Top stories:

Bar mitzvah cards, check amounts, and gift cards

Breaking down the elusive bar mitzvah card

Community Newspaper Group

There are things in life that are truly baffling — memorizing the all the digits of Pi, Rubik cubes, how Rachel Ray became so popular. Yet, what seems to send most non-Jewish guests who have been invited to a bar or bat mitzvah deepest into the land of bewilderment is the ever-elusive bar mitzvah card. What should you say in a card? How much should you give if writing a check? Is writing a check okay? Would a kid rather get a gift card? What kind of gift card? And is there really anything worst than getting a gift card for Apple Bees (yes, Rachel Ray’s cooking)?

We break down some frequently asked questions so non-Jewish guests can relax and concentrate on more important things, like brushing up on their Yiddish (just kidding):

Question: What kind of card do I buy for a bar or bat mitzvah? Do they sell bar mitzvah cards at the drugstore?

Answer: They may. But if not, a general congratulations card is just fine.

Q: What should I write?

A: If you know the child or the family well, write something personal. Keep in mind that this is a birthday and a very special religious accomplishment for the kid that took a lot of time and preparation. Otherwise, a simple “Congratulations!” or “Mazel tov!” (the Yiddish word for “congratulations”) is standard. Here’s a great example:

“Congratulations on becoming a Bar Mitzvah! May your special day be filled with joy. Mazel Tov! Your friend,

Emily”

Q: Should I write a check?

A: Yes! Unless you know specifically what the young boy or girl would like as a present, checks are still the gift of choice in the b’nai mitzvah-circuit. Checks in a multiple of $18 are also appropriate. Just put a check in the amount of, say $36 or $54 into a bar mitzvah or general congratulations card. Why multiples of 18? We will let About.com eloquently explain the reasoning behind this:

“The word for ‘life’ in Hebrew is ‘chai.’ The two Hebrew letters that make up the word ‘chai’ are chet and yud. In Gematria (the numerical value of Hebrew letters), chai is equivalent to eight and yud is equivalent to ten. So ‘chai,’ chet, and yud together, equals 18. Giving money in multiples of $18 is symbolic of giving ‘chai’ or life. Many people give money in multiples of $18 as presents to someone celebrating a birth, a bar or bat mitzvah, or a wedding.”

Chai checks, or checks of any amount, are usually deposited by the parents into the kid’s college fund.

Q: When do I give the hosts the card?

A: Just like at a wedding, bring the gift to the reception. Don’t give it to the family at the actual service. Most likely, there will be a gift table at the reception where you can drop it off.

Q: Do I give a different kind of gift if I’m invited to a bat mitzvah rather than a bar mitzvah? And what’s the difference?

A: Girls have a bat mitzvah while boys have a bar mitzvah, if you are talking about both genders in general, it would be referred to as a b’nai mitzvah. Traditional gifts for both are checks and academic-related items. If you are not Jewish, it may be wise to stay away from religious-themed items — those are more appropriate for giving by other Jews who are more familiar with their symbolism.

Q: Okay, so it’s appropriate to give something in multiples of 18, but, honestly, how much should I give?

A: It depends. If the service and reception is held somewhere fancy, or if you’re very close with the family, consider giving $100 (or $108). But a standard amount is in the $50 range.

Q: I don’t know the kid very well, what should I give?

A: If you don’t know the child well, a gift certificate to a local book store (keeping with the education theme). If not, here are some other popular choices:

• Itunes

• Amazon

• AMC Theaters and Regal Entertainment Group

• Starbucks

• Subway

• GameStop

• Forever 21

• Nordstrom

• Cheesecake Factory

• Kohl’s

• Sephora

Pin It
Print this story Permalink

Reader Feedback

Jacqui E. from Oakland CA says:
I see that all money is referred to as :a check" -- is cash never given to a Bar Mitzvah boy?
Oct. 4, 2013, 3:51 pm
cindy from rhode island says:
i am not going to bar mitzvah , it my cousins kid do my second cousin i only see them at an ocassional wedding

