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Bar and bat mitzvah gifts, party, and invitations

Celebrate Columbus Day by ‘discovering’ new ways to modernize your bar mitzvah!

for The Brooklyn Paper

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At their core, bar and bat mitzvahs are simple — boy reads Torah, guests awe (or “aw!”), and Grandpa smiles approvingly. There’s nothing else to them, right? Wrong. The popularity of the Internet, instant-communication, and inventions like smartphones, debit cards, Mp3s, electronic tolls, DVR, Kindles, and web-streaming has changed the way we do things, spend our leisure time, and how we interact. Even something as traditional as a bar mitzvah has been affected by technological trends. While traditionalists may be naysayers of innovation, here are three examples of how parties have gone hi-tech.

Take that, Grandpa!

Tutoring

At a bar or bat mitzvah, the honoree is expected to read from the Torah in Hebrew. In order to prepare, boys and girls usually attend Hebrew school in order to master the language with the help of a rabbi. Yet some students may need additional help — especially when nerves take over — as they prepare for their bar or bat mitzvahs.

According to Maya Kalman, founder and CEO of Swank Productions, some students enlist a little extra study time from a tutor via Skype and through video chats like iChat. Websites such as barmitzvahlessons.com and mitzvahlessons.com offer multiple, easily accessible courses for practicing students. Nook, iPad, and iPhone-toting students of the Torah can occasionally leave the ancient (and sometimes heavy) text at home thanks to apps like PocketTorah and Mitzvah Project, which offer electronic versions of the Torah (think: eTorahs!) that also allow students to organize their reads, share progress, and access “Helpful Links” to other related websites.

Gifting

The gift table in the corner of the room has slowly become more desolate. Is the bar mitzvah gift obsolete? Not at all. Rather than bringing in large, extravagantly wrapped boxes, guests are taking the virtual route and are opting to gift anything palm-sized. iTunes gift cards (or any gift card), iPads, iPods, iPhones, Kindles, Nooks, laptops, and digital cameras are among the most popular smaller sized options, while video games such as Guitar Hero and Garage Band are common presents as well. The Internet has also made it easier for purchases to be delivered directly to a recipient’s house. It’s not uncommon for someone to hand the bar mitzvah boy a card with a handwritten tracking number and a note that says his new MacBook Pro is still in the hands of FedEx.

Invitations

Though the e-vite has been around for years, online invitations have once again become popular thanks to Facebook and its “events” feature. In between browsing their newsfeed and jumping across profiles, party guests can view a Facebook event-invite and RSVP immediately. Sending invitations online may prove to be faster and less costly, but event planners fear that when someone sends an invitation over Facebook, the importance of the message won’t be received and it can easily be ignored (read our article on RSVP protocol). To avoid any miscommunication, planners advice that one send a charming and traditional invitation through the mail and an online invitation as a back up. That way, if someone doesn’t mail back an RSVP but has responded on Facebook, you can follow up with a phone call to confirm that they will be attending your child’s ceremony and celebration.

“There’s something nice about receiving a paper invitation in the mail in an envelope,” says Linda Kaye, owner and founder of Party Makers. “The message and sentimental value gets lost through an e-vite.” The traditional invite has also been updated and elaborate graphic design tools allow room for personalization and more creativity.

For instance, check out the cool invitations by the non-profit organization Jewish National Fund in the above slideshow. Each invitation represents a tree that has been planted in Israel or a donation to water resource development in Israel in honor of your guests.

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