the ultimate guide to
bar & bat mitzvahs
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INSIDE 4 | EDItor’S NotE
Fall 2013 | mitzvahmag.com
Making it whole
big day; in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a local family—our editor’s—needed a re-start
6 | ParENt to ParENt
32 | GrEat GIftS
Wise advice—practical and spiritual—from parents whose children recently had their bar or bat mitzvahs
Presents with a personal touch for the bar or bat mitzvah child
10 | JourNEy to ISraEl
34 | bESt DrESSES
For his son and daughter’s b’nai mitzvah, a top NYC photographer knew right where he wanted his family to be
Get the scoop on the hottest trends in elegant bat mitzvah glamour
36 | mItzvah ProJEctS
14 | Party ESSENtIalS The experts sound off on tips and trends for venues, entertainment, photography, and all things party planning
Don’t just ask for donations; do some homework and find a cause with meaning
40 | how much?
22 | a tImE to PlaN
Our handy mitzvah spreadsheet allows you to keep track of your expenses—and hopefully contain them!
A step-by-step timetable for planning your celebration
48 | thE laSt worD
26 | PartIES to rEmEmbEr
One author’s Parsha was the same as her father’s and her mother’s—a coincidence she stills cherishes
A former party planner dreamed up her daughter’s
family Publication New York
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cover: Photo by Sarah merians Photography & video (sarahmerians.com) Mitzvah Fall 2013
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For all the years that I’ve edited this magazine, I’ve tried to include a mix of stories related to the religious journey of a child and family with a bar/bat mitzvah on the horizon and stories about party planning. In my mind though, the two general topics—the religion and the party—were very distinct entities, talking to two unrelated sides of the experience. I see it all differently now, after having celebrated my oldest child’s bat mitzvah this past June. What I now appreciate more is the line of emotion and meaning that connects every single aspect of the day. Wow, seeing my child put forth a beautiful Torah reading and personal statement after years of study. Wow, being part of the train of family following the cantor around aisles of our temple during the service, as some worshippers touched the Torah and others hugged and kissed and congratulated us! Wow, seeing my daughter at the apex of joy, having the time of her life at her party. Wow, assembling the throngs of family and friends we love most in the world under one roof, 15 years after we last did that for our wedding. Wow, figuring out how to best pay
i don’t know if you can tell, but this is one of the best days of my life.
tribute to my daughter and my wife in a way that fully expressed my heart. (What I said was, “Elena, when you face some of the big decisions that life will inevitably present you, if you’re ever in doubt about the right thing to do and what kind of person to be in the world, just look at your mom and take notes.”) So, yes, a good time was had by all, from the ceremony through the reception. But enough about me. Now it’s your turn. Hope this issue of Mitzvah helps. Best wishes to you and your family, Eric Messinger email@example.com
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Mitzvah Fall 2013
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parent to parent
here’S WhaT i learneD Wise Advice—Practical And Spiritual—From Parents Whose Children Recently Had Their Bar Or Bat Mitzvahs With so many details to plan and special moments to prepare for, parents have just as much to think about for their child’s bar or bat mitzvah as the child coming of age. We talked to some local parents who’ve been through a mitzvah (or two) and asked them to share their best advice.
Savor The Day Take some time during the day to really absorb the occasion. This was the first time that my husband and I had had the opportunity to gather so many of our family and friends together since our wedding, and we got to enjoy time with our children, their cousins, and the friends we’ve made through our kids. I remember someone telling me before my wedding day to stop every once in a while and take a few moments to absorb the experience. But it all went by so quickly, and I wish I had remembered that advice. So, for our daughter’s bat mitzvah, I really tried hard to sit back at various times throughout the day, take a mental picture, and breathe in the memories: my daughter’s poise and eloquence on the Bimah, her sheer joy as she spun around the dance floor during the Hora, and the warmth and love of her family and friends surrounding her during the candle lighting. Don’t fret over the details of the the day—no one will ever remember if the napkins had a logo on them.
Mitzvah Fall 2013
Instead, focus your thoughts and attention on the bigger picture—of a lifetime of memories built on this special day. -alison Diamond remember Who your ChilD iS Several years ago, I had the honor of attending the bar mitzvah of a boy that I had worked with in my speech therapy practice. He was an only child, and the parents went all out to make this milestone a blow-out party. They spared no expense and went all out on the best hotel, entertainment, and an arcade and even set up a candy store for the kids. They invited friends and relatives from the parents’ native countries, many of whom the bar mitzvah boy had never known. There were photographers and videographers galore to capture the big day. The parents’ every wish was granted. With the exception of one thing—their son did not enjoy the experience. In fact, he was so overwhelmed by all of the attention and glitz that, as I arrived at the party, I saw that he was having a meltdown. He cried that he didn’t want to join the party, as he could not take all of the hoopla. The parents didn’t know what to do. Just as all of their friends and family were arriving, their son begged to leave. Having worked with this boy for many years, I had a very good relationship with him. I spoke with him and asked what it was that he was upset about. The boy replied that he could not tolerate all of the loud music, the constant photos and kissing people that he never met or hardly knew. There were emcees and dancing girls who approached him, and he wanted nothing to do with them. Sadly, for this boy, the elaborate extravaganza that was his parents’ dream was his worst nightmare. continued on page 8
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With all of the parents’ good intent, they overlooked who their son was. He was a sensitive boy who was slow to warm up and awkward with strangers. He was best on a one-on-one basis and not in a big group. He might have been described as shy, finicky, adverse to loud noise, touch, and general sensory stimulation that was not part of his daily routine. I spent a great deal of time with this poor kid that night, as I made deals with him like just standing up for the candle lighting ceremony in exchange for retreating to a side room with a friend for the next 30 minutes. We worked out an escape route for each part of the party, so that this boy could tolerate the experience until it ended. One festive girl made the faux pas of grabbing the bar mitzvah boy and trying to get him to go to the middle of the dance floor. That set him back once again. In hindsight, the parents acknowledged that they never accounted for who their son was and how this customary and well-intended night would be a huge struggle for him. What a shame that they hadn’t talked to their son to see what it was that he wanted for his bar mitzvah celebration. -Randi Jacoby Make It PeRsonal My daughter has just become a bat mitzvah. My son became a bar mitzvah three years ago. Because we are an interfaith and intercultural family, we joined a secular congregation, the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism. The bar and bat mitzvah processes at TCC are much different than the traditional ones. Most obvious is that my children did not read from the Torah. They were required to write and present five papers at their ceremony, which includes other passages and music. The papers require them to research their family history and write about the values that emerge, research a role model that reflects those values, and put their values into action by doing a community service project. Then they focus on a final major project of their choice, pertaining to any aspect of Judaism. Finally, they write a shorter essay reflecting on their experience of becoming a bar or bat mitzvah over the past two years. TCC matches students with a mentor from the congregation, so while it is a family endeavor in many ways, my children had relationships with very helpful mentors during the process as well. My family of origin is more traditionally Jewish, but in the end, the kind of bar and bat mitzvahs my children had were perfect ways for them to explore, in a very personal way, not only their Jewish culture and history but also their diverse cultural background. This is what was important to me. It was important to me that they know where they come from and that they think about where they come from, so that they can move forward toward who they would like to be in this world. That said, both of my children chose to write their major papers on themes that emerged from the Torah portions they would have focused on had they been called to the torah on their religious bar and bat mitzvah dates. Go figure!
