Bat Mitzvah Gift Etiquette

Bat Mitzvah Gift Etiquette

Are you or your child invited to the bar mitzvah? Congrats! Get ready for a joyful shindig! But first, learn some bat mitzvah gift etiquette.

According to tradition, Jews celebrate their majority quite early – girls at the age of 12, and boys at the age of 13. The majority of the girl is called bat mitzvah, and the boy, respectively, bar mitzvah. I have already written about bar mitzvah here: Bar Mitzvah Gift Etiquette

Bat mitzvah celebration is much easier than bar mitzvah, as boys study Torah fragments and traditions for a long time, learn to put Tefillin, etc. In Jewish reformist communities, girls also sometimes read the Torah on the bat mitzvah service. But as a rule, girl’s birthdays it’s just a party with national elements as dances, songs, dishes, while the boy’s birthday is a whole service with the rabbi in a synagogue. There is an opinion that the celebration of bar mitzvah was invented in order to make sure that the girls were not offended:)

Since the informal part of these events is the same, I will talk about both bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah and of course bat mitzvah gift etiquette.еу

Bat Mitzvah Gift Etiquette

The question I get asked most is what to give for a bat mitzvah present or how much to give for bat mitzvah gift if you’re giving money?

My answer is a little bit from experience with a little bit from research online and just talking to people about what is a good bat mitzvah gift they got. So from what I understand it very much depends one on how well you know the person and to where you’re living.

Appropriate Bat Mitzvah Gift

Jewish religious attributes are traditional bat mitzvah gifts. A gift that represents the traditions, values and/or history of Judaism will be greatly appreciated by the recipient, as well as by her family. The bat mitzvah girl will not be able to immediately use this kind of gifts, but without a doubt, she will treasure it for years to come. Examples of this type of gift include Shabbat candlesticks, or Tzedakah (charity) box, a special menorah or a seder plate.

Talking about jewelry – a simple and classic necklace, bracelet or earrings can also be the appropriate bat mitzvah gift. Select a piece that is appropriate for 12 years-old girls as a pendant or a pair of earrings with shiny or smooth. If you opt for a religious motive, consider a Star of David or Hebrew letters that represent the name of the girl. For a close friend or relative, you can select a gemstone or even the gem of the girl’s birthday month. 

A young teenager can also enjoy the freedom provided by a gift certificate while maintaining a personal touch. Unlike the cash or check money options, you can select a gift certificate that matches the personal interests and tastes of the girl who celebrates the bat mitzvah. For example, if you know you have a favorite brand or store, try a gift certificate from a local store, mall or online store. What is a good bat mitzvah gift for the girl loves sports? Right – a gift certificate for a favorite activity, for example, skiing, horse riding or ice skating.

Shabbat Candlesticks

Candlelighting in honor of the Shabbat is the main commandment (mitzvah) of a Jewish woman. Therefore, beautiful candlesticks are traditional bat mitzvah gifts.

Crystal Bowl Shabbat Candle Holders

Challah Cover

Another appropriate bat mitzvah gift is challah cover.
But since the challah cover itself is just a piece of fabric, it is better to either to find one more expensive, for example, a handmade or from Israel or complete it with another Jewish religious attribute, such as a challah board.

Challah Cover For Jewish Bread

Challah Board

And although from a religious point of view, challah board is only a decoration and is less important than a challah cover, it is a great decoration for holiday table and a beautiful gift to the future mistress of the Jewish home.

Challah Board with Glass Protector and Knife

Hanukkah Menorah 

Even non-religious Jews, who are far from the Shabbat, enjoy lighting Hanukkah candles. That’s why with such a gift you will not go wrong with – it will be used in the family holidays, and besides you will show your respect to the Jewish culture.

Hanukkah Elegent White Enameled Menorah

Tzedakah Box

The main difference between a Tzedakah box and a regular piggy bank is that the collected money is used to help the needy or sending to a synagogue, where, in turn, it is also distributed for charitable purposes. Such a gift is the best way to emphasize that now the birthday girl is an adult (which is what bat mitzvah implies) and is socially responsible.

Wood and Silver Tzedakah Box with Shabbat Motifs

Bar Mitzvah Greeting Cards

Whether you are planning to give money or not, a personalized card is an important addition to the bat mitzvah gift. You can use a regular postcard with the right greetings, but a special bat mitzvah card will show that you have prepared for the holiday carefully and in advance, which surely will be nice for the birthday girl.

