(January 12, 2013 / JNS) Your little tot is now not only a teenager, but also preparing for a critical Jewish rite of passage—and you’ve spent too much time feeling sentimental, or planning the party, to remember a gift for the bar or bat mitzvah. But don’t sweat the small stuff: JNS.org has plenty of gifts that are a little less kosher and a lot more fun than the typical envelope filled with multiples of 18.
Check the facts
Becoming a bar or bat mitzvah signifies a turning point in a child’s life, when he or she makes the transition into adulthood under Jewish Law. At age 13 for boys and 12 for girls, they are obligated to observe the commandments and become active in leading religious services, counting in a minyan, forming binding contracts, testifying before religious courts, and marrying. While that thought may be scary to both parents and kids, find comfort in the fact that generation after generation of children have taken this oath of responsibility as well. A great way to learn more about those generations past would be with a membership from Ancestry.com. As the saying goes, learn from the past to better your future!
Above & beyond
What better reminder of a momentous day than something equally as magnificent and unique, like naming a star after your bar or bat mitzvah boy or girl. Name a Star,The Star Registry, and Online Star Register offer a fully personalized gift unlike anyone else’s in the galaxy. The purchase of each star comes with its given name (if any), its chosen name, date bought, and its exact coordinates on a star map.
Brainy bar/bat mitzvah
Becoming an adult is a scary thing. Why not guide your child through the intricacies of growing up with 12 or 13 (for girls and boys, respectively) books that helped shape you into the adult you are today? Whether it be Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, the Hardy Boys, or the Harry Potter series, most adults can find a select few books that helped influence them today. Some great books specifically for the occasion would be Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Throwing in a few practical options like Jewish cookbooks, guides to picking a college, and books for learning another language can be a fun way to mix it up as well.
Take the trek
An integral part of growing up is exploring the world around you. Registering your bar/bat mitzvah for a summertime or winter break trip abroad can be a great way to jump-start hobbies like traveling or teaching, and interests in international relations and diplomacy. There are a variety of trip options available, ranging from the free to the extravagant. Memorials for the Holocaust and countries’ pre-World War II Jewish communities are all over Europe. Plan a tour of these memorials and parks as both a vacation and an education.
Gifts that keep on giving
Giving back to the community is an important piece of growing up in the Jewish faith. Talk to your bar/bat mitzvah boys or girls about what issues are important to them and find appropriate charities. Donate the money you would otherwise give them to the charity of their choice, so that they can begin to establish a practice of tzedakahand a personal relationship with issues that are really important to them.