Mitzvah Fall 2013
Both services were beautiful and meaningful. Both were held in a synagogue. Both services and parties were held on a Sunday—an added benefit to Sunday, by the way, is that there are rarely conflicts with friend’s services and celebrations. By the end of the service—actually by the night before—even my husband and I were exhausted. But we were also very proud, and, most importantly, our children were proud of themselves. My daughter was thrilled at the end of the night. I was kvelling about her wonderful service, and she kept saying: “That was a good party!” We did agree that, while it really was a good party, one reason why she had such a great time was because she earned it. She felt good about herself and the hard, personal work that had been admired by her family and friends. In fact, when she reflected on all of her papers, she realized that she had written similar themes in all of them, such as the importance of knowing and remembering your family history and the connection between religion and ritual. When her uncle went to shul every day for a year to say kaddish for her grandfather, as her grandfather had done for his father, Anna asked, did they receive comfort from God? Or did the comfort come from participating in the traditional, religious ritual? The exploration of issues like these is what I love about milestone events and rituals. Yes, we want our children to take part in rituals as we did. Tradition is very important. But children don’t simply arrive at their bat mitzvah. The bar or bat mitzvah is a part of their growing. I chose the secular path for our children’s bar and bat mitzvahs. Both of my children made connections and parallels about their Jewish and Chinese histories. They thought about where they fit into that history and they shared this with people who love them. What a gift! This is the advice I have to give: Make it personal. Whether religious or secular, big party or small party, think about what the bar or bat mitzvah means to you, share that with your child and expect that of your child, and think about what it means to continue this tradition in today’s world. -eva Young
DECIDE WHAT YOUR BUDGET IS Be sure to work to stay within your budget for the whole event. This will entail laying out priorities and deciding what is most important to you. Is it the party, restaurant, and food? Or is it the clothes, invitations, and decor? I found that invitations were something you could order at a discounted or reasonable price, and there are some very nice options. For me, spending a ton of money on something your guests read about twice (yes, when they open it and then the day of or day before when they need directions) was not worth spending a fortune on. Another important thing when you begin the planning is to decide what you need to do immediately and what can wait a few months. The first thing I did was book a block of hotel rooms at a group rate 10 months out, knowing that the fall in NYC is a busy time of year. Then the next thing was securing the venue. If the place you want is booked, look elsewhere—NYC is a big place, and trust me when I say there are options. Try not to stress each step of the way and try to enjoy it—the experience becomes that much more rewarding. -Bess Goldstein
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DON’T GET SWAYED BY TRENDY ADVICE (IF IT’S NOT FOR YOU) My son had his bar mitzvah ceremony and celebration recently. I was proud beyond words and loved the evening, but if I had to do it over again, I might have changed a few things. After much reflection on the occasion, I would say to everyone, “Don’t forget who you are!” What do I mean by this? Well, when working with the party planner, the decorator, the vendors, and all the others, we often get caught up in what we are told is the “in” thing or the thing that you have to have, instead of really soul searching abut the things we really want and believe in. Think about traditions that you have experienced in the past that you want to keep and add in some of your own that make your occasion special, because they represent your child, your family, and who you are as people. Let there be moments throughout your event that are truly about your child and family that wouldn’t happen at anyone else’s affair. Those things are really hard to come up with when the spotlight is on you, but maybe brainstorm with your whole family about your own traditions that are unique to just your family. I was told people don’t do candle lightings anymore because people can get bored. I was told people don’t do the Hora so much anymore because it’s old-fashioned. People...people...people. I felt disappointed that these things aren’t so current any more because I loved them growing up and I loved them years later when I went to many of my students’ bar and bat mitzvahs. I considered not doing them for my son because of what I was hearing, but in the end I did what was important to me and my family—and you should too. -Audrey Kaplan
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Mitzvah Fall 2013
Mitzvah Fall 2013
When It Was Time For His Son And Daughter’s B’nai Mitzvah, A Top NYC Photographer Knew Right Where He Wanted His Family To Be By Michael Jurick
Mitzvah Fall 2013
Mitzvah Fall 2013
o capture the sheer exuberance of my son and daughter’s joint bar and bat mitzvah celebration this fall at the Edison Ballroom in New York City, I playfully tagged it “Partying Hard with the Juricks” on my blog. However, a few months before the festivities, we had a very different kind of celebration, one which cuts to the core of my family’s relationship to Judaism and why we celebrate in the first place. Our kids are only 15 months apart, do everything together, and have the closest bond to each other. We decided as a family to read from the Torah together and have a shared b’nai mitzvah service in Jerusalem. B’nai mitzvah is the plural word, meaning more than one mitzvah. According to Jewish law, when Jewish boys turn 13, they become accountable for their actions and become a bar mitzvah. A girl becomes a bat mitzvah at the age of 12. With deep family roots in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Netanya— including a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and, until recently, great grandparents—this was the perfect opportunity to make the spiritual journey to read from the torah at the Wall in Jerusalem. Our New York City Temple Sharay Tefila was supportive and shaped my children’s torah reading practice. We held our service at Robinson’s Arch (the name given to an arch that once stood at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount), an area along the western wall of the Temple Mount, a very short distance from the Western Wall plaza. The location is within the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, which is a gold mine for Israeli archaeologists. The site’s most dramatic and monumental finds were from the Herodian period, in the late first century B.C. To allow men and women to pray together at the same location, the Israeli Government recently enacted a law to allow the area to be used for alternative services. This followed a ruling from 2003, in which Israel’s Supreme Court disallowed women from reading the Torah or wearing traditional prayer shawls at the plaza itself, yet instructed the Israeli government to prepare the site of Robinson’s Arch to host such events. When we entered the archaeological park at 9am and saw the piercing royal blue sky, we began to embrace each other and prepare for the ritual that was about to occur. I felt overwhelmed by the power and gravity of the event. I had heard of the “Jerusalem syndrome” and felt a similar sense of the deep spiritual connection to Holy Land. However, when our children read from the torah, their inner light beamed brighter than the sun; my wife Gal and I had never been more proud of them. It was one the most special experiences of our lives. Words cannot do it justice, though hopefully some of the photos can. If you can make the journey to Jerusalem for your child’s mitzvah, you will be rewarded with emotional riches beyond your imagination. We’d like to deeply thank Cantor Evan Cohen and Rabbi Ada Zbidov of Kehilat Har-El congregation. Please contact them if you plan your mitzvah in Jerusalem. They are two of the kindest, warmest, most gentle and loving people we have ever met.
Many of the photographs shown here were pulled from still frames on the film that Jesse Hartman from Hart Pictures captured during the event. The NYCbased Hart Pictures has Michael Jurick been making award-winning independent films since the 1990s, and their work has been screened everywhere from Sundance to Reykjavik, and they’ve even won a Best Short Film Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. At the same time, they do spectacular photography and videography for social occasions like weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs; we were incredibly lucky and grateful to have Jesse and his family join us for our journey to Israel. The evening prior to the service, we went to the overlook at Mount Scopus and took family photos, which Jesse was able to capture for us as well. During our trip in Jerusalem, we toured the Kotel Tunnels, which were one of the coolest places in Jerusalem. They’re simply amazing excavations that allow you to walk along the length of the Western Wall (Kotel) and peer down into previous historical times and stand opposite the Holy of Holies of the Temple, where prayers are inserted into the cracks of the walls. Hidden layers of the Wall are revealed underground. They tell the story of ancient Jerusalem and the construction, destruction, and reconstruction of the great temples. In fact, the tour is so popular that you must book it at least three to five months in advance. When we exited the dark underground passageways, we were deposited into the Arabic quarter of the city and wandered through the narrow streets and spice markets and had one of the most famous falafel lunches in Jerusalem. Israel is such a beautiful country and has so many sightseeing options for vacationers. We took a tour of the north towards Tiberias and swam in the Sea of Galilea. We went white water rafting along the Jordan River. Jaffa is the southern, oldest part of Tel Aviv, the ancient port city in Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical stories of Solomon, Jonah, and Saint Peter. It’s visually ancient and modern at the same time, and it was the perfect backdrop for a series of photo shoots with my kids. I took Jonah and Eden on a bike ride from Tel Aviv to Jaffa separately each day to explore and make portraits that would ultimately be used at the party in New York. I also took a series of infrared photographs while in Jaffa to capture the essence of its biblical age. I captured a final image in infrared on our airline home from 40,000 feet. The image was of the French Alps. No, they’re not in Israel, but their soaring grandeur seemed to capture my feelings for the whole trip just perfectly. Michael Jurick is a portrait and event photograpgher in New York City. For more of his work, visit jurick.net.
Mitzvah Fall 2013
Photos by Jodi Buren for Tripp Street Studio
Venue: Tribeca 360; Flowers & Design: Diana Gould Ltd.
DETAiLs, DETAiLs, DETAiLs The Experts Sound Off On Tips And Trends For Venues, Entertainment, Photography, And All Things Party Planning By Samantha Simon Whether you’re planning to go large or go small, formal or relaxed, there’s a lot of research to be done if you have a bar or bat mitzvah party on the horizon. This year, we spoke to experts at the top of their game in each of the big elements of putting the event together: party planners, flowers and design, photographers, invitations, and, finally, entertainment. We hope their insights provide you with inspiration as well as helpful advice. You can also find additional recommendations at the end of each section below.
Mitzvah Fall 2013
THE PARTY PLANNER Planning an elaborate party in New York City can quickly become overwhelming, which is why many parents choose to hire a party planner to take care of the details. Doing so allows the planning process to be more enjoyable for the family—and is actually surprisingly cost-efficient in the end. Alysa Katz of Events Extraordinaire describes the party planning process as one that is hands-on, engaging, and customized for each individual client. “I am with them through the entire bar mitzvah—from the beginning, through the party, until the very end,” she says. So what exactly goes into the party planning process? A good party planner will be surrounded by the best people in the business and already have plenty of party-related contacts, according to Katz. At her own company, she does everything from helping clients choose music and flowers to sending out invitations and booking hotel rooms for out-oftown guests. “I am there for anything they want me to do,” Katz says. Hiring the ultimate party planner can be a challenge in itself, as it’s tricky to find the perfect person to fit your needs. When meeting with potential party planners, Katz advises, “you have to see if you click and if they’re someone who can respect your vision (but your vision also has to be reasonable).” Having specific ideas in mind from the start is definitely a plus, since there are tons of key details to consider. “Decorating a room is more important to me than anything else. If you create a beautiful
For more about Events Extraordinaire, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 732-299-5545. Other recommended party planners: EMRG Media: emrgmedia.com/mitzvah, 212-254-3700 Lori Layborne: nyffevents.com, email@example.com Shiraz Events: shirazevents.com, 212-255-7001
THE FLOWERS & DESIGN After booking a venue, the real creative fun begins. To achieve the room design of your dreams, it’s vital to work with a designer who understands your vision, says Jennifer Gould of Diana Gould Ltd. “I think the most important thing is that the designer listens to whatever it is that the client is interested in,” Gould says. Distinctive visions may be hard to put into words, but the right designer will know just how to bring someone’s wishes to life. “For each client who I meet with, essentially their party is custom-tailored to them. All phases of design that go into their party are unique.” Basic décor elements include floral design, room transformation, graphic design logos, and custom linen fabrics, but there are plenty of elaborate options, as well. “We have: a fabrication department where we make 3D fabricated artwork centerpieces
Clay & Co.
atmosphere, that’s what people will talk about,” she says. And while many parents might be inclined to cut expensive lighting from their budget, Katz emphasizes that having the perfect mood lighting can make all the difference. Ambiance aside, the most significant thing to remember as you plan is to keep your child’s wishes in mind and to communicate with the boy or girl of the hour. Most kids are now choosing to forgo a traditional party theme, opting instead for soft lounge furniture without assigned seating. Katz’s proudest accomplishment yet was recreating MetLife Stadium, where the New York Giants play, for a recent bar mitzvah in a gymnasium. “I worked very hard with lighting and sound people and we got it right. People were just mesmerized. It was phenomenal.” That said, you don’t want to overdo it and wind up with an excessively elaborate event—there is such a thing as too much. Katz finds that the most common mistakes occur when parents want the party to be too over-the-top. “You simply can’t have everything,” she says. Some party planners charge a percentage of the entire cost of the party, but others, such as Katz, charge a flat fee of about $10,000 from beginning to end. “You don’t have to use a high-end, expensive party planner to do a New York party,” she says, adding that parents should do some research on their own before creating a budget. And although wanting to host the perfect event is understandable, Katz urges parents to be realistic, because “there’s no end to the amount of money that you could spend on a bar/bat mitzvah.”
