Bas Mitzvah advice

For the past year, I’ve been working with a 12-year-old girl to complete her Bas Mitzvah project: an activity book for distribution through our animal shelter’s humane education program. I worked her pretty hard on it, sending draft after draft after draft back home for revisions, and it was only last week that she and her mother brought the completed activity books by our office. She did a great job on it.

At the same time, her mother gave me an invitation to the girl’s bas mitzvah celebration. I’m excited about going, but I know nothing about attending such festivities. I have two questions:

  1. Would it be assumed that my wife is also invited? The response card has a place for me to put the number of attendees, but she only knows me as a representative of the humane society, so I’m not sure what social rules apply here.

  2. Are gifts expected at such events? If so, what should I think about pricewise? I was thinking of spending $10-$20 to buy her some decent-priced colored pencils or some other art supply; is that an appropriate gift for this type of thing?


There is a wide variation in how elaborate these events are. Some treat Bnei Mitzvot very formally and plan a significant event. Others treat them as a bigish birthday party. It is very hard to answer your questions without knowing more details. I can offer some general advice.

  1. This depends on how the invitation was addressed. If the invitation was addressed “Mr. Left Hand of Dorkness,” then you should attend alone. If it was addressed “Mr. and Mrs. Left Hand of Dorkness” or “Left Hand of Dorkness and Guest” you may bring your wife.

  2. You should send or bring a gift. The appropriate amount depends on how elaborate the event is. However, as your relationship to the family is fairly distant, I’m sure anything would be appreciated. If you want to put some effort into this, you may be able to figure out how fancy the event will be from the locations or by speaking with someone else who will attend. $10-20 would probably be appropriate if there will be a luncheon after the service.

Also, it sounds like you will be attending the service at which the young lady will become Bat Mitzvah. If you are not familiar with Jewish worship and rituals, you may want to do some reading so you know what to expect and what is expected from you. Visitors are always given much leeway, but being prepared will make the event more enjoyable.

My bar mitzvah was 40 years ago. Think of it as a wedding for a 13 year old. If the card has a place for the number of attendees, then I think your wife is considered as invited - though call the parents to be sure. (Again, think wedding.)

Don’t worry about the service - it is expected that many attendees are new to this. It depends on what type of temple this is. There should be a box of yamulkes to wear, since non-Jews can’t be expected to have one. In my temple most of the prayers were in Hebrew, but in some they’ll be in English. Stand up when everyone stands up, sit down when everyone sits down, and you’ll be fine. There’s nothing like communion, and no request for donations.

And I’m glad I didn’t have to do a bar mitzvah project! Learning my haftorah portion was work enough.

Just a little note: if you decide to give a gift certificate, it’s appropriate to buy $18 worth, or multiples of the number 18. 18 is the numerological equivalent of “chai”, the Hebrew word for life, and is considered a lucky number of sorts.

A gift certificate to a local art supplies shop would be a great idea–thanks for the tip! The mom specifically disinvited me from the service (very politely–told me I probably wouldn’t be interested in it), so I’m not too worried about that part. I might just send her an email about whether my wife would be invited, although my worry on that is that, even if she’s really not, the mom might have no choice but to tell me that she is.