Bat Mitzvah Greeting Card with Envelope

Bat Mitzvah Gift Amount

Money may not be the most personal bat mitzvah gift, but these cash or check options are always greatly appreciated. The amount you can give varies depending on many factors such as your relationship with the bat mitzvah girl, the family tradition, your regional location or if the gift comes only from you or from your whole family. Close family members, such as a cousin or a very special friend of the family, may have to give you more money than the daughter of an acquaintance at work or the granddaughter of a friend. You can adorn a money gift by placing the cash or the check in an envelope with a card full of warm feelings for the occasion.

If you’re living in a big city like New York or Los Angeles etc. it’s like a more wealthy community people. Generally, if it is a friend or a classmate around $50-$75 dollars is probably expected bat mitzvah gift amount, especially if it’s like a fancy dinner with dance that they’re attending. If it’s more like a relative or a close friend – towards a hundred dollars is what’s expected. Let’s say, $75-$150. And then of course if they’re like really close family you can give out what you want. But again – that’s just like a round estimate. People definitely give less and definitely get more.

The other tradition when it comes to giving money around a Bar/bat mitzvah is to give an increment of eighteen dollars. I know it’s weird but the number “18” using Hebrew letters make up the numbers fill out “Chai” which means “Life”. So it’s very traditional to have the number “18” be very like lucky and special bat mitzvah gift amount – you’ll see people give like $18, $36, $54, etc. 

If you think you’ve to give 50 it’s traditional to give 54 if that makes sense.

How long is a Bat Mitzvah service?

Conservative or reform services are generally a bit shorter and can last anywhere from like an hour to four hours. Some of them to start at 8:00 a.m. and end at noon, some of them start at 11:00 and generally they end at noon because right afterward is what’s called a kiddush. Kiddush is like lunch or light snacks. So you don’t have to be there right when the service starts at 8:00 a.m. In fact, most people who attend synagogue generally like a trickle in later. But you do want to make sure to be there for the Torah service or the Torah component of the service because that’s when the bar and bat mitzvah does their big thing. They’re gonna get up and from the congregation, they’re gonna read from the Torah and give a little speech afterward. So that’s a really important part to attend. Again you can go on the synagogue website and they’ll usually tell you what time the Torah service is. It’s usually about an hour before the service ends, but it really varies. You just want to make sure to be there at least in time for that part. Feel free to stay for the kiddush whatever they have afterward. The prayer books for services are usually easy to follow along. The rabbi will tell you what pages you’re on. It’s just a lot of singing and prayers and it’s exciting to see the bar/bat mitzvah kid get up there and do this thing. It’s always fun.

If you’re attending an orthodox bat or bar mitzvah then the women and men will sit separately. Generally, everything will be in Hebrew and it’ll be a really long service. But that’s only Orthodox services and probably the majority of the ones that you would attend are conservative or reform. They’re less religious, they’ll have a lot more English so you’ll be a lot better able to understand what’s going on and follow along in the prayer books.

The other thing that happens around the Torah service is that they’ll often like dance around the synagogue while holding the Torah. It’s not really dancing but kind of like walking around and we’ll go and touch the Torah. If you don’t feel comfortable touching it or anything like that’s totally fine, just if you see that happen you’ll know what to expect. 

The only other thing I’ll mention when you get to the service you definitely want to have your phone on silent or turned off and you won’t be allowed to take photos unless to vary not religious congregation. But just look around if you see no one else has a phone or camera then you don’t want to take yours out either.

So after Saturday morning, the service part is done. It’s most common to have like a dinner and dance party, but I would say that is becoming less and less common. Now there’s like all sorts of different parties that happen. When I was little growing up it was traditionally like a dinner with dance. It was a formal event. Not always black-tie, but very fancy with a ballroom and a band. A lot of people just have parties for the kids and they’re bumped up birthday party – it’s a little bit more fun or exciting. Although there’s still ardently tons of the dinner dance, especially in the bigger cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, etc. There are lots of games for the kids with regular dancing, with the band or the DJs. 

Usually, there’s like a cocktail hour at the bar mitzvah party, and then the big party that usually starts off with the Hora. Hora is a Jewish dance where everyone comes into the center and just like a danced around the room in the circle. Very easy to pick up. Basically, just hold hands and run around in the circle. It’s very fun when guests lift the Bar/bat mitzvah kid and sometimes parents up in a chair. 

That’s one other thing that sometimes people do at bar mitzvahs is they have a candle lighting ceremony to honor the people and their families and like talk about the people that help them reach this point in their life. They might give out like candles or roses or things like that it’s just like a fun way to honor your relatives. So, you’ll probably see a little speech component during the party.

