Celebrating the Bar or Bat Mitzvah of a young friend or family member is a heartwarming experience for everyone involved. The event marks far more than another traditional birthday: it’s a Jewish rite of passage, an opportunity to rejoice at the boy or girl’s next spiritual phase in life.
If you’ve been invited to a Bar Mitzvah—the traditional ceremony for a boy—or a Bat Mitzvah for a girl, explore the tradition a bit further before heading to the store to choose a present.
Choosing a Bar or Bat Mitzvah Present
So, what kind of gift do you buy for a bar or bat mitzvah? There are several ways to go about finding both a unique and appropriate present for the guest of honor. Traditional Bar Mitzvah gifts often include a ritually significant amount of money, educational books, Jewish ritual items or a cookbook that celebrates Jewish cooking. You can also take a more personalized slant by buying the teen something to foster their hobbies and passions. Monogrammed gifts also remind the child of this celebratory shift in life when their friends and family gathered to mark the occasion.
As the case with any celebration, all gifts are considered generous. If you’re most comfortable sticking with the tradition for this particular event, it can be helpful to know more about the gravity of the day itself.
Celebrating a Bar Mitzvah
If this is your first Bar Mitzvah celebration, prep yourself with some background on the ritual before the big day. In the Jewish faith, a 13-year-old-boy or 12-year-old girl marks their transition into spiritual adulthood. The milestone is marked by a service in which the honored child reads the blessing (or Aliyah) from the Torah in front of the congregation. The day is also often marked with celebration, ranging from a celebration in the family’s home or a larger soiree in an event hall. For a young Jewish child, this is often one of the most momentous days of their lives thus far.
How Much Should You Spend on a Bar Mitzvah gift?
Deciding how much to spend completely comes down to your area’s culture, the family’s tradition and your relation to the birthday boy or girl. While more distant friends often spend anywhere between $20 and $50, closer family may spend upwards of $150 on their gift. When in doubt, speak to the family hosting the event for advice or to check if they’ve registered with gift ideas.
We’ll explore some of the more traditional and modern gifts for Bar Mitzvahs to help you honor the young member or your life on this exciting day.
10 Bar and Bat Mitzvah Gift Ideas
Similar to a wedding, cash is often a welcomed gift whether you can accept or need to decline your Bar or Bat Mitzvah invitation. Guests often gift money in increments of $18, a symbol of “chai,” in Jewish tradition, which means “life.” It is also completely acceptable to round to normal amounts of $20 or $50. Pair with a personalized card with a special message for the birthday boy or girl on this big day.
How much money should you give for a Bar Mitzvah? Much like a wedding, this depends on your relationship to the family. No need to break the bank for this occasion—the child is still only 12 or 13, so smaller amounts are just as appreciated.
Some close family members, however, see this as an opportunity to contribute toward a specific savings or educational fund in the child’s life and thus gift larger amounts. Speak with the birthday child’s parents about something the teen is saving up for and earmark your gift as a contribution toward their goal.
2. Gift Cards
If you’re looking for a more targeted or specific approach to cash Bar Mitzvah gifts, consider a gift certificate or local membership to a community program. Support a local business or encourage an educational experience by purchasing a gift card that they can enjoy after this momentous day.
For a more modern approach, buy a gift card to their favorite store, restaurant or spot to meet friends. For example, if the birthday boy or girl loves video games—a common favorite at this age—pick up a gift card to their favorite gaming store so they can choose a game they’ve had on their wish list. Similar to the cash gift option, consider purchasing the gift card in increments of $18.
Go the most traditional Bar Mitzvah gift-giving route by purchasing a religiously significant item to continue their practice. Though there are many opportunities to gift the child the usual birthday presents, this is the opportunity to celebrate the role the Jewish tradition will play in their lives for decades to come.
Since Judaica gifts are popular Bat and Bar Mitzvah presents, you may want to speak with the parents of the birthday boy or girl before choosing an item. While it’s okay to get duplicates of some items—like Hanukkah menorahs—there are other, rarer items they do not need several iterations of in their home or collection. Traditional Jewish gifts may include:
Shabbat Candles and Candlesticks
Both Shabbat candles and candlesticks will be used throughout the rest of their life, making this an excellent Bar or Bat mitzvah gift. For the candlesticks, explore both modern and traditional designs, or if you’re related to the birthday girl or boy, consider passing down an heirloom.
