Big question! What should we get for a Jewish kid who is about to celebrate his or her religious coming-of-age? A generation or two ago it was acceptable to give a fountain-pen, a prayer book, a book of Jewish thought or a check. For most kids in those days the check was the most appreciated. Although many did, after becoming real adults years later, begin to use the prayer book or browse pensively through the book on Jewish thought.
Nowadays the question is more difficult. Firstly the fountain-pen is not really an acceptable option. Unless it’s a collector’s item to be saved by the parents for the distant future when it might be admired for its unique status. Meanwhile, the kid probably won’t be too excited by what to him or her is simply a glorified ball-point. Books dealing with religion, apart from a tiny group of ineffably serious kids, won’t generate any candid smiles either. Checks are still acceptable. But if the kid is someone special or the kid of someone special, you might want to get something that demands more thought on your part than a quickly scrawled check.
A lot of sixth and seventh graders have a connoisseur’s appreciation for a good skateboard or mountain bicycle and would probably love you for ever if you gave them such a gift. But since this website is about Judaica, we’ll stick to things connected with the kid’s roots.
If you have a hefty budget for the occasion, tickets for a trip to the land of the celebrant’s roots — to Israel — could be an exciting gesture. The trip would probably need the accompaniment of a parent or parents – in some cases the whole family. Click here for specialists in the field of bar mitzvah and batmitzvah travel.
For less expensive gifts one could get an appropriate video or DVD on Israel or some other subject connected with Jewishness. There is an enormous range to select from. There are excellent feature films with a Jewish angle; historical films set in Eastern Europe; the Holocaust; or Israel. There are films with a background of Jewish family life or racial discrimination. There are films of Jewish heroes.
Also available are musicals (some kids might even appreciate some of great Yiddish musicals). There are discs with magnificent cantorial music. There are also computer programs or online websites teaching Hebrew or dealing with Bible or gammatria.
Kids who feel a stronger bond with Judaism would no doubt appreciate a fine kippa, tallit, prayer bag, filigree prayer book or even mezuzah for their room. An idea that will be appreciated by the serious kid is a handmade prayer book with a velvet embroidered cover (more suitable for girls) or one with a cover set in a beaten or filigreed metal cover. Silver is quite expensive. Less expensive metals are available.
Bat mitzvah girls, especially, might be thrilled with a piece of quality jewelry. The connection to their roots could be something made in Israel, which has numerous outstanding designers. Many items of jewelry are styled around Jewish motifs. This website has a number of exciting Israeli designers with a marvelous range of motifs with the Star of David, the Hai, personalized names in English or Hebrew, or embossed scenes of famous Israeli landmarks set in pendants. Click here for more.
I recently spoke to a grandfather about bar mitzvah and batmitzvah presents. He confided: “When I was a seventh-grader all I wanted was a bicycle. But I got dozens of pens, books and other stuff that didn’t excite me at all. From an uncle and aunt living in Israel at that time I got something that really left me absolutely cold. It was a pair of book stands with embossed images of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Totally of no consequence for an average American thirteen-year-old. So I simply dumped them somewhere in the basement. Twenty years later, I happened to come across them by chance. Wow, was I excited! I took them to my study, polished them and put them on my desk, where for the last thirty years they have been holding up some of my most special reference books.” He then nodded gravely and continued: “Now that’s what I call a barmitzvah present!”
That gawky kid whose confirmation might be on your mind at the moment, actually represents the future, and might be special enough to warrant more than a little thought. This website should be able to help you find a gift that will endure as a source of joy and appreciation for years to come.
Unique Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts and tips to help you choose a right one.