Flowers & Design: Diana Gould Ltd.
both in Lucite and as structural photography; a furniture design department where we build furniture for events; and a lighting department,” Gould says. So what are some new and popular trends in décor? “More apparent this season is to create more of an environment for the kids as opposed to just having some lounge seating,” Gould says. “I also see more collections of glassware, vases, and floating candles. There are more streamlined florals that are a little bit more architectural in style—less traditionally lush.” Like Katz pointed out, Gould also notes that pervasive themes aren’t as big of a deal anymore. “It’s been more about bringing in reflections about the bar or bat mitzvah child, which I like to do in a photographic way, as opposed to making a very themed centerpiece,” Gould says. The décor gives guests an opportunity to experience the bar or bat mitzvah child’s likes and interests, and incorporating his or her personality as Gould likes to do not only has more meaning but also leads to a more unique party. For example, Gould recently designed a tent party for a foodie bar mitzvah boy that had concession stands ranging from a lobster shack to a pizza creation station. “It was really amazing and effective,” she says. Some parents bring in furniture or games on their own to save money, but Gould advises against it. “I would say in every situation, furniture has come in dirty or ripped. It has not been placed properly, and it doesn’t become a cohesive part of the décor element—which is so critical,” she says. “Your most cost-effective solution is to use the venue’s rounds and do a linen. You can step it up by renting maybe half rectangular tables, and then do a custom linen on that table.” No matter how you decide to design the room, all continued on page 16
Mitzvah Fall 2013
continued from page 15
that matters is that you’re satisfied with the outcome. As Gould points out, “It’s the first thing that you see, and it’s what you’re seeing all night long. It’s such an important part of the event.” For more information on Diana Gould Ltd, visit dianagouldltd.com or call 212-629-6993. Other recommended florists: Blooming Affairs: bloomingaffairs.com, 212-262-0004 MCnino Designs: mcninodesigns.com, 781-383-2424 Michael George: michaelgeorgeflowers.com, 212-883-0304 THE PHOTOGRAPHER Finding the right photographer to capture every moment of your child’s bar or bat mitzvah is a timeconsuming but worthwhile task. Although the event itself may fly by quickly, your special memories—and photos—will last a lifetime. Event photographer Michael Jurick is a pro when it comes to documenting all aspects of the rite of passage, even starting months before the big day. “Typically we’ll do a pre-shoot with the family so that there’s a comfort level there,” Jurick says. Those photos typically end up being featured in the sign-in book and other elements of the party. “It’s an opportunity to create heirloom-quality photographs of the bar or bat mitzvah boy or girl in a moment of time looking their absolute best,” he says. “We can also use those images to blow up in the room and use them as art and decoration.” When choosing a theme for the photo shoot, creativity is highly encouraged. “I recently did a ‘Saturday Night Live’ shoot with the iconic-looking imagery that reflects the host of the show idea,” Jurick says. Fun themes may be exciting, but Jurick is often proudest of images that are taken inside the synagogue. “New York City has some of the grandest and most beautiful sanctuaries in the country. Capturing those hundreds of years of architecture with the boy or girl is amazing,” he says. Prior to the event, Jurick likes to meet with his client’s party planner or designer in order to understand the physical parameters of the space, the flow of the night’s events, and the overall décor. “I study [everything] so that my team and I are where we need to be at all times. There’s just so much going on, and you don’t want to miss anything,” he says. The pre-party research goes further. “The most important thing to me is getting a list of the key family members so that I can make a schematic of all of the people and combinations for family portraits beforehand. I really take my time with that to make sure that I get everybody,” Jurick says. “And the room has to look gorgeous, so I take my time to photograph it when nobody’s in it.” To find the right photographer, you’ll want to ask around for recommendations and do a bit of research on your own. “Referral is key. Look at their website for fresh content on their blog, which indicates
Mitzvah Fall 2013
Photography: Michael Jurick
that they’re doing cutting edge things,” Jurick says. Ultimately, “The most important thing is how comfortable you feel with the photographer when you meet them.” Comparing a photographer’s price range to your budget is also important, of course. To save money, Jurick suggests forgoing professional photography during the Kiddush lunch. “That’s a few hours of photography money and time—it’s a logical place to kind of scale back.” About ten percent of your total budget will go toward photography, Jurick estimates, but the one-time cost provides you with something truly special. After all, “A photographer creates those lasting memories—the pictures you’ll have forever.” For more on Michael Jurick Photography, visit jurick.net or call 917-544-1871. Other recommended photographers: Gruber Photographers: gruberphotographers.com, 212-262-9777 Sarah Merians Photography & Video: sarahmerians.com, 212-633-0502 THE INVITATIONS The invitation sets the tone for the fabulous event to follow, so it’s important to get it right. After all, that pretty piece of paper is giving your guests a sneak peek of what to expect in a few months. Nanette Marks, founder of Notes by Nanette, is an expert on the creative design process for bar and bat mitzvah invitations. During an initial meeting with parents, Marks tries to understand their goals and make sure that everyone is on the same page. “I get an idea of what the party is like and how the invitation is going to reflect that,” she says. Early on, they discuss quantity as well as price range. “There’s definitely something
initial quantity, the less each invitation costs. You can also prevent potential last-minute issues by using a printer that will be flexible with proofs; Marks herself works with about eight different vendors who her clients can choose from. Some budget-friendly tips: Include the party information on the main invitation, provided that it doesn’t clutter the card with too much text. Also, you can choose a less elaborate liner and a more affordable thank you note, both of which garner much less attention than the invitation itself. While a typical order of 150 invitations is likely to run you around $1,000, “everything varies with quantity,” Marks says. For more on Notes by Nanette, visit notesbynanette. com or call 646-262-1596. Other recommended invitation services: Alpine Creative Group: alpinecreativegroup.com, 212-989-4198 Love, Laura Gifts: lovelauragifts.com, 212-744-0754
ENTERTAINMENT Invitations: Notes by Nanette
for every budget.” As far as trends go, shifting away from the large rectangular invitations that were popular for so many years, kids and parents alike are now opting for square-shaped or circular invitations made from thick cardstock. The modern look frequently features fluorescent colors and left- or right-justified lowercase text. Other popular design choices for unique and understated invitations include blind embossing, letter pressing, and colorful edge painting. While most parents go into the process with a specific look already in mind, the possible design combinations are virtually countless. “A lot of times people will collect invitations to show me—and then they end up walking out with something completely different,” Marks says. Two of her most memorable creations came from parents who really chose to think outside the box; one of the resulting invitations was made of white Lucite, the other from stainless steel. While those were certainly unique designs, Marks’ proudest accomplishment to date remains her daughter’s glitter-backed invitation with a handmade soft pink and gold liner, which she describes as “simple and elegant with an element of fun.” And when should you order your cards? Between three and four months before the event, at the latest, though Marks says that six months would be ideal. “You want to send them out to guests about eight weeks before, so work backwards from there,” she advises. Typically, after placing your order, it takes about a month to receive the cards. The most common error is failing to order enough invitations. To avoid this pitfall, Marks suggests overordering in anticipation of a changing guest list. This often saves money in the end, because the higher the
When planning your child’s bar or bat mitzvah, there are countless options for fun-filled entertainment. From music choices to sideshow activities, making the right selections can completely enhance the atmosphere of the event. Marc Jason, the owner of Total Entertainment, has some advice for parents on how to throw a memorable party that isn’t too overthe-top. To really get the party started, dance-worthy music is a must. Before the DJ starts spinning tracks, spice up the cocktail hour with a novelty group or even an electric violinist. And when it comes to choosing the perfect emcee, Jason says, “you want someone who knows how to be a chameleon who can complement the whole family’s personality.” In addition to live performers, the most popular activities offered by entertainment companies include interactive concepts such as photo booths and virtual reality machines. Social media integration is also hot right now, allowing guests to immediately post photos online and print images at an Instagram-style station at the party. One notably delicious trend brings food-inspired kiosks—featuring some of the best treats that the city has to offer—straight to the sidelines of the dance floor. Total Entertainment often collaborates with popular brands, such as 16 Handles, to do this. “I think it’s exciting—if something’s hot on the street and people like it, it’s great to have it at their parties,” Jason says. In addition to impressive food kiosks, DJ booths are now far from simple. “It’s like you’re building a nightclub on the dance floor,” Jason says. Your child’s interests can be incorporated into the interactive atmosphere in cool ways, too—from recreating Venice continued on page 18
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Where TO ParTy? This is New York. There are always new venues as well as classics to consider. Here’s a taste:
LeT’S eaT 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 ‘whichcraft. Contact: 212-706-4100 or firstname.lastname@example.org Guastavino’s window-filled building under the Queensboro bridge at 409 East 59th Street was named for the distinctive terra cotta 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: 212980-2711, guastavinos.com
entertainment: Total entertainment
Beach segway tracks to building Sephora beauty product bars, Total Entertainment tailors its offerings for each individual party. Detailed examples from past events, including filmed footage from prior parties, are important to note when choosing an entertainment company. “You want to feel comfortable and see that the owner of the company is engaging and quick to come up with ideas once you tell them some of the things that you want,” Jason says. In terms of your budget, “sometimes it’s worth spending a little more to know that operationally things are going to click and happen at the right time,” Jason says. Organization is key, and quality definitely trumps quantity. If you want music and dancing to be the main focus, then you shouldn’t have too many games competing with that. “Figure out what’s really important. What are the wants versus the needs?” Jason says. And to keep the entertainment selection budget-friendly, certain activities can be combined. For instance, an airbrush station can create sweatshirts, which then double as personalized party favors for the attendees. Cutting costs while still offering fun activities—a great solution to your entertainment budget woes. For more on Total Entertainment, visit totalentertainment.com or call 201-894-0055. Other recommended entertainment providers: Levy Lighting: levylighting.com, 212-925-4640 Pure Energy: pureenergyentertainment.net, 732-536-3688 Shine Events: shineevents.com, 845-535-3100