the family is bery wealthy would it be insulting to send 36 as a gift
Jan. 10, 2014, 7:40 pm
Ghiberti from G bv says:
Ngk
Jan. 25, 2014, 10:05 am
Ghiberti from G bv says:
X. Hfvgxff
Jan. 25, 2014, 10:05 am
chris says:
how much should I give for barmizvah
Jan. 31, 2014, 11:35 am
Julienne says:
Hey Chris - if you know the family well, then I think $108 or $72 is good. If not, $36 or $54? I'm not an expert at this that's what my friends told me
Feb. 7, 2014, 3:50 pm
Ilan Mintz from Minneapolis says:
Some of the most common gifts are:
- Art books
- Books on Jewish ethics/traditions
- Coming of age anthologies
If you're looking for something unique that combines all three of those themes, you should consider "The Well of Being: a children's book for adults". The book is extremely beautiful and thought-provoking, and it is deeply infused with Jewish thought, mysticism, philosophy, existentialism, etc.
You can find the book here - www.tinyurl.com/thewellofbeing
Feb. 13, 2014, 2:27 pm
Judy from San Diego says:
A check or cash are very appropriate. The main advantage of the check is that it is easier for the recipient to keep track of who gave it to them, but cash is perfectly fine. Any multiple of $18 is traditional, but there is nothing wrong with $20 or $25 either. Some folks feel like $18 seems like not enough, but $36 (2 x $18) is more than they can afford. So $25 is fine. Usually it is someone who has a close relationship with the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child that gives a much larger multiple of $18, like $54, $72, or higher. Kids usually hate getting books, but they sometimes appreciate them as they get older :)
Feb. 26, 2014, 3:40 am
Judy from San Diego says:
BTW -- no, a wealthy family would not (should not) be insulted by a $36 gift. It is not about making them richer. if you are a middle school student and invited to a Bar Mitzvah, $18 $25 or $36 is a legitimate gift. Buy a card of congratulations and let them know how nice it was to be invited.
Feb. 26, 2014, 3:42 am
Grace from New York says:
What if you have twins that are going to the batmitzvah do u need to send money from each??
March 14, 2014, 6:31 am
Nicole from San Diego says:
In my experience for a nice piece of Judaica Jewelry is a very common and appreciated gift. Sometimes given the relationship with the bat-mitzvah girl a guest feels like they should give something more personal than a check. Money is always the best gift, but jewelry is very good too! I usually buy from jewelryjudaica.com but I'm sure there are tons of other sites and local judaica stores that are great too.
March 25, 2014, 2:57 pm
Anonymous from small town says:
thank you! this is my first time going to a bar mitzvah for my friend. i used this on help with the card. i already knew about the checks as a gift but it was really helpful! :)
April 5, 2014, 10:12 am
mike from montreal says:
Yes, giving multiples of $18 is traditional, though nice round numbers are cool (i.e. $50, $100, $150,....). In general consider the cost of the plate per guest, so 1 attendee vs 2 vs a whole family should naturally give different amounts. Yes, the gift is going to a middle schooler, but it is very common for a % to go to the parents who paid for the party. Jewish families recently lost homes too and went bankrupt or lost jobs too...... Not every family can afford to pay for the whole event and thus the kids give a portion back to their parents. Also a child/friend is not expected to give the same amount as an adult. Give what you can afford.
May 11, 2014, 8:06 am
Meg from Connecticut says:
My son was invited to a Bar Mitvah for his friend, and the brother of his friend. Would it be ok to give a higher amount to the friend and a lower amount to the younger brother who we don't know? We aren't sure if we would be expected to give the same amount to both boys? HELP!!! Thanks
May 29, 2014, 8:34 am
Mady from New York says:
I was invited to a bar mitzvah. Im a middle school student and Im from a middle class family. Im not Jewish. Im pretty close to him although my family isn't. It is at a very nice venue if that matters. I want to keep it simple with money but how much? And should I go with multiples of 18 even though Im not Jewish?
June 17, 2014, 3:55 pm
NIKOLAS from EDMONTON says:
I was invited to a friends bar mitzvah and we are decently good friends... My family doesn't have that much money so i'm not sure if $36 is OK...CAN SOMEBODY HELP ME? Please and Thank you.
June 22, 2014, 2:51 pm
David Levine from NY says:
A ham sandwich
July 9, 2014, 8 pm
Elizabeth from NY says:
My daughter received the most beautiful and unique gift at her Bat Mitzvah a couple months ago! A guest of ours had a fine art portrait painter, paint my daughter. It was beautiful! The artists name is Laurel Stern Boeck, I visited her website (www.boeckstudio.com) and saw she paints very formal prestigous paintings but on the side does paintings for children in their coming to age ceremonies/celebrations! The Artist made a post card with my daughters portrait on it to! It was such a breath taking gift. We will forever cherish it! What a wonderful and brilliant gift idea opposed to the cliche gift card or cash!
July 23, 2014, 12:54 pm
Denise Jones says:
As this is our first ceremony to attend, I appreciate the gift advise. However, as I opened your site and began reading, I was disappointed at the biting sense of humor (i.e. Rachel Ray hater, applebees). Yikes....(not nice).....
July 25, 2014, 9:36 am
JS from VA says:
Elizabeth must have some wealthy friends. Laurel's portrait fees begin at $15,000 which is clearly out of reach of the majority.
Aug. 6, 2014, 1 pm
Atara from DC says:
I disagree with the gift card to stores. This event is marking the transformation to being held responsible as an adult for Torah mitzvot. Money for savings or bonds is appropriate. A bar or bat mitzvah should be readily distinguishable from a birthday party in all aspects. As to amounts, in DC, usually people give $72 to someone they don't know so well and 162-204 as standard (higher in NY/NJ). Family members will often give much higher depending on their means. Any amount should be received with gratitude.

