schmaltzy, never phony. Family Disco offers top-quality in a range of services—personalized invitations, customized party favors, theatrical set design, specialty lighting effects, photography, videography and your own party web page creation. But what we really do better than anyone else is get people up and dancing and having a good time. That’s our ‘art’ and the single most impor-tant factor ensuring your party’s success. Family-owned business guarantees you personal attention by owner.


The EDISON BALLROOM 240 West 47th Street New York, NY 10036 212-201-7650

The Edison Ballroom has a long and colorful history. Located in the heart of Times Square, it was originally opened in the 30’s as the grand ballroom for the Hotel Edison. It was constructed in a classic “art deco” design, and offered dining and dancing to its patrons, while featuring many famous bands and singers from the “Swing Era.” A generation later, the Edison Ballroom was converted to the Edison Theater, where various Broadway theatrical productions were offered. In 1991 the Edison Theater gave way to “The Supper Club”, which offered its patrons dinner and dancing to the music of various “big-band” style orchestras, and which hosted various private, corporate and charitable events. The Supper Club hosted its final event in May, 2007. In May, 2008, following more than $5 Million in renovations, the venue was reopened by its new management and was renamed “Edison Ballroom” to conjure up some of the former glory of this venue. With its exquisite art deco style, blended with a touch of modern design, this 17,000 square foot venue is perfect for hosting a wide array of private functions, including weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, charity events, and corporate parties. It has an extra large dance floor, a 40-foot stage, it contains two separate kitchens, and is equipped with the most modern lighting and audio/visual features in the industry, including an 18 foot screen, and 14 high-definition plasma monitors. Edison Ballroom easily seats 500 guests, and can host up to 1,000 attendees for standing receptions. Its mezzanine level is perfect for hosting cocktail receptions prior to seating guests for dinner on the main floor. The venue also includes a VIP lounge, perfect for entertaining bridal parties, dignitaries, or for use as a photo shoot area during or after your special event. This elegant, gracious space, in an ideal location is the perfect setting for your private function. The Edison Ballroom’s team of professionals will work with you to make your affair a truly memorable occasion. For reservations or information call (212) 201-7650 or email



Eventi Hotel

851 Avenue of the Americas NY, NY 10001 For Inquiries contact Lisa Benoit P: 646.794.6840|F: 212.564.6790

Lucky Strike New York 646-829-0170

Lucky Strike New York is an entertainment bowling lounge featuring 26 state of the art lanes, 11 billiards/ ping pong tables along with an exclusive lounge, LuXe. Conveniently located in Hell’s Kitchen on 42nd and 12th Eventi- a Kimpton® Hotel presents exceptional style and warm hospitality for remarkable bar and bat mitzvahs in the heart of Manhattan. Centrally located in Chelsea, just blocks from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, Eventi provides over 20,000 square feet of event space with nine flexible rooms, multiple outdoor terraces overlooking the city and five elegant specialty suites. The Veranda Terrace is one of Manhattan’s most prestigious outdoor venues. The wrap around terrace boasts views of both the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower. At Eventi, we can comfortably accommodate up to 265-seated guests or 350 for a reception. Our special bar and bat mitzvah menu packages allow you to select from a wide variety of distinct catering packages, including Kosher catering options. Our catering professionals will delight your guests with customized catering menus curated specifically for your celebration. The cuisine and expert presentation will make your special occasion stand out. Our event spaces allow for a customized dance floor and stateof-the-art audiovisual capabilities. Eventi is also home to an outdoor plaza for public use, which houses a larger than life 30 x 16 ft. interactive multimedia screen. For private events, the Big Screen is available for customized messaging, a photomontage, videos or even for playing live video games from the Ventana Ballroom (Wii and xbox). At Eventi, unforgettable events are our specialty.