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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 sit-down dinner and 150 for hors d’oeuvres. The restaurant is located in the Smyth Hotel, which means one-stop shopping for outof-town guests. Located at 85 West Broadway. Contact: Claudia Gismondi at 212-204-5561 or email@example.com 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 at 212-688-8448 or firstname.lastname@example.org Sinigual offers sit-down dining or buffet-style mesquite grill for up to 300 guests at private events, in addition to exciting Latin fusion creations and seasonal drinks. The location at 640 Third Avenue offers a modern take on traditional Mexican and Southwest cuisine and is known for having party-worthy fish, steaks, and customized combination platters to fit your needs. Contact: 818-239-0239 or email@example.com
DaNCe The NIGhT aWay arena at 135 West 41st Street in Bryant Park has New York’s largest programmable L.E.D. 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 at 212-278-0988 x103 or firstname.lastname@example.org Columbus 72 has remained one of the city’s perennial nightclubs for the past 40 years, and the space at 246 Columbus Avenue recently underwent its first huge renovation. Featuring two dance floors, two lounges, and
upholstered lounge furniture, the venue offers a state-of-the-art sound system and six large flatscreen TVs to liven up the scene of any party. Contact: 212769-1492 or email@example.com
Tenjune occupies a former garage in the Meatpacking District. This Party Planner: Events 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 at 212-242-7800 x19 or email@example.com 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 realtime updates of the evening. Contact: 212-967-7003 or espaceny.com 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 at 212-336-6146 or firstname.lastname@example.org Tribeca 360 provides breathtaking panoramic views of Manhattan in over 30,000 square feet of space. In addition to offering views of the scenic cityscape for miles, the minimalistic décor of the architecturally designed venue is highly versatile. To top it off, a 3,000 foot hickory wood dance floor can be enjoyed by up to 700 people at 10 Desbrosses Street. Contact: 212-625-2600 or email@example.com
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT 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
Sarah Merians Photography
Hudson Terrace at 621 West 46th Street is a turn-of-the-century upscale nightclub. Overlooking the Hudson River, this midtown Manhattan landmark can host up to 400 guests in one of its party spaces, which include an oldworld salon, an outdoor garden terrace, and an open-air retractable rooftop garden lounge. Contact: 212-315-9400 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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 at 631-2089200 x220 or email@example.com 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 at 212-991-1287 or firstname.lastname@example.org Deb’s Family Disco at Club Arena at 135 W 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 familydisco.com 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 at 212-831-6626 or email@example.com 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 at 718-699-0005 x371 or firstname.lastname@example.org 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 Steven Wonder recorded their music, this space provides for a grand party. Features include a state-of-the-art sound system, intelligent lighting, continued on page 20
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foot gaming venue. D&B can hold parties for as few as 10 or as many as 1,200. Contact: Benjamin Maddy at 646-495-2011 or benjamin_maddy@daveandbusters. com 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 at 646-829-0180
plasma displays, and projections screens, all designed to add personalized special effects to the party. Contact: 212-505-7400 or metronomenyc.com World Yacht Destiny at Pier 81 features a dance floor, walkup bar, and dining configurations at which guests can enjoy food from some of the tri-state area’s best kosher caterers. The ship is ideal for medium-sized groups and has a relaxed lounge deck that provides the perfect spot for dancing under the night sky. Located on the Hudson River at West 41st Street, the yacht hosts up to 250 people. Contact: 212-630-8100
LET THE GAMES BEGIN 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: lots of ping pong fun and games. Contact: 212-982-8802 or email@example.com 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 at 718-595-2420 or firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com Dave & Buster’s at 234 West 42nd Street, 3rd Floor. Everyone can let their inner child out at this 31,500-square-
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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 9-screen video wall, and treats by a Latin-focused culinary team rounds out the entertainment offerings. Contact: Walter C. Rauscher at 212-842-1110 or rauscherw@ arkrestaurants.com 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 bowlmor.com CHIC CHOICES 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 NotreDame 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 at 212-529-7194 or firstname.lastname@example.org 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-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 email@example.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 at 212-206-8815 x106 or firstname.lastname@example.org 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 at 212-201-7650 or email@example.com Eventi offers a sleek and chic setting in a scene-defining neighborhood located at 851 Avenue of the Americas. Popular features include the Big Screen Plaza, a giant multimedia 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Home Studios is a conveniently located loft in the heart of Manhattan. With 14-foot ceilings and maple floors, the 4,000-square-foot space at 873 Broadway offers classically simple furniture, in addition to an elegant ambiance and access to top caterers for privately hosted parties. Contact: 212-475-4663 or email@example.com
Union Square Ballroom combines understated modernism with chic warmth. The venue located at 27 Union Square West offers state-of-the-art sound and light technology, vaulted acoustic ceilings, and recessed perimeter floor lighting. Seating up to 400 guests, the “blank palette” design of the room allows for creative décor and room design. Contact: 212-645-1802 or unionsquareballroom.com
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 at 212-997-1015 or firstname.lastname@example.org
W New York Union Square is an innovatively re-mixed space that is home to a 2,300-square-foot Great Room. With ceilings that are 23 feet high and opulent turn-ofthe-century décor, the room at 201 Park Avenue South still boasts detailing from the original 1911 Guardian Life BeauxArts building and can accommodate up to 200 people. Contact: 212-253-9119
The Penthouse Lounge at 230 Fifth embraces modernist décor from the 1940s with beveled peach mirrors, antique couches, and cocktail tables crafted by famed artisans. The spacious 8,000-square-foot venue can seat up to 600 guests and boasts panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline from its perch between 26th and 27th Streets. Contact: 212725-4300 or email@example.com
A GOOD DEAL
Slate has the ultimate lounge vibe, brimming with comfortable oversized plush chairs and sleek sofas. Resembling a large living room, the highly social atmosphere features a wall-to-wall line of 12-foot doors that lead to a VIP lounge and the Studio dining area. The 16,000-square-foot venue at 54 West 21st Street accommodates various party sizes, and the staff kindly offers to honor special requests. Contact: 212-989-0096 or firstname.lastname@example.org 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 steinerstudios.com
202 East can host up to 120 guests on the second floor of a two-story townhouse on the Upper East Side. Located on East 77th Street between Second and Third Avenues, the space’s discreet appearance allows for a great deal of privacy. The refined décor features light gray, gold, and turquoise color motifs that create a soft environment, further enhanced by wall-mounted candles, adjustable lighting levels, and high vaulted ceilings. Food is not provided at the venue and must be catered from elsewhere. Contact: Doug Russell at 212-861-4330 or email@example.com 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 at 917-441-3753 or jlogan@ dorotusa.org 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
A Step-By-Step Guide To Planning A Celebration By Elyssa Yazowitz To Remember
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
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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Jodi Buren for Tripp Street Studio
Sarah merians Photography
PARTIES To REmEmBER A Former Party Planner Dreamed Up Her Daughter’s Big Day; In The Wake Of Hurricane Sandy, A Local Family—Our Editor’s— Needed A Re-Start
Tell us about Jordan’s bat mitzvah. We had a Kiddush luncheon after the service and then the party was that night. There was a cocktail hour followed by a sit-down buffet dinner. We decided on a beach surfing theme, which was reflected by the overall décor. The centerpieces had water and flowers, the placecards were sand dollars, and her sign-in board was a surfboard. There were classy splashes of the theme, but nothing felt overthe-top.
JORDAN ZGODNY CELEBRATES AT TRIBECA 360 By Samantha Simon When it comes to planning a party, Jodi Zgodny knows how to do it in style. The part-owner of Love, Laura Gifts, a family shopping boutique with a big sideline in the invitations business, worked as an event planner for five years prior to becoming a mom and recently tapped into her natural party planning instincts once again. As the bat mitzvah of her eldest daughter, Jordan, approached, Zgodny knew that she wanted to have a memorable mega-party. Keeping Jordan’s favorite things in mind, Zgodny put together a joyous dazzler of a celebration.
How many people did you have? There were 125 adults and around 110 kids. Was the vibe of the party laidback to fit the beach theme, or was it a more formal atmosphere? It was somewhere in between. We had lounge furniture and pillows to set a relaxed mood, but people were in cocktail dresses. It was more elegant than it was beachy. How did you put your personal touch on the party? I created a design that looked like it would have been a surf logo. It had “JZ” and the date in it. The logo was continued on page 28
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Photos by Jodi Buren for Tripp Street Studio
on everything—guest towels in the bathroom, pillows on lounge chairs, water bottles, and even out-of-town gift boxes that were delivered to the hotels. I’m a little obsessed with the logo, so it was well-branded. What kind of entertainment was there? I had a DJ/emcee and six dancers. At the cocktail hour we had glitter tattoo artists, blackjack tables, ping pong tables, and pop-a-shot. The blackjack tables had custom-made playing cards featuring Jordan’s logo, which was also made into a stencil for the glitter tattoos. We had the Big Red Chair, a huge chair-style photo booth that comes with oversized props. Then there was The Super Booth—an interactive photo booth—during the cocktail hour for adults and then at the party for kids. Was there anything that Jordan specifically wanted at the party? Total Entertainment has this thing called smush. They cut a brownie or a cookie in half, and you can choose what food and toppings to put inside. It’s made at a huge cookie bar—it’s outrageous. The smush station was the one thing my daughter had to have. It was her favorite thing. I didn’t even get to taste it that night, but people were raving about it. They loved it! Speaking of desserts, what kind of cake did you have? It was a three-tiered cake and each tier was a different flavor. We had surfboards coming out from the top, and each one had a different letter of Jordan’s name on it. It was just outrageous. What were some of the party favors? The kids got a reusable bag with a towel and a kadima set from Love, Laura Gifts, of course. Everything had the logo on it. We also gave out customized hair ties from Glam Bandz and custom fuzzy non-slip socks. Adults got small boxes of Baked by Melissa cupcakes to take home.
