Second Child's Bar Mitzvah (One More After That ...)

Updated on August 25, 2009
N.G. asks from Deerfield, IL
8 answers

This is quite a general question ...
I am wondering if anyone has been invited/hosted a more "scaled back" bar mitzvah recently. If so, how was it?

We are considering just doing the Saturday morning service, lunch (with the entire synagogue community at our synagogue), a small dinner with extended family Sat. night and then a kid's party-only- on Sunday.

The folks getting "ripped off" are our friends, our work colleagues, our kids' friends' parents, etc. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? Will people like the fact that they only have a general (not personal) lunch? Will they be offended? Even though the general procedure on Sat. at our synagogue is to eat with the whole community (and not break off into a private room), I am thinking that a private lunch at the synagogue would solve my problem. Of course, we would be offending the regulars who attend Sat. services by breaking the room in 2....

Should we mention somewhere that the money saved would be contributed to my son's charitable project? Do you think we should take a trip somewhere with a Jewish reason attached to justify that we are not entertaining this group?

The reasons behind this "cut" are both financial and a lack of interest for one big party with adults and kids and loud music ... my son doesn't really want the huge party, too ...

I don't want to slight or offend anyone. I also don't want to have a large Sat. night party. Any thoughts or experiences are appreciated.

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answers from Chicago on

Kudos to you for wanting to scale back the the size of the party but not the celebration itself. I think these events have gotten way out of proportion and you actually start to forget the reason for them with all the Hip Hop bands, customized party favors and insanely expensive table centerpieces.

I would not be offended to attend a smaller event, I would like it better because you get to talk to the people you invited. I would not break the room in 2 and have it private. The celebration is for the whole synagogue.

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answers from Chicago on

I would not be offended by being invited to a kiddush luncheon with the entire synagogue. I think that is a lovely way to celebrate your son becoming a bar mitzvah - with all those who attend services with him every week and his family and friends. We went to something similar last year and had a great time. Personally, I think that bar mitzvahs have gotten out of hand and when my son is of age we will probably do the same "scaled back" version. It is a religious ceremony that should be celebrated, but I really think things have gotten way out of control.
Good luck with the planning!

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answers from Chicago on

You say "The folks getting "ripped off" are our friends, our work colleagues, our kids' friends' parents, etc" If those people are not Jewish they may not even realize what the protocal is 'suppose' to be. I wouldn't be offended, because (not being Jewish) I would just think this was how it always was.



answers from Chicago on

Please don't feel the need to explain why you are having a "scaled back" Bar Mitzvah. The people who love you and your son will not care and if anyone were to actually be offended, shame on them. It's been 24 years since my Bat Mitzvah (yikes!) but my parents gave me the option to either have a big party or go on vacation. So, I chose the vacation (which in reflection probably wasn't cheaper) and to my knowledge, none of our friends and family were put out about not having a big party.

Do what feels right for you and your family and don't worry about what everyone else thinks. The people that matter in your life will support you. Mazel tov!!



answers from Chicago on

I'm not Jewish, but we are actually going to a bar mitzvah this weeknend, so here is my two cents'. I was very happy to be invited, but it would never have OCCURRED to me to be offended if we had not been.

I definitely would not feel 'ripped off' and you absolutely do not have to take a 'Jewish' trip or something to off-set having a smaller party! If you would like to let people know about your son's charity project, that's fine, but I don't think you have to at all.

My understanding is that this is a special ceremony which is about religion and family more than anything else.

Of course wanting to include your wider community of friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. is perfectly natural, whether for a bar mitzvah or a quincenara or graduation. But I am sure no one would want the occasion to be anything but joyous for you.

If having a big to-do is too much of a strain financially or otherwise, you will only be worried and that should not be what the day is about. What you talked about above sounds lovely, appropriate- and if it is what you want to do, then that is what you should do! End of story. Giant mega-weddings and bar mitzvah's and parties are all so early 90s now anyway! This is about your son and God first- don't worry about the party or the co-workers! Congratulations and good luck!



answers from Chicago on

Hi N.,

Where is your temple? I go to Oak Park Temple, but before that went to KAMII in Hyde Park. Both temples seem very down to earth. My oldest son is only 11, so we haven't gone through the bar mitzvah year yet, but my friend's daughter had a lunch at the temple then a bowling party at night for her friends and the parents' friends and family. If you want to include the people you're worried about offending, can you just invite them to the lunch at the temple? Or if that would make it too big or expensive, I don't think you have to make a big deal about it. People know that bar mitzvahs are really expensive. Depending on where you live, some people might not even know that it's normal to invite co-workers, etc. I live in Hinsdale and most of my non-Jewish friends here have never been to a bar mitzvah. On a similar note, we're having a baby naming ceremony next month for our youngest son (we did the circumcision in the hospital, although my oldest son had a traditional bris). We don't have a big house, so just invited our family and friends from the city. I feel bad about not inviting my new friends in Hinsdale, but it's not like they even know what a Jewish baby naming ceremony is. I know that's cold, but in these cases you can never please everyone! And remember, it's your son's special day. If people can't understand that, then do you want them around anyway?



answers from Chicago on

Hi N.,

I think you are totally right to "scale-back" for your son's Bar Mitzvah. Most b'nai mitzvah these days are really over-the-top. I like your plan to have a community kiddush-lunch, a small Sat. eve. dinner, and a kids party. Just do what works best for your son and your family. You don't owe anyone an explanation!

For my Bat Mitzvah (many years ago), we had kiddush (maybe not even lunch) for everyone after the service. Then on Saturday night, everyone was invited back for services, a light dinnner, Havdalah, dessert and dancing (with a Klezmer band). The norm (at the time) was to have a party (either for everyone or just kids) with a DJ. I'm not suggesting you should follow my family's model, but I just wanted to describe it to point out that there are plenty of ways to "host" a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

I don't think it's right to exclude the community from the lunch. And I think your friends, etc., will understand if the party is just for the kids. Don't overthink it!

All the best and mazel tov to you and your family,



answers from Chicago on

N., Let me start off first by saying I am not Jewish so I don't know all the customs. but why are you having 3 celebrations? I don't is that customary? When our children were baptized (I know its not the same) We had a dinner afterwords. One dinner. Everyone was invited who was invited to the ceremony. I don't think anyone would be offended by not being invited to all of these things. I don't think you need to say what your spending your own money on. If your child doesn't really want the big hoopla party why are you having another one on the next day. Can't you just have the ceremony and then some cake? Good luck with it. when it all comes down to it the only really important part is the religious part. What you do afterward is for your child. I would not go crazy on something he/she doesn't care about.

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