Our school has made it equal and easy for children to give to one another by having the children pull together for each bar or bat mitzvah a set amount. The kids are also told to invite their own gender and to invite everyone in their class. Otherwise, with 80 kids in the 6th grade all having a celebration within the same year, each child would be overwhelmed and it would be chaos. These practices stem from years of experience and is much appreciated by all.

Here is an article providing tips for nonJews:
http://rasjacobson.com/2010/11/10/tips-for-non-jews/
Aug. 18, 2014, 5:11 am
Atara from DC says:
Correction: I think much depends on means as certainly many are struggling with getting their own basic needs met. For those who have the capability, $72 would certainly be enough for someone you don't know so well.
Aug. 18, 2014, 5:15 am
patty from long island NY says:
Here is a question....We are not Jewish. My daughter has been invited to 15 or so Mitzvah's this year and it has become very costly to send her to.all of them....Periodically she would ask for a new outfit...and I was told that the $25 I was putting out was not enough and the parents would be insuted as I should too be insulted. The thing is we will not have a big party when she makes her Confirmation which I assume is about the same idea. We would not have the money for such an elaborate extravaganza as the parties she has been to are the equivant of wedding receptions. So in the end how many I these invitations have to be accepted....MY BROTHER has said he has given up to $200 a pop for his son to attend these parties.....isn't it truley about religion and coming of age?..I made my confirmation and my family and a few family friends came and that was it....BBq and sand which platters in the back yard. Am I sooooo out of date???
Aug. 22, 2014, 12:30 pm
Nikki from Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA says:
Hi Patty,

