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GIFT IDEAS: for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

Updated on November 4, 2014
A Jewish boy reads from the Torah for the first time at his Bar Mitzvah.
A Jewish boy reads from the Torah for the first time at his Bar Mitzvah. | Source

What is a Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

So you're invited to a Bar or a Bat Mitzvah and you don't know what to expect. Here's a quick overview:

  • Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are ceremonies where a young Jewish person, usually a 13-year-old, reads from the Torah for the first time. Family and Jewish elders also read from the Torah in honor of the child. Bar Mitzvahs are for boys, and Bat Mtizvahs for girls. The children practice for their Mitzvah for years before the actual date.
  • The Bar or Bat Mitzvah is considered one of the three most important days in a Jewish person's life.
  • First, there will be a service, which is usually in the morning and lasts between one and three hours. Afterwards, there will probably be a small reception with some food. Immediately after, or later in the evening, there's typically a very large party celebrating the child, similar in tone to a wedding reception.

Chai: The Hebrew word for "Life."
Chai: The Hebrew word for "Life."


Giving money as a gift might seem impersonal, but it's actually a very common Bar/Bat Mitzvah present, and it isn't considered tacky.

If you want to make sure the child knows that thought went into your gift, make a handwritten card and make sure the money is in a denomination of $18. Why? Because the number 18 represents the Hebrew word "chai," meaning "life," and it's a classically Jewish gift to exchange checks for $18 or $36 on Hanukkah and other holidays. For a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, you'd likely want to go a bit higher.

But: Avoid Gift Cards

Gift cards are too informal for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and the implication with money is that it can be saved for the future. No one's going to be paying for college or a trip to Israel with a Best Buy gift card.

Speaking of Chai...

A piece of jewelry or clothing with chai on it would be a lovely gift. Chai necklaces in particular are very common, especially for Bat Mitzvahs.

Chai Necklace
Chai Necklace | Source

Other Jewelry

Don't forget other Jewish symbols and other types of jewelry, for both boys and girls. From hamsas to stars of Davids to trees of life, from earrings to cufflinks to tie clips to bracelets, there are a huge variety of options. Ask the Bar or Bat Mitzvah's family what their favorite jewelry companies are--a girl who loves Pandora would be thrilled to get one of their Judea-themed charms--or check out handmade shops like Etsy for one-of-a-kind items.

Star of David cufflinks
Star of David cufflinks | Source
Tree of Life bracelet
Tree of Life bracelet | Source

For a Family Member

Bat and Bar Mitzvahs are immensely important days for the entire family, and much of the day centers around the celebration of the child taking the role of an adult within their Jewish family. It makes sense, then, that some of the most cherished gifts are family-centric, often homemade presents. Surprising a child with a quilt you've been steadily adding too since he was a baby or making her a scrapbook of her most important moments will be appreciated by both the child and his or her parents for years to come.

Charity Donations

Donating to charity is a huge part of Jewish life, and it's considered more than proper to make a donation to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah. Check on the invitation or with the parents to see if there is a charity the Bar or Bat Mitzvah loves, and see about making a donation in their name. See if you can find a charity that gives some sort of token for donating: a stuffed animal to represent one you've sponsored at a zoo, or a picture of a family you've helped by giving them a goat. That way, you still have something nice for when they're opening their gifts.


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