Bat/bar mitzvah parties are so much fun! There is always like fun games that people are playing and they give out like prizes or goodie favors. Sometimes there is a signing board where you can write little notes to congratulate the bar/bat mitzvah kid.

What to wear to Bat Mitzvah service?

What it’s like to attend bat and bar mitzvah? So if you’ve never been before – there are two components: the service and the party. You’re gonna get into the service first. If you’ve never been to a Jewish synagogue there are just a few things you need to know. The first is dressing. In most synagogues, it’s appropriate for men to wear either slacks and a polo or a suit. Women need to dress pretty modestly – like to have your shoulders covered. You don’t need to wear a skirt unless you’re going to an Orthodox synagogue, but most women do. I find it’s almost like business casual. If you are really nervous about what to wear and don’t know what to expect it is totally fine to ask the bat mitzvah family like “What to wear to bat mitzvah service”. Or you can go on the synagogue’s website if you don’t feel comfortable or you can give them a call and they’ll happily let you know. 

The other thing to keep in mind about attending a bat mitzvah service is that the men wear the kippah. They just put it on their head. You might see women wearing them – it’s called a doily. Doily, or woman kippah, is like a piece of lace women pin to the back of their head. It’s just a sign of respect. So if you’re a male during a synagogue you should probably put one of these on. They always have a bunch of by the front door that you can borrow.

Then you’ll see a lot of men wear a prayer shawl or tallit around their shoulders. If you’re a guest visiting you don’t need to do that, so don’t worry about that one. 

Usually, an invitation contains information about the dress code. You don’t have to worry too much – I’ve seen everything from like a black tie to jeans and a T-shirt. So just check the invitation.

What to Write in a Bat Mitzvah Card?

  • Step 1: write the words “Mazel Tov!” on the top of the card. “Mazl Tov” or “Mazal Tov” is also suitable, it’s just different pronunciation, but the meaning is the same.
    Within the Jewish religion, to say this to another person is to impart the synonym of an important blessing, also wishing happiness. Judaism intertwines faith and destiny with constellations. “Mazel” has several definitions, but “constellation” and “good fortune” are two meanings related to the word. This makes the wish especially appropriate for a bat mitzvah card when a girl celebrates her commitment to the Jewish faith.
  • Step 2: write some phrases that communicate your special wishes for the girl. For example, “I wish you happiness, health, and prosperity in everything you do.”
  • Step 3: finish the card with simple words such as: “In the love of God” or “Many blessings.” Sign your name under the lock, put the card (and cash, if you are planning to give money) in an envelope and seal it.

Here are some ideas about what to write in a bat mitzvah card:

“You are a reflection of kindness and joy.
You make your family and friends proud with the way you embrace life and continually seek out places for your God-given talents to grow.
As you become a bat mitzvah, be blessed with the knowledge that your light touches others. And always know you are loved.
Congratulations!”

“Sarah, may the wisdom and the understanding that you have gained while preparing to your bat mitzvah inspire you throughout the coming years.

Love and congratulations!”

“You’re a very special girl and may all your hopes and dreams come true. May the wisdom of the Torah bring you blessings your whole life through!

Mazel Tov!”

“May your family and friends

Always play a part

In the things that you treasure

That are dear to the heart,

And may your bat mitzvah

From the moment it’s begun

Bring the blessing of a future

That’s a bright and happy one

Congratulations! Mazel Tov!”

“Dear Sarah, 

Best wishes to you on your bat mitzvah. Be blessed and happy on this joyous occasion!

Love from Emily and Jack”

Sum up

From the Hebrew and Aramaic “Bat” means “Daughter” and “mitzvah” means “Commandment”, the bat mitzvah is a ceremony of having met a certain age for Jewish girls. Celebrating being 12 years old, this special day is often celebrated with a big party to entertain the lucky girl. If you attend a bat mitzvah, there is bat mitzvah gift etiquette to keep in mind and a wide variety of gifts to consider, from a money gift to more specific ideas. In this ceremony of such importance for young people, relatives and friends make important gifts. What to give for a bat mitzvah present depends on each family if it is attached to the traditions or not. Money can be used for the young lady to pursue her university studies or to buy what she wants. The symbolism of the gift is important. That is why it is widely used to give bat mitzvah gift amount multiples of 18, which for Judaism that number represents the word “Life”.

What do you give for a bat mitzvah gift? Jewelry gifts are also good as bat mitzvah gifts from friends, for example as giving the Star of David and sometimes even engraved with the name of the birthday girl. Donations are also used for good causes and obviously delivering a greeting card.

Ettel Matzebeker

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