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Your company made the invitations. How did you choose the ultimate design? This was the hard part because I couldn’t make up my mind. So I let Jordan choose the colors and fonts that she liked, and then I ran with her ideas. We created a three-layer round invitation with a pocket for the cards on the back that looked like a wave. It all coordinated and looked really cute. How did your party planning experience help you plan a mega-party bat mitzvah? I knew that I had to find a venue first. Then, after you find the photographer, the music, and the décor person, everything else kind of just falls into place. When did you actually start planning the party? I started about nine or ten months in advance. In terms of the decision-making process, what role did Jordan play? A pretty big one. She picked what she wanted to have and as a family we narrowed it down. We looked at what would work for both the space and the time, as well as financially, and we put everything together from there. Is there a particular moment from the day that will stay with you forever? Seeing Jordan up there doing her Torah portion was probably my number one. She was a rock star. Then for her entrance into the party, the dancers carried her in on a surfboard. That was my second favorite moment. She was a little scared, but her face was lit up and she was the life of the party. It was nice to see her have that “it’s all about me” moment. What were you most satisfied with about the event? The venue. The food was phenomenal, and there was so much—that part was over-the top. Tribeca 360
exceeded my expectations and my friends all had a good time, which I was really happy about. Was anything less successful than you had hoped? The only downside was that the party was in Tribeca and almost everyone was coming from the Upper East Side. The traffic that night was horrendous, so we were all late and everything got pushed back. It was the only issue. Everything else was fabulous. Do you have any advice for other parents who are in the planning stages of a bar/bat mitzvah? Everything takes more time than you think it will, so start as early as you can! It sounds like you had a great time while celebrating the special occasion. The whole day was unbelievable. It was better than I could have ever expected. People don’t realize that there was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears behind it all. It was worth it in the end, but it was hard. Any final thoughts? I can’t wait to do it again! I have two more daughters, so I’m looking forward to that. Everyone tells you that it will be one of the best days of your life, and it’s true—it really is that good. It’s a magical day. VENDORS Venue: Tribeca 360 Invitation: Love, Laura Gifts (lovelauragifts.com) Entertainment: Total Entertainment (totalentertainment.com) Favors: Love, Laura Gifts; Baked by Melissa (bakedbymelissa.com) Video: Hart Pictures (hartpictures.com) Photography: Jodi Buren from Tripp Street Studios (jodiandsteve.com) Décor: Jennifer Gould of Diana Gould, Ltd. (dianagouldltd.com) Cake: Butterfly Bake Shop (butterflybakeshop.com) Dresses: All Dressed Up (shopalldressedup.com) in Rye, NY
ELENA MESSINGER CELEBRATES AT EVENTI By Eric Messinger You might think that being the editor of this magazine (and its mothership, New York Family) gave me a lot of practical knowledge that many parents don’t have as they start the party planning process. But basically my wife and I did what everyone else did: We assembled lists of potential venues (using Mitzvah and word of mouth) and started shopping around. I mean, that’s what we did after the disaster of Hurricane Sandy struck, forcing us to become focused and resourceful in a hurry. When it comes to party planning, my wife is the heavy hitter in the relationship, so we decided that this exercise would be most helpful to others if I interviewed her.
So, is it true you have the most witty and generous and kind and funny and good looking partner in the world? Next question. We had a venue and then we didn’t. What happened? And what’s the big lesson here? For once, we were actually ahead of curve and had secured a venue well in advance. We knew about the place, we knew others who had their parties there, so even though it was the first place we looked at, we liked it and signed on. But then we were thwarted by Hurricane Sandy, which damaged the location—and then our caterer, who had signaled that it would be open again soon enough, got in a legal battle with his landlord and nothing was clear. At that point, we were five months out and knew we had to start again. I don’t remember feeling desperate, more like we’ll be fine if we move on it. We visited about eight places—and I had called about 20 others—and at least we knew there were options. In the end, I think we all felt we were probably happier with Eventi, which is part of the Kimpton hotel group, than the place we started with before Sandy. So doing our homework and getting out there really helped us understand our tastes better. In terms of pressure, the intrinsic deadline was that invitations needed to go out about two months before the party, and we needed to order them about one month before that. So basically we had to have a venue locked in by about three and half months out. Eventi was one of the last places we saw, and I remember feeling a bit like it was love at first sight— and not just for me, but for all of us. It just checked off all of our boxes in a way no other place before it had. I agree. I felt strongly that I wanted an afternoon party right after services to include adults and kids. I only wanted to plan one party and I wanted a big happy party with a sit-down lunch. I wasn’t going for a separate kid’s party. Elena did not have that option. Once we started looking around though, we came across a lot of beautiful places which we liked but that she found too old-fashioned. She kept on saying, “Imagine if you were 13 years old,” and she had a point. Eventi struck the balance; it was the right size, it was beautiful but it also had a cool arty aesthetic, it had fun features like an outdoor terrace for the cocktail hour, the caterer was the BLT restaurant group (amazing), and then, of course, they had the big screen. That was the icing on the cake. We could show the montage on this huge mega-screen that the hotel had somehow secured on the building across from the party room. It was like watching a public outdoor movie, only we were inside. Because of time limitation, there was another big issue that we hadn’t really foreseen. But I think it’s worth sharing because it saved us, saved the party, continued on page 30
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Photos by Sarah Merians Photography
and saved our sanity, yours especially. Once we lost the venue, the whole thing became a much bigger challenge. I work full-time and there was no time to take care of everything. When a colleague of mine suggested I speak to his sister-in-law, a party planner, I had two lengthy phone calls with her. I felt comfortable with her, and Alysa [Katz] was great. She narrowed our choices, she made a huge difference in the quality of my life and the quality of the party…She had the experience to know when certain things would work or wouldn’t work, she knew where to cut corners and where not to cut corners, and she worked with reliable vendors. She gets a big endorsement from me. We were happy with all of our vendors, but I would give special shoutouts to our photographer Sarah, from Sarah Merians Photography, and our emcee Kevin, from Untouchable. They both brought great energy to the party and did wonderful work. So much of this seems to boil down to working with people who do good work and who you are comfortable with. What can we say about décor? No theme, per se, but we carried over some of the colors and styling from our invitation into the décor of the party. So in a way it was a like a joint effort between Love, Laura Gifts, on the invitation end, and then the florist, Stefan. What’s the best tip we can give readers about budgeting? That’s a tough one! But one thing we found was that it was a lot easier to get people to throw in extras at a certain price point than to have them reduce their fees that much.
