Bar or Bat Mitzvah Gift Guide

What to get for the bar or bat mitzvah kid in your life.

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You've received a beautiful invitation in the mail and sent back your RSVP card. Now it’s time to figure out the perfect gift for the young man or woman who has invited you to this bar/bat mitzvah. Becoming bar or bat mitzvah is an important milestone in a young person’s life and being invited to celebrate with them is certainly an honor. Gifts are a way to congratulate them for the hard work they have done to get to this day and to commemorate their symbolic entrance into adulthood.

Choosing the right gift can be a difficult task. You want to give something thoughtful and that the recipient will enjoy. Gifts that match the recipient’s interests are always appreciated, such as a book of sheet music for the musical theatre lover or a nice baseball mitt for the sports enthusiast. Asking the parents about what their son or daughter would appreciate is also a great tactic. Many guests prefer to give a gift with symbolism or meaning. After all, you only become bar/bat mitzvah once!

Giving Money

Giving money is an easy way to assure that the recipient will enjoy the present, and if you are tight on time, it could be the best bet for you, too. Many young men and women apply the checks they receive to college funds or towards a more expensive item they’ve been wanting. There is some debate about the appropriate amount of money to give to a 12 or 13-year-old. Traditionally, checks are written out in $18 increments. The Hebrew letters for the word "life" (chai) are numerically equivalent to the number 18, and therefore this number holds great significance in Jewish tradition. But don’t worry – you don’t need to give in $18 increments! If $50 in cash sounds good to you, go for it. If cash or a check is not your cup of tea, a gift card to Amazon.com, iTunes, or Barnes and Noble would also be welcome.

Judaica Items

If you prefer to purchase a gift that you can wrap, a beautiful Judaica item is an excellent choice. This type of present can stay with the recipient throughout their life – you never outgrow a set of Sabbath candlesticks or a Hannukah menorah.

An artistic gift that also speaks to the universal value of helping the needy is a tzedakah box, which can be displayed as a piece of art but also used to collect money for charity. (In Hebrew, tzedek means “justice”). This classic tzedakah box design will fit into any Jewish home. Hung upon the doorposts of Jewish houses and the rooms within these homes, a mezuzah is a scroll (held within a beautiful case) inscribed with biblical text.

yad silver 2A shofar is a ram's horn that is blown during the Jewish High Holiday services. Blowing a shofar is a difficult skill to perfect, so having one to practice upon is very helpful. This shofar is a nice size with which to start learning. Lit during Hannukah, a hanukkiah (known as a menorah) is a special type of candelabra that reminds us about the miracle of Hannukah. This menorah is a beautiful representation of the tree of life.

A yad is a short and thin metal pointer used to help a person reading Torah keep place. Yads are often made of beautiful, engraved silver, and can also be displayed as a piece of art. Candle sticks are traditionally given to a bat mitzvah girl. It is customary for women to light the Sabbath candles on behalf of their families. Some young girls begin to light their own set of candles when they reach the age of bat mitzvah. These candle sticks were designed by the famous Israeli artist Yair Emanuel.

Finally, becoming bar or bat mitzvah is a process involving months of Jewish learning, and a Jewish book captures the spirit of study. This reproduction of the famous Szyk Haggadah is a perfect gift to give around Passover.

hamsa blueJewish Jewelry

Like Judaica, a nice piece of jewelry can also become a cherished item, possibly even a family heirloom for both young men and women. While a Tiffany’s heart pendant necklace has become a classic bat mitzvah gift, a piece of jewelry with Jewish symbolism can capture the essence of the bar or bat mitzvah process. A Jewish star or chai (life) necklace is a timeless gift. The bar mitzvah boy might enjoy a pair of Jewish star cufflinks, and the bat mitzvah girl might like a bracelet with a hamsa (a Kabbalistic symbol that protects against the evil eye).

Do-It-Yourself Presents

If you are a do-it-yourself type of person, you might want to tackle an art project that the bar or bat mitzvah can display and enjoy for years to come. Framing and embellishing the service or party invitation is one way to help capture their special day. Many companies will also do the dirty work for you.

If you don’t mind giving your present a bit late, you could also make a scrapbook of pictures from the bar/bat mitzvah itself. Consider including the invitation, pressed flowers, a copy of the bar/bat mitzvah speech, and any other small tidbits from the special day. You can find all the supplies you need for Jewish scrap-booking online.

Donating to Charity

Finally, one of the core tenets of Judaism is tzedakah (charity). Making a donation in honor of the bar or bat mitzvah is a meaningful way to incorporate the Jewish (and universal) value of helping those in need. You can personalize this type of gift even further by donating to a cause about which the bar or bat mitzvah feels passionate. For example, if the young man or woman loves to read, a donation to Room to Read will help advance literacy for children around the world. If they are budding environmentalists, The Conservation Fund would be another great choice.

There are also many worthy causes with a Jewish bent, such as Chai Lifeline, a Jewish organization that provides comprehensive programs for children with cancer and their families. The Gift of Life is a bone marrow registry that puts special emphasis on obtaining Jewish donors (there is a serious lack of eligible Jewish donors because blood lines were so terribly severed during the Holocaust.)

Charity Navigator is a web resource that can help you choose a worthy cause that utilizes donations in an honest way.

The bar/bat mitzvah is a celebration of life, and a thoughtful gift is an excellent way to mark the milestone. Good luck choosing the perfect gift!

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Arielle Sperling

Arielle Sperling is an editorial intern at MyJewishLearning and Kveller. She is a rising junior at Colgate University where she is double majoring in English with a creative writing concentration and environmental studies. Her work has appeared in The Jewish Week newspaper and The Colgate Portfolio.