You are correct. It is certainly about coming of age and religion. For a boy, it is about becoming a "man" and as such, needing to accept the responsibilities of Torah study and all that it entails (charity and thinking of others before oneself for example). Also, it is about one being responsible for his actions in the secular sense as well as religious. It is different from a confirmation (which both Jews and Christians), which is an affirmation of faith.
While it is true that many people choose to throw over the top extravaganzas, likewise, many have more of a modest celebration. One of my best friends held her son's celebration in their backyard and she served vegetarian cuisine that she made: Eggplant Parmesan, Baked Ziti, Salad and bread. She rented tables and hired help the day of the party. All this while working 60 hour weeks!
Others that I know took their child to Israel and had a ceremony at the wailing wall with immediate family only, still others had it at their Synagogue with a simple lunch afterward and no fancy party later.
As far as gifts go, "$200 a pop seems excessive unless you are a close family member. I generally gift kids that are my son's friends, but not close to him or our family $36 (bear in mind he will be going to 22-27 Bar/Bat Mitzvahs in the next two years. For a close family friend, I give $108. Giving a gift too over the top can make some people uncomfortable. Also, keep in mind that some kids. my son, for example, will ask people for a donation ( tzedekah) for a charity or cause--either in addition to or in lieu of a traditional gift, because thinking of others is part of the obligation of becoming a Bar Mitzvah. Bottom line: Give what you would like to give and are comfortable doing...not what you think is expected of you. People (parents) who have grand events to show off or because they think that it will yield huge money for their kids are missing the boat. It takes years of study to become B'nai Mitzvah (this is my 12 year old son's. 4th year) If there is a big party at all, the whole purpose should be to celebrate the Bar/Bat Mitzvah kid's great accomplishment--which it is.
Sept. 7, 2014, 2:36 pm
Bacon from Uranus says:
Tarter sauce rules!!!
Sept. 9, 2014, 2:29 pm
Lisa from California says:
I am really dismayed that some people decided how much money to give based on the cost of the event for the hosts! I don't see how that is relevant to gift-giving. I am also disappointed to see suggestions of gift cards. A coming-of-age event, similar to a graduation, should be honored by gifts that reflect the growth and learning of the recipient, and ideally something that the young person could keep for years to remember the event. I don't know what is "usually" given, but I think jewelry, books, a picture frame, blank journal and fancy pens are some examples of thoughtful gifts. I also can't imagine giving more than $36 to $50 unless the giver is close family and an adult, in which case they are probably not reading a post giving advice on Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts!
Nov. 26, 2014, 5:04 am
Rachel R. from Georgia says:
Responding to Grace from NY. Yes, if you have twins they should each bring a gift or a combined gift the value of 2 people giving. If it is a reception party, the bat/bar mitzvah family is paying for both of your kids to be there.

Gifts of $18, $36 or $54 are appropriate if your child is attending the friend's bar/bat mitzvah, depending on how close of friends they are and what kind of party it is expected to be. Adults attending as couples, $118 is appropriate as a standard gift. $180 is probably the most common gift. $200 for close friends who can afford to give that much.

Bottom line is you don't want to be that guest who give the cheapest gift, do you? After all, if you are getting dinner and open bar wouldn't you spend at least $100 at a restaurant?
Dec. 8, 2014, 2 pm
Yeli from New Jersey says:
My daughter will attend Bat / Bar Mitzva for twins, a boy and a girl. The girl is her friend.
I would prefer to gift $72 in one envelop for both, is that enough? Should I give $54 each? TIA
Jan. 9, 2015, 3:34 pm
Michele from Panama says:
Thank you for your great advice as well as what to write on the bar mitzvah card. We are going to a "Benei Mitzvah" for triplets; 2 girls and a boy. I have decided to give $54 to the boy, but nothing for the sisters. Although my son knows the girls from school, the boy is a good friend. I thought a lot about giving to the girls, but feel that it will be ok to just give the boy a gift. Hope my strategy is "kosher"!
Jan. 14, 2015, 5:09 pm
Christina from NJ says:
"Bottom line is you don't want to be that guest who give the cheapest gift, do you? After all, if you are getting dinner and open bar wouldn't you spend at least $100 at a restaurant?"
How would you know this unless someone is being tacky and discussing it after the fact?
And what if you normally would not go out to a fancy dinner because you are on a budget? It's not my fault the parents decided to go extravagant, and it's not right for me to have to refuse an invitation to an event that I would very much like to celebrate because I will be accused of being Tacky if I don't give enough. Is that why I was invited? I hope not.
Feb. 5, 2015, 11:42 am
Lucy Lammers from Flanders, Belgium says:
Attending a Bat Mitzvah next week in Jerusalem. Your advice was very helpful. Thank you.
Feb. 13, 2015, 5:23 pm
Debbie from Los Angeles says:
I work for a Jewish family with lots of kids and their Mitzvah's are always held at high end hotels and almost everyone mailed in 200-300 dollar range...so I, even as one of their sitters, also gave 300.00...think your advice is WAY TOO LOW...
March 5, 2015, 6:03 pm
minna says:
I am going to a bat mitzvah for two of my friends. They are twins and they love jewelry and makeup and clothes. I don't hang out with them often, I went to their house three times in 4th grade. That is it. But they are very nice to me and one of them is in a bunch of my classes. If I give them each a charm with their first initial is it okay if I give them only $18 each?
March 7, 2015, 8:36 am
Adrianna from somewhere says:
I was invited to a Bar mitzvah in New York so I am planning on gifting the boy 36$ in multiples of 18. Is that too little? My family isn't considered the most wealthy family so I can't really give him any more. Will he be insulted by the amount? For the party we are taking a party bus from New Jersey to New York and then they will read from the tora at the temple and then we are taking the party bus again to the venue. Is this amount of money okay?
March 8, 2015, 3:35 pm
Liz from CT says:
I’m reading these comments about how little people want to give $18 or $36 and then a follow up that you are not close to the family. If you do not feel close to the family, and want to give $18 gift to a 12 or 13 year old child, on their birthday, who has committed and studied for years, then maybe you should not be going or sending your children to the party. This is a great accomplishment that the child has worked very hard for, and his/her parents have saved to throw a big celebrating for coming of age. There is a lot planning, time, effort and (of course) money that goes into throwing a party like this, and if you need to question if $18 is enough, the obvious answer is “No” otherwise you wouldn't be asking yourself these questions.
March 23, 2015, 11:04 am
Karen from Florida says:
My son is attending a bar mitvah tomorrow, and he got a nice card and a $50 gift card as a gift. I think I agree that store gift cards don't seem to make much sense. A savings bond would have been great except they do not sell "paper" bonds anymore.