Avenue, the energetic and stylish offerings of Lucky Strike are unparalleled creating a unique space popular with celebrities such as Robert DeNiro, John Mayer, and New York Yankee, Alex Rodriguez. Lucky Strike is your solution to hosting a fun, hip event. Our knowledgeable staff is eager to bring you whatever you need from our full-service bar and customizable menu. We will make every Bar or Bat Mitzvah seamless from start to finish! When you celebrate your special occasion at Lucky Strike New York, your child will be the star and your guests will be wowed. Your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah is important and should be planned with explicit attention and detail, making your Bar or Bat Mitzvah an unforgettable celebration. We will plan and execute your Bar or Bat Mitzvah the way you’ve always wanted.

the last word

Mitzvah, Interrupted Everything Was Set For A Big Party Celebrating The Bar Mitzvah Of The Author’s Son—Until The Teen Revealed How He Really Felt

With five weeks to go until The Big Day, our son came in with an announcement. It was not a flash in the pan, since he’d been thinking and talking about it for some time, but it wasn’t just any announcement. “I don’t want to have my bar mitzvah party.” Excuse me? Can you repeat that? “I just don’t think it’s a good idea.” Henry gave a couple of exceptionally well thought-out reasons for his decision, including that he didn’t think the party captured the spirit of what a bar mitzvah was about. Becoming a man in the eyes of the Jewish people did not feel to him like a reason to have a dance party. It wasn’t, he continued, that parties are bad or inappropriate; he just felt it wasn’t the right way to celebrate for him. So what did he want? What he really wanted, what would really give him pleasure, he said, was just having a snowball fight with a choice bunch of his friends in the park. But that wasn’t going to happen. The rabbi had never heard the likes of this in his many years in the trenches of bar and bat mitzvah teaching. What we had here was a voluntary, unilateral withdrawal from a teen party. Unprecedented in the life of the large Manhattan synagogue of which we are members. We let Henry sleep on it, but the next morning emails were sent out to parents and kids. The reactions were uniformly supportive, even admiring. The bar mitzvah took place in January on the appointed day. Our temple’s main sanctuary on a Shabbat morning is like the JFK of Shuls—there are bar mitzvahs stacking up, planes coming in and out, delays, new gates, announcements, movement of people, and a constant background noise. We chose the privacy, if not the glamour, of a chapel on the top floor of the building, where Henry would be the only star of the show and the folks sitting down to pray and listen would be there to hear him, with the lunch reception to take place right outside of the sanctuary.


Mitzvah Spring 2013

It turned into one of the most remarkable and moving days of my life. (I know it’s supposed to be, but the feelings still crept up on me by surprise.) Henry mastered an awful lot of Hebrew and speech making. And standing there at the bimah, he was self-possessed, in control, witty, and kind—the boy truly transitioning into the embryonic adult. The rabbi and cantor were magnificent in word and song and personal touches. Everyone in that room knew Henry and rooted for him. I had a couple of moments of glorious loss of self control when I put my dead father’s tallit around Henry at the start of the service and later made the fatherly blessing over him in front of the ark: May The Lord Cause His Face to Shine Upon You… His mother had spent a lot of time making a lunch that’d be personal and memorable. The theme followed his mitzvah project of environmental consciousness—a cause that his grandfather had famously pursued on a national stage for many years of his esteemed life. The “montage” (what’s with that word?) was a video that combined pics of Henry’s upbringing and relatives, with a variety of clips and spoofs and celebrity endorsements (the Donald Trump clip telling Henry “he’s hired” brought the house down). It has been another particularly brutal postChristmas winter in New York. We wondered whether some out-of-towners would have difficulty getting into the city with a hardcore blizzard hitting on Friday. They all made it without a problem. But the weather also brought another unexpected, but wonderful, guest. As the lunch party wound down, the room’s glass doors were opened onto the roof garden. The kids all spilled out onto it. Shouting and cheering, they scooped up the recently deposited snow. And they had a snowball fight. Richard Burns is a contributing writer to New York Family.

Illustration by Justin Winslow

By Richard Burns

Mitzvah Spring 2013  

Mitzvah Magazine is the resource for parents in the New York City, and the greater metropolitan area, who are navigating the Bar and Bat Mit...

Mitzvah Spring 2013  

Mitzvah Magazine is the resource for parents in the New York City, and the greater metropolitan area, who are navigating the Bar and Bat Mit...