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We saved some money by scaling back on the side entertainment for kids, but that was also connected to the kind of party we wanted. Right, we saw how at some parties many kids would gravitate to the games instead of being around the dance floor. We wanted our emcee and the dancers to be the entertainment and we wanted the kids to be engaged in the heart of the party. So all we had was the photo booth and the elderly Chinese man who walked around and did amazing paper cut-outs of people’s profiles. That was it. And I think it worked. The dance floor was full all night, with kids and adults. What was your favorite part of the party? There are a few things I could say, but more than anything it was seeing Elena so happy. The next day she said to me, “Does it have to end?” Really, I couldn’t believe just how special it all turned out to be. Thank you, dear. VENDORS Venue: Eventi (eventi.com) Invitation: Love, Laura Gifts (lovelauragifts.com) Entertainment: Untouchable Events (untouchableevents.com) Favors: Alice Slater Levine of PromotionWorkds (firstname.lastname@example.org) Video: NYFF Events (nyffevents.com; lori@nyffevents. com) Photography: Sarah Merians Photography & Video (sarahmerians.com) Décor: Stefan (stefaneventdecor.com) Cake: Eventi Dresses: Best Dressed NY (bestdressedny.com) for Elena; Elephant’s Trunk (elephantstrunk.com) for Mom
Go AheAd. InvIte the entIre cIty. Have your next celebration in the heart of SoHo. The Greenhouse and Terrace at Scholastic is a beautiful, naturally-lit rooftop atrium by day that transforms into a bold, dramatic event space by night. Enormous glass windows offer stunning panoramic views of lower Manhattan, making the Greenhouse and Terrace the perfect venue for your next Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration. Schedule a tour of our amazing venues 212.343.6655 Visit us on the web www.scholastic.com/eventservices
557 Broadway • SoHo • New York • www.scholastic.com/eventservices
Gift it RiGht Presents With A Personal Touch For The Bar Or Bat Mitzvah Child By Samantha Simon
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6 Money is nice, but sometimes a bar/bat mitzvah gift that reflects a thoughtful and personal effort can be even nicer. Here’s some inspiration: When choosing a gift for a sports fan, it’s hard to go wrong with sports-inspired sterling silver pieces. Detailed Ravi Ratan baseball cuff links (1) are classy and fun—perfect to celebrate the religious rite of passage from boy to man. And if he isn’t a big baseball fan, don’t fret; there are plenty of other athletic options to choose from, including football-, soccer-, and golf-inspired creations. $250, nordstrom.com For a fun and fashionably high-tech gift, an iPad case is the way to go. Look for a cute design that is young and fresh but still of high enough quality to keep that trusty tablet protected. Whether you choose a tasteful folio or a sleek sleeve, such as this owl-inspired Kate Spade iPad case (2), any tablet protector is sure to be a functional and stylish gift. $125, katespade.com Personalization adds a nice touch to any gift, especially when it commemorates a big life event. This digital frame from Things Remembered (3) can be tastefully displayed in the family’s home, allowing them to look back fondly and often at the memories from a bar or bat mitzvah celebration. And to up the cool factor even more, take advantage of the option to have it engraved with a special message, such as “Mazel Tov!” $100, thingsremembered.com “Giving chai” is a common theme among bar and bat mitzvah gifts, but you’ll definitely make a well-wishing gesture worth remembering with Dogeared’s chai necklace (4). The delicate golddipped creation is a symbol of life. It’ll be a timeless addition to any bat mitzvah girl’s jewelry collection. $132, dogeared.com
Beautiful designs from Tiffany & Co. never go out of style. For a classic and simple gift with a youthful vibe, choose something that can be worn every day, like a sterling silver beaded bow bracelet (5). Every time the bat mitzvah girl looks at the silver bow on her wrist, she’ll be reminded of your thoughtful gift—and the joy of opening up that little blue box. $175, tiffany.com A bar or bat mitzvah is the perfect occasion to share an appreciation for spiritual Judaic art, and a colorful menorah is sure to start a Jewish young adult’s Judaica collection off on the right foot. Tamara Baskin offers many unique hand-cut glass menorahs (6), such as Western Wall-inspired pieces, that are sure have countless future Hanukkah memories in store. $189.99, eichlers.com To continue the learning post-celebration, why not encourage a bit of reading along with your congratulations? A gift card to Barnes and Noble will inspire young bookworms to take a technology break and get lost in a good story for a bit. (Be sure to stipulate that the entire value of the card should be spent on books, rather than some of the non-literary goodies that the store has to offer!) For a meaningful touch, put an amount on the card that is a multiple of 18. We suggest $180 or, if you’re feeling very generous, maybe even $360. barnesandnoble.com If you don’t want to go the material route with your gift, a culturally enriching experience is another great option. With plenty of great museums in the city, look into purchasing a membership for the bat mitzvah girl or bar mitzvah boy to take advantage of yearround with the family. To stick with a fittingly Jewish theme, The Jewish Museum offers a bar/bat mitzvah membership that is good through age 21 and includes unlimited free admission for the child as well as two accompanying adults. $180, thejewishmuseum.org
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Best Dresses Get The Scoop On The Hottest Trends In Elegant Bat Mitzvah Glamour By Samantha Simon
Best Dressed New York
Admit it: No bat mitzvah celebration is complete without the perfect dress, and you can guarantee that the star of the party will want to look fabulous on her big day. Whether she falls in love with a dress that’s ready-made or designs the custom creation of her dreams, the perfect outfit is sure to add some extra sparkle to one of the most meaningful days of any bat mitzvah girl’s life. We’ve got the style scoop from Best Dressed New York and Lester’s, two of the city’s most preferred destinations for special occasion attire, on the hottest upcoming trends for bat mitzvah dresses.
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For an intimate and personalized shopping experience, girls can find the ultimate party and synagogue attire at Best Dressed New York. The boutique, owned by Manhattan moms Cortney Cohen and Erica Serotta, is located on the third floor of a townhouse on the Upper East Side and open by appointment only. “A girl can come in and have the entire showroom to herself. She can try on whatever dresses she wants, and she doesn’t have to worry about anyone else coming in and potentially seeing her bat mitzvah dress,” Serotta says. Another designer destination for bat mitzvah dresses is Lester’s, which has been in the business of dressing fashionable New York City partygoers since 1948. As it celebrates its 65th anniversary, the one-stop shop remains a hotspot for special occasion apparel. Andrea Forstadt of Lester’s describes the retailer, often referred to as “New York’s Fashion Playground,” offering “the best selection of templeperfect and party-worthy bar and bat mitzvah clothing, shoes, and accessories for guests and guests of honor.” Plus, Lester’s also carries sharp looks for boys planning their bar mitzvah looks. When shopping for the current trends, showstopping glamorous fashions are always a safe bet. Girls never fail to gravitate toward short and sparkly designs—although long dresses have recently made a comeback, according to Cohen and Serotta. Metallic colors and edgy styles featuring grommets and studs are all the rage, and dresses with fur and feather embellishments are popular as well. With a selection that includes designs from some of the most popular nationwide brands —like Sherri Hill, Jovani, and Terani Couture—in addition to a variety of emerging
Manhattan designers and custom lines, the options for bat mitzvah girls (as well as moms and sisters) are seemingly endless in the upscale showroom at Best Dressed New York. “We go the extra mile to try and customize something or do whatever we can to find you the perfect dress that no one else has ever seen,” Serotta says. Another noteworthy trend in bat mitzvah attire is a shift toward skater-inspired skirts and dresses, as well as attention-worthy color block fashions. Lester’s carries some of the most popular brands behind these designs, such as Miss Behave, Un Deux Trois, Hollyworld, and Les Touts Petits. Edgy leather trim often adorns the popular skater look, adding a mature and glamorous vibe to youthful teenage fashions. Moms and older sisters can coordinate with the bat mitzvah girl for a unified look, choosing leatherinspired dresses for women and juniors by Parker, Backstage, DV, and David Lerner. Looking ahead to spring, you’ll likely notice a shift in trendy mitzvah attire. While edgy dresses are the most coveted look this fall and winter, many warm weather designs will be softer, available in fresh and colorful sorbet hues, such as peach, pink, and mint green. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be rocking pastels, however. “I think mixing materials and doing a lace dress with leather will be a big trend, too,” Cohen says. Metallic party dresses will continue to be in demand, and understated lace dresses paired with fur sweaters or boleros are likely to remain a top temple choice. Trends aside, one thing is certain. From feminine frocks to edgier ensembles, bat mitzvah girls of Manhattan have plenty of glamorous options to try on while searching for the perfect dress.
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Doing Mitzvah Projects right Don’t Just Ask For Donations At Your Bar Or Bat Mitzvah. Do Some Homework And Find A Cause With Meaning. By Marjorie Ingall
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You know from mitzvah projects, right? They’re a relatively new thing—compulsory social action projects run by synagogues for 12- and 13-yearolds as an official part of bar and bat mitzvah prep. The intent is lovely: Teach kids about the responsibilities of Jewish adulthood, encourage the values of tikkun olam, giving back by raising funds for good causes, and be so awesome that you don’t even need Ne-Yo in your bar mitzvah video. In practice, though, mitzvah projects often fall short of their intended goal. It seems to me that most of these projects involve asking your guests to give to some random charity, singsonging about your deep dedication to it in your speech, and then forgetting about it a few weeks after you’ve put away all your today-I-am-a-man pens. Meanwhile, everybody (or maybe just me) resents you and your stupid parents for making us pony up extra cash in addition to buying you an iTunes gift card. Not long ago, I received a mass email on behalf of a bat mitzvah girl I’d never met, asking me to donate to her mitzvah project, the Jewish National
Fund, which I find repugnant. Vey iz mir. In some communities, doing a mitzvah project (a phrase that did not even exist when I had my bat mitzvah, back before the walls of Jericho came tumbling down) involves little more than putting an extra thermagraphed card in the tissue paper festival that is the invitation, mentioning the name of the kid’s charity. (And guess what, kid—your mother ordered those cards. Not you.) So, it’s time to ask the obvious: Is forced mitzvah-doing really mitzvah-doing? Is there a way to do mitzvah projects right, so that they benefit both the kid and the organization that he or she is seeking to help, without making people (or again, maybe just me) grit their teeth while hitting the “donate now” button on the puppy rescue website? Don’t get me wrong: I believe that giving tzedakah is essential. But I already give tzedakah, and there are a zillion additional worthy causes of my own choosing I wish I could help. I feel bushwhacked when a kid noodges me to give to an organization he may or may not have researched extensively, that may not be well-reviewed on sites like Charity Navigator, and that the kid may or may not be able to explain why he chose over other groups with similar philanthropic goals. Surely, you suggest, I’m just bitter about the economic power of tweens with wealthier families and classmates than my kids’. And you may be right! When an eighth grader’s James Bondthemed bar mitzvah at the Mandarin Oriental hotel raises $30,000 to buy a food allergy-testing machine for the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who am I to kvetch? Yet I can’t help wondering what $30,000 would mean to New Yorkers who don’t have enough to eat, rather than those who have excellent health insurance and the privilege of asking the waiter at Le Cirque what’s in the pesto. (As someone with a mega-fatal food allergy, I get to ask these questions.) Fortunately, people far wiser than I are pondering similar issues. Rabbi Jill Jacobs of Tru’ah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights has written a book called Where Justice Dwells: A HandsOn Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community, about effecting meaningful change through advocacy, direct service, philanthropy, and community organizing. It’s an excellent resource for thinking about how we can help ourselves and help others by doing social justice work that actually makes a difference. “One key thing is that the mitzvah project should be something the student really has thought about, that it comes from somewhere inside of them, and that they learn something about how to interact with communities that are in need,” Jacobs told me. “Students need to talk to people who work at an organization—I mean, without taking up too much of their time—and make a long-term commitment to helping rather than just putting a collection box in the synagogue. The gold standard is a project that studies the issue through a Jewish
lens and doesn’t end as soon as the kid has checked off the service requirement; the ideal is a combination of service, advocacy, and study.”
