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Bar and bat mitzvah ideas

Mission possible: How to choose a mitzvah project

for The Brooklyn Paper

Should you feed the needy? Foster a kitty? Or become a part-time clown?

Preparing for a bar or bat mitzvah allows you to reflect on who you are, what type of person you want to be, and how you can impact others — and choosing to do a mitzvah project adds special significance to your celebration. But what should you do?

Here are some tips that will help you select a meaningful project:

Preparation

Consider what becoming a bar or bat mitzvah means to you. Be mindful that you are the person becoming a young adult and accepting your place in the Jewish community. Yes, it’s important to have your parents, family, friends, and teachers involved in your project, but remember that it’s “your” celebration so “you” must lead the effort.

Getting started

Let your hobbies guide you. Think about what you like doing, what you are passionate about, and research local, national, or international organizations that reflect those interests and values. Try to select an activity you enjoy and find a way to help others appreciate it as well. For example, if you like sports, consider joining (or starting, if one doesn’t exists in your community) a sports program for children with special needs. You can also collect sports equipment and donate the items to a local agency that provides for those in need or organize a game to raise awareness for a cause that’s close to your heart.

Think about how to incorporate your skills into your project. If you enjoy reading, perhaps you could record books on tape for people who are blind, decorate bookmarks, or have books as centerpieces at your bar mitzvah celebration that will be donated to a literacy program after your party.

Some teens raise funds for a cause that has impacted their lives. For instance, if someone in your family survived breast cancer, you can help others by participating in Susan G Komen’s Race for the Cure or if your sister suffers from diabetes, you could organize a sugar-free bake sale at your synagogue and give the money to the American Diabetes Association.

Keep going

Infuse your project in all aspects of your party. The easiest way you can do this is by asking an organization you care about for literature and distributing it at your celebration. You can have drop-off box at your party where guests can donate canned food, teddy bears, or even pencils. You can open a philanthropic fund or ask a non-profit you care about for a wish list of things they need and buy an item or two with some of your gift money. You can also incorporate a specific organization and the lessons you have learned from them in your speech or d’var Torah.

Most importantly, try to select a project that you can be involved with for years to come.

Becoming a bar or bat mitzvah is much more than a service, party, and gifts. Your celebration reflects who you are and incorporating a mitzvah project illustrates your connection to Judaism. The personal touch will make your celebration unique, enrich your life, and make the world a better place.

Daniel Rothner is the founder and director of Areyvut, an organization that helps celebrants and families to develop personalized mitzvah projects.

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