He's not a great friend of my son's. In fact, I've never met him. But, I wouldn't have considered giving less than $50 as it is a big accomplishment. I would not, though, have given more than $100--I think that is way over the top for a gift from a 12 year old friend.
March 27, 2015, 10:50 pm
Caroline from Greenwich, CT says:
When we throw parties we ask that there be no gifts.
It is wonderful to get people to give there time and hopefully we have given everyone the gift of an amazing memory at.

That be said, most guests bring a gift anyway. We hope by saying Please no gifts that it eliminates the pressure and everyone does whatever they want or can do. Our expectation is to receive nothing.

Our goal is to create a memory for everyone and offer gratitude for each guest attending our special event.

My advise is do what you want, give what you can without guilt. A host's choices is not your problem.
Your time and friendship has value to the event. imagine if nobody showed up because they couldn't afford to cover a hosts decision to spend 100-500 a head. Not your decision not your problem.

Have fun and enjoy the blessings of friendship. Just be happy to be part of an amazing memory. Give what works for you.
April 11, 2015, 7:21 am
yankee from nj says:
My family of four is attending a bar mitzvah / bat mitzvah for a brother and sister. There is a luncheon following at a nearby restaurant. What is the appropriate amount for each child? Typically my kids give either 36 or 54 when they go by themselves depending on how well they know the children. Is 154 per child enough? 300 is a lot to spend on one party so I can't see giving more. Thx.
April 13, 2015, 10:21 pm
Catherine from Hell's Kitchen says:
Thanks for the advice--esp. about multiples of 18! My son went to his first bat mitzvah and we gave a $54 amazon card. Next year it's going to get crazy with 3/4 of his classmates all turning 13 -- even $54 could get pricey. I wouldn't be ashamed to give $36 even, depending on how many he goes to--if it's someone we know really well, or is one of his best friends, then obviously we'll give more. As for worrying about what people think of you, I can only hope that any host would care more about your child (and/or you) celebrating their child's coming-of-age, than the money they got from you. Right?

p.s. a $15,000 portrait is a beautiful gift, for those who can afford it, but I'll stick with the gift cards for now :)
April 20, 2015, 4:55 pm
Mom from Connecticut says:
As I write this, it is the spring of 2015. I feel the need to clarify the significance of a bar or bat mitzvah for some of those who are not familiar with the observance. In order to be ABLE to have a bar or bat mitzvah, a child has to first become literate in Hebrew, an ancient language that is no longer used, that does not even use Anglicized letters that are familiar to their sight and pronunciation. To be able to lead the religious service, they have to then re-learn this language so as it be able to read it as it is written in a Torah scroll for religious purposes, which means relearning the language without vowels. The child then has to learn how to decipher cantillation marks called 'trope' to be able to learn how to correctly chant (sing) their Torah portion and Haftorah. They then have to write a sermon in English to deliver to the congregation and their assembled guests. In addition to learning all of the prayers in Hebrew, and their melodies.

Before all of this occurs, there is a pre-planning window (in addition to the lifetime of study which often begins in kindergarten or preschool) of two years. During this time, the mitzvah child participates in a mitzvah project, which is a charitable endeavor by which they make a positive impact in their world through service hours giving time and energies to support a cause that is meaningful to them, as Judaism teaches tikkun olam, the responsibility to help heal the world.