“The Talmud tells us that the world rests on three things: Torah, avodah, and gemilut chasadim—Torah, work, and acts of loving kindness. So does a good mitzvah project.” But if kids are forced to do something, I asked, is it really volunteering? “I don’t have a problem with requiring it,” Jacobs replied immediately. “Tzedakah is an obligation, just as showing up to a shiva house or going to a minyan is an obligation. It’s important in Judaism to know that you don’t just do things because you feel like it.” Fair enough. But we have to consider how to be effective in fulfilling this commandment. “It’s not about what can you give, it’s about what’s needed,” Jacobs said. For instance, sometimes attempts at volunteering actually make more work for the organization you’re trying to help. (Showing up on a nonprofit’s doorstep with 15 teenagers isn’t necessarily a thrill for that nonprofit, what with teenagers being teenagers.) And while money is usually the best thing for an organization, it’s not always the best thing for the moral development of a kid. If the point of social justice is to help the doer as much as the do-ee, we have to think about finding the teachable moment in mitzvah projects. I’m impressed with Jewish schools that do group projects thoughtfully, as part of the curriculum, in a way that meets existing needs (as opposed to “we wanna help hunger, let’s collect cans of old beets!”). At Temple Israel in Boston, bar and bat mitzvah-age kids are building a library for a small elementary school in Roxbury. They’re collecting books, making bookplates, building shelves, and creating paintings for the walls; they’ve also been reading to the kids once a month. (My friend Deb’s son Will, who is part of the project, is asking each of his bar mitzvah guests to donate a book.) At Congregation Micah in Nashville, TN, teacher Rachel Tawil Kenyon ensures that there’s Jewish perspective and pedagogical value to mitzvah projects. She told me: “Stuff is more tangible to kids than money. We just did a collection for Children’s Family Services and the YES program that ended up with maybe $1,000 in school supplies, but that doesn’t mean much to kids. What matters to them is seeing the pencils and carrying the backpacks out to my car. They can wrap their brains around that much more easily than [the abstract notion] of a dollar.” Last year, Kenyon’s seventh graders did a continued on page 38
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project to help a local shelter for battered women. “We started with an education component, talking about domestic violence,” Kenyon said. “What you learn about relationships as a teenager affects your relationships later. We’ve had a representative from a shelter and a former resident come speak. The kids learn about what you might need if you flee your house with nothing but a backpack. Even upper income women may not have access to money. So, we make care baskets—personal hygiene stuff. The girls get really into getting hair products. Kids will say, ‘iPhones!’ and then we say, ‘Okay, if we can’t give them iPhones, what can we do?’ We get them calling cards. And we keep impressing on the kids that our projects are not about going home and asking your parents for money, though they may choose to give some of their bar or bat mitzvah money.” Kenyon has her students do independent research and interviews, then do a Shabbat presentation to the group about their cause. “Suddenly they feel personally connected,” she said. “I grew up in a theater family, and I know that for adults who don’t go to the theater as a child, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to go as adults. But if you start as a kid, you grow up to be a theatergoer. Doing something well now makes it become second nature.” It’s vital, too, for upper income Jewish kids not to see themselves as heroic rescuers of downtrodden people of color, ennobled by consorting with the rabble. “Kids need to see people working in their own communities to make change,” Jacobs said. “And they need to know those people are heroes, not victims. It’s not about wealthy white people coming in on their white horses.” (As the Midrash says, “More than the wealthy person does for the poor, the poor person does for the wealthy.”) The Talmud tells us that the world rests on three things: Torah, avodah, and gemilut chasadim— Torah, work, and acts of loving kindness. So does a good mitzvah project. And it’s inspiring to hear about some of the projects spearheaded by individual kids, initiatives that are truly thoughtful and immersive rather than pro-forma. For her bat mitzvah, San Diegan Tallulah Strom ran a series of five-kilometer races to raise money for people displaced by massive floods in Pakistan. Tallulah’s parents, Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom, have a music ensemble with Sufi rock star Salman Ahmad; through Ahmad, Tallulah learned about the flooding in the Swat valley and wanted to help. “She thought it would be very cool as a Jewish girl to help Muslims in a part of the world most kids never think about,” her mother said. “And she hoped that in so doing, Pakistani Muslims would look at Jews in a different (i.e., positive) way. She also felt that there were many causes that didn’t need her, but this one did.” For his bar mitzvah next month, Elias Eberman of Providence, RI, ran a coat drive for kids at his
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Stepping Up to the plate: how a local tween Used Baseball to give Back For his Mitzvah project By Samantha Simon When Matthew Sparrow attended Mitzvah Day for his temple, he had already completed the majority of the required community service hours for his bar mitzvah. He knew that he wanted to continue helping those in need, but he had no idea just how big of an impact he could make as a 12-year-old kid. Matthew never imagined that just one day spent eating pizza and making arts and crafts with underprivileged kids at the Jennie Clark Residence, one of the eight Women in Need shelters in NYC, could set in motion a huge mitzvah project that would change many kids’ lives forever—including his own. Despite a few language barriers, Matthew and the children at the shelter found common ground to cover when it came to professional athletes, teams, and sports statistics. “I really connected with them because we all loved sports, and I feel very privileged to go to so many sports games,” he says. “A lot of these kids have never seen them up close.” Later that night, Matthew and his father, David, came up with the idea to bring kids from the shelter to a sports game. Matthew wrote an unsolicited letter to the Mets and contacted their community outreach department, asking for 100 tickets to bring kids to their first-ever ballgame. He and his dad were pleasantly surprised to hear back from a Mets representative with the happy news that the team was interested in supporting the cause. Residents of Women in Need could sign up at their shelter to attend the game, and some even brought their families. The experience was nothing short of amazing for everyone involved. “I’ve been to a lot of games, but this was a totally new experience because there were so many kids. It was one of those things where everyone who was there, we were just fans rooting for the Mets, watching baseball. We were all just there together as fans,” Matthew says. All of the cheering paid off—the Mets won the game, making the experience all the more exciting for the first-time attendees. “I know it meant a lot to the kids and families and also for Matthew—he got so much in return that day,” David says. In addition to witnessing the game, the kids received a special gift from Matthew. When the Sparrows arrived at the stadium for the game, Matthew bought a pack of baseball cards for each child in attendance. “I love collecting baseball cards, so sharing that was like sharing a part of me with them,” he says. Matthew’s generosity was returned wholeheartedly, as thank you letters began pouring in after the game. “Some kids were so generous that they sent me the t-shirt that they had gotten at the game. It was just unbelievable. They really don’t think of themselves, they only think of others,” Matthew says. Following the success of the event, the Sparrow family decided to take children from the shelter to another game this past Father’s Day, largely thanks to Matthew’s dedication. “I think we’ve started a relationship with the Jennie Clark Residence and Women in Need that can last much longer than these two years,” he says. Most children stay at the shelter for six months to a year, which means that each annual event is likely to impact different residents. “If every kid gets to at least one sporting event, I think that’s great.”
former elementary school (polling the teachers about individual needs and then finding used coats in the right sizes and donating the extras to a shelter) and is now building a computer for that school’s teachers’ lounge at Free Geek Providence, an organization where his dad volunteers. “It’s very needs-based, concrete, and specific,” said Elias’ mom, my friend Jill Davidson. “And it’s been amazing to see him develop a new relationship with his former principal.” Tal Sadeh of San Raphael, CA, loves to cook. So he volunteers at the Ceres Community Project, which matches teen volunteers with adults to make wholesome meals for cancer patients. “He volunteers on average six hours a week,” his mother Wendy told me. “Though he became bar mitzvah in July 2012, he continues his work there. He loves this place! If it weren’t for the requirement of giving back, he never would have sought out this organization. He now understands deeply how joyful it is to do something for others…especially if you love doing it yourself.”
“Is forced mitzvah-doing really mitzvah-doing? Is there a way to do mitzvah projects right, so that they benefit both the kid and the organization that he or she is seeking to help, without making people grit their teeth while hitting the “donate now” button?” Amie Diamond of Westfield, NJ, has been dancing since she could walk, attending a specialized arts school and performing with professional dance companies. For her mitzvah project, she collected gently used and new jazz, tap, hip hop, and ballet shoes, as well as dance skirts and costumes, for the National Dance Institute, which brings dance into New York City public schools. “It made her feel good because she was giving other kids the ability to do what she loved,” her mom Tracey said. (Tracey is the sister of my brother-in-law Neal.) Josh Lopez-Binder was into art; for his bar mitzvah, he learned to weld and made a metal sculpture, an interpretation of his Torah portion, as a gift for his synagogue, Nahalat Shalomin Albuquerque. “My dad made me wear all this extra safety stuff,” he recalled. “I felt like an idiot around all those tough welder guys.” Josh loved that his shul encouraged students to be innovative. “It wasn’t really in my nature to collect cans for the homeless shelter,” he told me. “I stink at organizing things.” Today, as a mechanical engineering student at Carnegie Mellon, he’s still sculpting. Ben Levitt (whose mom, my college pal Beth Gamulka, is a pediatrician) volunteered
with Toronto’s Ve’ahavta Mobile Outreach Van, distributing sandwiches, blankets, coffee, socks, and clothing to the homeless last fall. He then put together a poster on the organization and talked about it in his speech. And since his bar mitzvah was on Purim, he gave people the opportunity to donate on the spot and fulfill the mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim. Crafty! Olivia Varkul credits Toronto’s Heschel School for instilling in her the values of Torah, avodah, and gemilut chasadim. As a former security blanket devotee, she decided to support Project Linus, which donates homemade blankies to hospitalized children. She visited a local neonatal ward to see how the blankets were used there, then took 13 friends and her brother to the Sewing Studio (which donated instruction time) and had a blanket making party with material donated by Fabricland. She asked for donations to Project Linus instead of gifts. Her mom, Joanna Shapiro, told the Canadian Jewish News that the experience “has shown her how she can take on mitzvot going forward, not necessarily just giving money, but actually doing something.” While I’m blown away by these kids’ initiative and creativity, I don’t think you need to do something wacky to have a meaningful mitzvah project. Just hanging out with a senior citizen once a week for a year can have a powerful impact on both the tween and the older person. And if you can get up on the bimah in front of your guests and convey your passion and kindness, whatever your cause, I’ll open my checkbook joyfully. This article is reprinted from Tablet Magazine, at tabletmag.com, the online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture. Marjorie Ingall, a Tablet contributor and NYC mom of two, is working on a book about how and why Jewish mothers have historically raised self-sufficient, ethical, and accomplished kids.
