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Etiquette question re: B'nai Mitzvah

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
My boss invited me to the B'nai Mitzvah of his twins (one girl, one boy). I want to go but I am totally clueless. Is this usually a fancy affair? do you dress up like for a wedding orlike for a casual dressy party? Are gifts exoected, and if so, what sort?

anyone have some info for me?

(I really like his kids, by the way, and am glad to go to this...)
post #2 of 16
All the mitzvahs I've have been to have been rather formal, but dress is usually stated on the invitation. (note: Some of the mitzvahs I attended were EASILY more expensive than a wedding :LOL ) I would pick out a nice dress and go. The food is always great.
post #3 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by etoilech
All the mitzvahs I've have been to have been rather formal, but dress is usually stated on the invitation. (note: Some of the mitzvahs I attended were EASILY more expensive than a wedding :LOL ) I would pick out a nice dress and go. The food is always great.
ditto

and yes, gifts are usually expected
post #4 of 16
Gifts are pretty usual. Think nice birthday present. Money is always appreciated. My dh got some really nice bottles of wine for his bar mitzvah (which we drank sometime around his 21st birthday... this was wine that needed to be aged) but that seems unusual.

Dress depends on the congregation but tends to be more formal (from what I've seen) than normal. Think "Sunday best" but with a Jewish flair (depending again on the congregation, you wouldn't want to wear sleeveless or a miniskirt). That's for the actual ceremony, which will (probably) be at a synogogue. For the party, you'll have to ask what they're expecting -- some b'nei mitzvah's get REALLY formal, whereas others are more like family parties.

In terms of wearing a kippot, most synogues don't expect non-Jewish guests to do so, but I did when I went to my friend's. (I later converted). I've always loved wearing kipot. Don't wear a tallis, tho.

There are some books available to help you through the ceremony. I can't think of any titles off the top of my head, but you should be able to google them pretty easily. Your library probably has some as well

Have fun!
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
:

what is a kipot? what is tallis?
post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by etoilech
(note: Some of the mitzvahs I attended were EASILY more expensive than a wedding :LOL )
It wouldn't suprise me if my dh's bar mitzvah had cost more than our wedding... I don't really want to total the cost for our wedding, tho, so I'm not going to think about it :LOL
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by sadie_sabot
:

what is a kipot? what is tallis?
Sorry, I should have clarified.

A kippah is the head covering Jews wear. (Mostly men, but women can wear them, too). It's pretty common for the family to buy kippot (the singular is kippah) in colors that match the theme of the party they are throwing. (My dh's kippot were red velvet). That's also common for Jewish weddings (our wedding kippot were purple velvet!) If they do that, you can take home the kippah as a reminder

A tallis (also spelled tallit) is a prayer shawl. It is a retangular piece of fabric with knotted fringe on all four sides. It is worn during all (daytime) services. The b'nei mitzvah children will be presented with a tallis during the ceremony, I expect. That's usually pretty touching.

HTH!
post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by sadie_sabot
Are gifts exoected, and if so, what sort?
Cash. Like posted above, some Mitzvahs I've been to have trumped weddings I've been to. I usually try to cover my plate plus a little extra.
post #9 of 16
At my young friend's bar mitzvah, I was called up front (on the bima, sp?) to do a prayer...which is not usual since I am not jewish. His Jewish family took part in the torah reading part of the service. His Hasidic uncle did a reading too, so we had an unusual group! I dressed conservatively...skirt below knee, long sleeves and church-appropriate hat, since his conservative congregation has a wide span of practice. If I were just attending, I would have worn something skirted suitable for a formal church service or daytime wedding. For a bit, some circles giving stock in a company kids like or relate to was popular, but that seems more of a relative gift. Cash would be simple and welcome if you don't know the child well.
post #10 of 16
A kippah is a yarmulke. Not sure if that clears up the question, but ...


In the 'liberal' denominations, cash is always an expected gift or something along those lines. Yes, some are reasonably fancy, too. They even sell bar/bat mitzvah cards that are check-holders, IYKWIM.


Is the family at all or remotely possibly Orthodox? If they are, then books are an appropriate gift. On Jewish subjects. It's the only gift we give at bar/bat mitzvahs. Some kids actually build up quite a library from the event.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
ok, I know what a yarmulke is!

so, on the cash question, is $20 going to seem cheap ( there's two kids, and we aren't well off)?

Could books be an ok gift regardless?

And, I think they're probably fairly liberal and not orthodox, my boss (the dad) was raised catholic, and I don't think he's converted, but the kids are being raised jewish b/c mom is.
post #12 of 16
Sounds like the answers have been pretty much well covered. If you're not Jewish, or you don't know the children well, giving Jewish books as a gift can be kind of awkward. Cash is probably the safest gift. When I was a teenager, a typical gift was $18 (since 18 in Hebrew is "chai" which means "life.") Is $36 (double chai) the "going rate" today?

I just want to add that, most likely it's NOT an Orthodox family or they would have had the girl's Bat Mitzvah when she was 12 and the boy's Bar Mitzvah when he's 13- that's when Jewish children are considered to be adults (in terms of religious observances, not in terms of driving a car or babysitting or anything like that!!!) If they're having a B'nei Mitzvah for both of them, they're probably 13.
post #13 of 16
No, the going rate these days is much more, I think. Sadly. (At least with Liberal Jews).

But books are a good choice. Maybe something intellectual instead of Jewish (being as how you're not Jewish). We are the people of the book, are we not?

I guess I always just say kippah and not yarmulke. Plus, kippah is so much easier to spell
post #14 of 16
Ah! A mixed marriage...in which case one of my gifts thoughts might be more appropriate than I feared - a book on comparative religions. I searched through the amazon reviews and found a few that I liked and gave to young friends for first Catholic communion. They were aimed at younger kids though, so you might have more options at their age. Books are always a good gift - you can put thought into them and still not spend too much money.
post #15 of 16
I say to heck with the "going rate"

$36 seems perfect and thoughtful....
or even $18 if that's what suits your current situation

This is also a "dictionary or fountain pen" gift giving opportunity... I still have a lovely dictionary I got at my bat mitzvah (25 years ago)

I'm not a big fan of the extravagent affairs and big gifts...
post #16 of 16
Are you invited to the service, or only the party? Most bar and bat mitzvah celebrations are based on the child (or in this case, the children) having mastered some major Jewish skills and being called to the Torah for the honor of making the blessing for the first time as an adult.

(My dh is a bar and bat mitzvah tutor, btw.)

In our area, they usually do a party that is separate from the service. So there's a service in the morning--modest but dressed up dress--with a nice spread of food at the end of it. Then later, after Shabbat is over, a big party with fancy, maybe a little less modest dress if they aren't Orthodox, dancing, a band or a dj.

Shabbat services can be very long, longest in a Conservative synagogue. If you are bringing your dd, bring things for her to do and plan to go in and out of the sanctuary with her, she won't be able to sit through the whole thing. They might throw candy at the children after they do their blessings over the Torah.

Money is a fine gift, but I think it's nicer to actually buy something that's from you, a book or a CD that you would want a 13 year old to have. My dh, who is the tutor, often gives a CD of a famous jazz pianist and a book of Jewish history.
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