Another reason that the bar and bat mitzvah becomes such a significant cause for celebration in Jewish families, is because the faith is an intergenerational one. The child rises to an age where they independently commit to uphold and fulfill the 613 mitzvot (obligations or commandments required by Jewish law, of which the teaching of Torah is just one.) Jewish parents themselves are commanded to properly educate their children in the ways of Jewish life, so this day is the fulfillment of a mitzvah for them as well. - And there is a saying that appears in many Jewish prayers, l'dor v'dor which means 'from generation to generation.'

Since it is not a given that grandparents and other extended family will live to see this child marry, since the focus is on a single individual and not a couple, and since it is certainly more difficult to fulfill this mitzvah than to just say 'I do'... these events are in some ways, more important life cycle events than even weddings.

It is not possible to make a direct comparison to a Christian confirmation because the two events are in no way equivalents in terms of what is required of the child. I know this because I am part of an extended family with intermarriages. I have been closely involved in the perpetuation of both types of life cycle invents.

If one receives an invitation to a bar or bat mitzvah, and does not have the ability to be as generous as the occasion deserves, they should decline the invitation and still give a small gift of $18, $36 or $54 dollars, or a book or piece of jewelry with sincere happiness and good wishes for the awesome achievement that this is for the child.

An invited person also can also RSVP to share the day with the child by attending the religious service, and not the party afterward, and then they can give a similar gift to the ones just mentioned for those not attending the party.

It should be understood, though, that the mitzvah child has literally worked a lifetime to be able to meet the responsibilities and privileges of this special day. The child's family is paying multiple hundreds of dollars per person, by the time you tack on DJs, photographers, entertainment, decorations, favors, invitations, dance floor swag, etc. for this party.

Plus, the family also hosts what is called an oneg Shabbat after the Friday evening Sabbath services for their temple community, which is a cocktail party and or dessert reception after the service concludes. Plus it is customary to host a dinner party for people traveling from out of town on Friday evening before the Sabbath services, and a breakfast or a brunch for out of town guests on the Sunday following.

Plus if the bar or bat mitzvah party is an evening one, often after the religious service in the morning, the family will provide a small reception of some kind in the Temple social hall, with bagels and lox, or a luncheon, or cake and coffee at the very least.

If that is not enough expense, since thirteen year old children cannot drive themselves, the mitzvah hosts have two choices: invite entire families of their child's friends at several hundred dollars per person, or arrange for private bus or limousine transportation to and from the event venues if they choose to invite just the children.

Also, because there are often more children than adults at these occasions, the venues themselves require the hosts to hire security and purchase event insurance to prevent and cover any potential loss.

So, the long and short of it, is... either you value this discussion tree, or you don't. But the calculus is what it is, and this is what is customary for the hosts.

