What is the best gift for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah? How much money should a gift be?
Last week, my friend Jeanne called to ask how much money you are supposed to give for Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts. Money is usually the best gift to give a bar/bat mitzvah. It is traditional and just easier than trying to find the perfect and most appropriate gift. This money is meant for their future – to help buy a car, pay for college, start a business and not for frivolous, spontaneous teen retail therapy. My older teens have not touched a penny of their bar/bat mitzvah savings since their bar/bat mitzvah, although my son has over the years asked for ‘his money’ to buy concert tickets!
Jeanne’s son just entered 7th grade at a new school in the MidWest and he has already been invited to a handful of bar/bat mitzvahs. Each mitzvah has a separate story:
Scenario 1 – Jeanne’s whole family is invited to a very good friend’s Bar Mitzvah. The whole family is attending the service and the party. (larger gift)
Scenario 2 – Jeanne’s son is invited to a bar mitzvah of a friend from his old school. He is not a close friend and he is the only one in their family who is invited. (smaller gift)
Scenario 3 – Jeanne’s son is invited to a new friend at his new school who he really does not know. (smaller gift)
Scenario 4 – Jeanne’s son is invited to a new classmate’s bat mitzvah. The mother of the bat mitzvah personally reaches out to include her son who is brand new to the class. Jeanne is so happy – her son is having a tough time adjusting and like all parents we just want our kids to fit in; the anguish that comes in these times is palpable as we parents can no longer truly ease the transition for our teens. Jeanne is ready to buy this kid and her mother anything that money can buy!!! But, the invitation to this party says, in lieu of gifts, please bring crayons. I love this family! Wow – parents who have all the right priorities and are teaching their daughter what a bat mitzvah is really all about. I wish that I had been this thoughtful and followed suit with my own kids. (huge gift!!!)
Advice - I like to give money that is divisible by $18. Numbers that are divisible by 18 are called ‘Chai’ which in Hebrew means ‘life’. 18 is a popular number in Judaism: it represents good luck. So based on the relationship, finances and desires, YOU can decide what amount in appropriate for each bar/bat mitzvah and write a check for a number divisible by ’18′: $18, $36, $54, $72, $90,……….…$180…..$234 (13 x $18)……
Note – many bar/bat mitzvah teens are learning and engaged in tzadakah (charity, righteousness and justice) while they prepare for their mitzvah. They volunteer with the needy, sick, young, elderly, animals; they help clean the beaches, the streets, the mountains; they donate books, clothes or food to the less fortunate; or they help those living in other countries who are in need. They share this information at their bar/bat mitzvah many times asking their guests to bring items to donate and also using part of their gift money to donate to their causes. Although most parents are not as strong and thoughtful as the crayon family, there is a lot of good teaching and meaningful work that comes hand in hand with a bar/bat mitzvah. Ninja Mom