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Sarah Merians Photography & Video Company
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
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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.
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
Bat Mitzvah Child
Other Family Members
KidduSh Total Cost
PhotograPhy & videograPhy Photography Videography
MiScellaNeouS Total Cost
Total Cost Of Bar Or Bat Mitzvah:
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Now offering Make Meaning incredible Bar/Bat Mitzvah UWS: 329 Columbusfor Avean btwn 75th & 76th 212.362.0350 | UWSparties@makemeaning.com experience! Two amazing Manhattan multi-floor venues for a one UES: 1501 Third Ave btwn 84th & 85th of a kind creative celebration. Incredible entertainment available 212.744.0011 | UESparties@makemeaning.com on-site and on the makemeaning.com road for any event in the tri-state area. Our event specialists are available to design a custom, one of a kind celebration at any location. Call us today!
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PHOTOGRAPHY / FILMmAKERS
MILk and Honey New York, NY www.milkandhoneyproductions.com
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.
Benjamin Steakhouse prides itself on providing perfectly choreographed events; allow our expertise in service and cuisines ensure that your next event is a success. From the beautifully marbled cuts of dry-aged beef and succulent seafood to its impeccably refined service and charm, Benjamin Steakhouse is ideal for the ultimate dining experience, and the perfect location to host events for groups from 15 to 200. Whether you’re planning an intimate celebratory dinner or a large corporate event, Benjamin Steakhouse has the perfect space. The elegant, multi-faceted layout, high ceilings, and roaring fireplace offer a distinct private dining Department at 212-297-9177, or email@example.com
THE SEAFIRE GRILL
BLUE MAN GROUP www.blueman.com
52 East 41st Street New York NY www.benjaminsteakhouse.com
BLUE MAN GROUP at the Astor Place Theatre is great for Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, Birthdays or any special occasion! This unique theatrical experience is a form of entertainment like nothing else, guaranteed to be an outing that your group will never forget. Party packages are available for groups of 15+. Package includes discounted tickets, name of birthday child on LED screen and a merchandise item for each guest. Call 212-260-8993 for more information.
158 East 48th Street New York NY www.seafiregrill.com
The Sea Fire Grill is Midtown’s hottest new restaurants, with chic and inviting décor, impressive menu options, and premiere service. Allow our expertise in cuisine and service to ensure your event is sophisticated, memorable, and flawless. Ideal for intimate dinners, corporate functions, or celebratory affairs, The Sea Fire Grill offers a myriad of spaces ideally suited for parties of 10-150. Seasonally focused prix-fixe menus and sommelier wine selections will certainly impress! Contact our Events Department at 212.935.3785 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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BOWLMOR LANES Union Square/Greenwich Village Country Club
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
Chelsea Piers - Pier 60 (23rd & West Side Hwy) New York, NY 10011 (212) 835-2695
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 in Times Square 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.
Throw a Bar or Bat Mitzvah your guests will never forget at New York’s landmark Chelsea Piers. With its dramatic architecture, stunning design, and award-winning service, Bowlmor Chelsea Piers is the top entertainment destination! Your guests can celebrate in style in an eight lane private bowling suite or have a blast playing in the GAME ON arcade. Also featuring an elevated loft with a private bar and lounge which serves as the perfect cocktail hour before lacing up your bowling shoes. With a space flexible enough to work for any theme- this venue is perfect for a Mitzvah of any size! 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 processthey 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 Bowlmor.com or email email@example.com
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Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine 485 10th Avenue (Between 37th and 38th St) New York, NY 10018 Contact Info: Walter C. Rauscher firstname.lastname@example.org 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 www.chelseapiers.com/mitzvah
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 sun sets 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, sports-filled 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.
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240 West 47th Street New York, NY 10036 www.edisonballroom.com
60 Sutton Place South, Suite 8LS New York, NY 10022 www.EmrgMedia.com/Mitzvah
© Clay & Co
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 email@example.com.
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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. 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 212254-3700 Let us handle the details – so you can relax and celebrate!
Lucky Strike New York
Modern Elegant Design – Exceptional Quality – Gracious Hospitality
635 West 42nd Street New York, NY 10036 www.espaceny.com
Rebecca Weiss Photoraphy
Sarah Merians Photography
From the moment you are greeted as you enter our doors you will feel the pulse of Espace. Rich zebra wood walls, white marble flooring and imported Briton carpet are only a few design elements that epitomize our beautiful modern space. Stylish chairs and the finest china and flatware set the tone for sophistication. Our dedicated and experienced professionals lead the way. We are here for you at every stage; from beginning to end to ensure the celebration of your dreams. The executive chef and culinary team will work to develop a delectable menu. We pride ourselves on offering delicious innovative dishes and customizing our cuisine to reflect your personal style, theme, budget and vision. With attention to every detail you and your guests will be treated to impeccable service and uncompromising quality and execution. Espace is ideally located in midtown Manhattan easily accessible from all modes of transportation.
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 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.
Public Parking is conveniently available directly across the street. Our 10,000 square foot venue is fully equipped with state of the art technology, TI connections and wireless internet. Our team of audio visual experts will customize our high tech lighting and space to create the ambience you desire. Espace comfortably hosts up to 500 seated guests and to 1,200 for standing receptions. Espace is sophistication, quality and service at its finest. Allow us to be committed to you for a truly memorable event. For reservation inquiries and information contact 212.967.7003 or email@example.com
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the last word
FroM Generation To Generation The author’s Parsha Was The Same as Her Father’s and Her Mother’s—a Coincidence She Stills Cherishes By Alissa Katz
“L’dor Vador.” Those two words are what made my bat mitzvah so meaningful. The translation is “from generation to generation,” which is exactly what my Parsha involved. I read Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea. The easiest way to explain where this reading appears in the Torah is with the help of one of my all-time favorite movies: “The Prince of Egypt.” remember when Moses and the Hebrews cross the red Sea, and Miriam (along with the children, which is my favorite part!) sings a little song in celebration and thanks? (This is also my plug for renting it if you haven’t seen it, a great movie for the whole family!) anyway, that’s my Parsha. and, okay, it wouldn’t be fair to call it just mine—among the many Jews who have read this particular Parsha at their coming-of-age ceremonies are both my father and my mother. How’s that for “L’dor Vador?” The assignment of this reading to me was purely coincidental, but I thought it was one of the most meaningful connections I’d have with my parents, and I still believe that. The catch is that this particular Torah reading had a different Torah trope than any other reading, because it’s a song (and not a short song either). But, what kept me practicing every day for an entire year was knowing that I was going to be reading this in front of a congregation just as my parents did before me. Call me a Jewish nerd (because I am one), but this seemed so exciting. I’d been a good reader of the language, because it was how I was raised. My parents were very active in our Conservative synagogue (my dad served as president), and my sister and I went to Junior Congregation most Saturdays. So, I was already familiar with the basics. But learning to read without vowels proved to be a bit trickier. With the help of my fabulous tutor,
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her tapes (yes, even 10 years ago we were learning through tape recordings), and support from my family, I managed to master this beautiful song. Granted, I did have my occasional whining fits about not wanting to practice—I was a teenage girl, after all. But, in the end, it was all worth it when I was standing up there and seeing everyone I loved smiling at my accomplishments. Here’s another fun fact about how much I love this Parsha: I’ve gone back to my synagogue in Maryland every year since my bat mitzvah to read it. actually, I go back twice a year, since it’s read on the seventh day of Passover, too. If you do the math, it’s been 10 years since my bat mitzvah, so I’ve read Shirat HaYam 20 times. and, yes, I know the entire thing by heart, and I think I always will. at this point, I think it would be weird hearing somebody else sing the song I’ve mastered, and I’d feel empty in some way if I didn’t have the opportunity to read it. I get this feeling when I’m up there—no matter what my mood is even a minute before—and I can’t describe the joy it brings. If you looked at me instead of following along, you’d see at some points I just subconsciously smile. See, I told you I was a Jewish nerd. This year will be different, since I’ve moved to Manhattan and home is a little further away now. I’m not sure I’ll be able to read it once this year, let alone twice, but adapting to change is part of the growing up process, right? Even if I don’t find an outlet that needs a reader sometime this winter or on the seventh day of Passover, there’s a good chance I’ll pull out my Tikun from my bed stand and read it silently to myself. No one will see, but I guarantee you I’ll still be smiling. AlissA KAtz is a contributor to New York Family and Mitzvah.
EMRG Media www.emrgmedia.com/mitzvah
NEW YORK CITY’S LEADING EVENT PLANNING COMPANY
Are you planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah?
EMRG Media works with New York's Top Event Spaces & Unique Venues. We'll take care of all the details. Just wanted to take a moment to thank you, and your entire staff for such a wonderful event. It far exceeded our expectations. From your calm demeanor to your attention to detail you are a real pro. You were able to find the perfect venue, understand the level of service that we were looking for, and put a very creative twist on the whole event!!! We could not have been happier with you and EMRG!!! - Karen S. Want to give you the information we talked about regarding Sophie's Bat Mitzvah. I called Erica my Bat Mitzvah Angel. She will help you in whatever role you need her. - Staci W. -
EMRG MEDIA WILL ASSIST YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY Visit us at www.emrgmedia.com/mitzvah or call us at 212.254.3700