The candles themselves also come in a range of styles and colors and make a great addition for a gift set. If you are close with the family and a member of the Jewish community, use this gift as an opportunity to invite them to your home for a future Shabbat dinner.
Bless the room or future home of the birthday honoree by gifting them with a Mezuzah. The Mezuzah traditionally contains a parchment with scripture rolled up inside to mark the home as a place of Jewish faith. Since a Mezuzah can be hung both at the front door and most inner doorways, there is no need to worry about the family receiving more than one. Mezuzahs come in a beautiful range of designs and materials; consider matching your choice to the child’s style and creativity.
The traditional Hanukah candelabra also makes for a unique Bar Mitzvah present. Similar to the Shabbat candlesticks, designs range between both traditional and modern, including antique options imbued with family history. Explore adding a personalized touch to your design, either adding their name, birthday or a Jewish passage to the structure.
The Tallit—or prayer shawl—makes for a thoughtful and elegant Bar Mitzvah gift, often representing the artist’s own unique design. Explore options for girls if you’re attending a Bat Mitzvah or pair your Tallit gift with a full set of traditional garb items such as a matching yarmulke, tallit bag and engraved tallit clips.
4. Educational Books
As one of the most curiosity-driven times in a child’s life, give the gift of a book that will help them grow and expand their minds. Are they passionate readers? Speak to their parents about their favorite series and choose a book set within the same genre that they haven’t explored.
It is also traditional to buy religious or Jewish culturally related books as a Bar Mitzvah gift. Though this gift is very specific to the event, personalize your selection by choosing an author that you feel connects with young minds or acted as a great inspiration for your own growth as a young person.
5. Charitable Donations
Celebrate your support of the community by supporting a social cause, Jewish nonprofit or a charity of their choice by making a donation in their name. Some families may specify if they have a preferred organization or cause that they wish to support, so it may be worth checking in to with party hosts before making your gift. Include information about the organization in the card to the birthday boy or girl and note how their gift will make a difference.
6. Personalized Gifts
No matter the occasion, personalized gifts demonstrate that you took the time to consider all the things that make your recipient special and unique. Include the recipient’s name, the date of the celebration or a special inspirational passage for them to look at on their desk, wall or home mantlepiece. This is also an excellent chance to add a personalized flair to their bedroom décor, school supplies or even something for their future dorm room.
7. Jewish Cookbook
Even if the teen honoree has yet to explore their love of cooking quite yet, a Jewish cookbook is a go-to gift for Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. The passing down of traditional Jewish dishes further celebrates the culture’s past while preparing the child to prep traditional holiday and Shabbat meals on their own someday. Choose a book specifically written for teens and kids to pique their interest in preparing meals with the family.
Whether you’re celebrating a boy or a girl on the big day, many people choose to pass on symbolic jewelry to the birthday teen. Consider a traditional pendant the represents a Star of David, the Chai symbol, a Mezuzah or the tree of life. You can also choose a pendant or series of charms that feature a passage from the Torah. Versions of each pendant are easily personalized the birthday girl or boy’s style. In addition to necklaces and pendants, explore traditional charm bracelets, rings earrings and cufflinks.
9. Games and Technology
Depending on the traditions of the family, tech-related gifts on the teen’s wish list are perfectly acceptable for a Bar Mitzvah. A new pair of headphones or their sought-after video game could be quite the coveted gift. It can be helpful to touch base with the child’s parents, however, as they may have preferences about screen time and their child’s tech experience.
10. Photos and Frames
The family will want to remember this momentous day with photographs of the celebration. Photo-related gifts like personalized frames or household objects that display images are excellent for both the birthday child and their family. If you’re a close family member, gather images from their childhood and collect them into a professional album or multi-photo frame for the family to add pictures from the celebration afterward. This is also an excellent opportunity to present a gift card for a company that will design their images into a book after the big day.
Bat and Bar Mitzvahs are a wonderful time to gather and celebrate the passage of a young child into their spiritual adulthood. Though gift-giving requires a little extra thought than other birthdays, it still follows the same rules or most events: consider the family’s traditions, the child’s interests and your relationship to the family before choosing the right present. In the event, your presence at the big event or your loving wishes for the guest of honor is what truly matters.
If you’re planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration for your own child, contact one of our Event Coordinators today about The Pavilion’s custom event packages. Design a menu from our kosher food and beverage offerings and tailor the event space to a party theme that honors your teen’s unique interests and style. Our experienced team will walk you through the event planning process with the utmost care, attending to every detail tailored to your traditions and vision for the day.