Special edition for organizing your child’s Bat or Bar Mitzvah

Dear Naja,

I am organizing my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.

We want to celebrate her learning and this milestone she is reaching in a way that honors her, our family, and our friends. As simple as this sounds, it is pretty tough for me. We have financial obligations that curtail us just pouring money into it to make things either happen or just go away. I know that the party is about her, and should be a reflection of things she loves and we value–but seriously, I don’t think I am going to be able to stomach pepto bismal pink and boa feathers coupled with Barry Manilow karaoke (a few of her more endearing obsessions). Do you have any advice for the wretchedly under-informed? Her idea of food is something purchased through a window, has a vehicle involved, and is served in paper. She loves music, but prefers drop-bass (a particularly bone-chilling form of teenager music). She wants to have the party at our house, and I can just see the Aunties convulsing as they feel the music piped in through the floorboards, with no place to hide, and nowhere to comfortably receive and dish the latest gossip…..I ramble. Oh, and I am Presbyterian.

Nellie, of Des Moines Nebraska

Whoa Nellie!

Are you serious? I love the fact that you are doing this for your daughter. You know, Bar and Bat Mitzvah planning has wiped out many a pro. You don’t have to have a license to have children or even to raise them, you don’t need to study or learn anything in particular to qualify to get married. To become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah entails at least the semblance of studying and learning, usually for years. Then you have the divvying up of honors in a way that doesn’t pressure people, of trying to explain traditions, both in your specific synagogue, and your family. The ceremony itself is traditionally a form of running the gauntlet reserved for young people. There is the learning, interpreting, belonging to a community, and carrying on a tradition. In addition, nowadays Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations serve as an ersatz wedding for many families that live far from their extended families, and marry and have children later. So what do you want? To celebrate your daughter? Make your family welcome? Enjoy yourself?
You can do all of that and more by remembering these intentions, and blowing off the rest!

Yours truly,

Naja