Your decision, as an invited guest is solely how to best conduct yourself as a mensch. Which is the Yiddish word for a person of integrity and honor. If you feel it is appropriate to leave an $18 gift for a child who has worked a decade to get to this day and whose parents are shelling out $500 for you to attend a party, then that is what you think. Not everyone, though, will agree with you.
April 24, 2015, 11:25 am
Monica C. from Austin says:
I stumbled across this website as I researched "gifts for bar mitzvah," in anticipation of my 12 year old daughter's attendance at a classmate's B'Nai Mitvah in a couple of weeks. I am doing the research because I would like to give an appropriate, thoughtful gift, and I would also like to be sensitive to any cultural norms with respect to such gift-giving. I am happy to learn about the significance of the $18 denomination in terms of gifting cash, and I am glad to know that gifts of permanence, such as those related to education, and money, are valued. I am puzzled, however, by Mom in Connecticut's post, above, and others like it, which seem to suggest that the amount of the gift should be somehow commensurate with the enormity of the occasion and the expense of the celebration itself. Hmm - does that mean that when I turn 80, no one should walk through the door unless they spend a few hundred dollars on my gift? At a party thrown by mother to celebrate my graduation from a combined MBA/JD program, representing the culmination of 20 years of study, I received gifts of varying value, and I was not offended by any of them. I just don't get this idea: "If one receives an invitation to a bar or bat mitzvah, and does not have the ability to be as generous as the occasion deserves, they should decline the invitation and still give a small gift of $18, $36 or $54 dollars, or a book or piece of jewelry with sincere happiness and good wishes for the awesome achievement that this is for the child." Weird!!
April 27, 2015, 12:58 pm
Scott in Pgh from Squirrel Hill says:
My son is attending a bat mitzvah, both the religious ceremony in the morning and the party in the evening. Which is the most appropriate event to bring the gift to? (In case you're interested, his Mom and I are divorced and I am bringing him to the ceremony and she to the party, so we need to figure out who needs to organize the gift; we share the cost either way.)
April 27, 2015, 3:20 pm
Anonymous from Tujunga says:
www.traditionsjewishgifts.com is good i'm buying something from there for this girl i like.
April 30, 2015, 6:25 pm
Emily says:
As a rabbi, a few thoughts. If you are invited and you can go, GO! It's a beautiful service, an amazing accomplishment on the part of the bar/bat mitzvah student, and the celebrations are wonderful. $36. is completely fine to give for a school friend or a not-too-close-relationship of whatever sort. A family decides to have a large-budget party because they are able to afford it, and there is no reciprocal expectation to sell your car in order to give a gift! I completely agree with you, Monica, in your response to Mom from Connecticut. A nice card and a $36/54 is lovely. To the friend who asked about giving a charm with the initial and $36, YES! So sweet.

Look, I'm sorry that the sitter gave $300, and I'm also sorry that the one going to the triplets' b'nai mitzvah gave nothing to the girls. A modest gift and your presence is just right. If you can afford more, and/or are close with the family, sure, $54/72/108 is also nice. Relatives or particularly wealthy friends do tend to give more.
April 30, 2015, 8:17 pm
Nancy from Illinois says:
My husband and I are flying to NY for my nephew's Bar Mitzvah. We aren't very close with them and the trip, since we have to stay in a hotel is very expensive. They don't want anyone at their house. How much would be appropriate to give? They are well-off
May 5, 2015, 6:37 pm
Mom of 2 from Ohio says:
Mom from Connecticut- not sure if you will read this but I find your comments horrendous! If you cant afford an expensive gift you should decline. This is the worst advice I have ever heard. Friendship is the gift! I think you have missed the point of all of it!
May 12, 2015, 3:57 pm
Insight from a non-Jew from NC says:
I came to the conclusion that I should give $234
No you might wonder how I came up with such a strange amount, but in my mind it makes lots of sense and meaning. 18 means life and the person being mitzvah has been alive for 13 years, 13*18=234
Now couple that with 1 memorable gift and giving is as simple as 1234.
1 amazing day
2 become a man
3 services (Shabbat, Kiddush, Celebration/Party)
4 ever entrusted to God's commandments
I could keep going with the 1234 references, but it just kept coming up in my thoughts of the day. Since I'm not Jewish I won't be attending many of these so I can see where people invited to 20-30 of these each year can not afford to fork out hundreds each time.
May 14, 2015, 9:32 pm
Mom from Michigan says:
Mom from Connecticut - I hope you aren't planning to publish your advice in a book of etiquette. Suggesting someone decline an invitation because they are unable to be as generous as the occasion deserves....what a great lesson to teach the child being honored?!?! "Sorry Johnny, Timmy won't be attending because his gift doesn't rise to the level this occasion deserves." You may want to consider brushing up on your studies - I think you missed a chapter or two on what this observance is really about.
May 15, 2015, 3:10 pm
Nancy from IL says:
I asked for advice not for everyone to bicker.
May 16, 2015, 10:34 am
Julie from Florida says:
As a parent of two kids who will be bar and bat mitzvahed just three months apart, the cost can be expensive. My children have worked hard in their studies, each deserving of their own special day. We plan to invite those whom are special to us and would rather have them in attendance even if they give no gift at all. The most important part is the child and their connection with their faith, the party is optional. Give with love and it will always be enough.
May 18, 2015, 5:15 pm
Mom from Florida says:
Wow! I am shocked and appalled at the comments and advice given by some on this site especially mom from CT. It seems that many have lost sight of what is important. I appreciate the info that has been shared and will use this to guide my decision making for an upcoming bar mitzvah I only pray that the parent throwing the event I am attending does not think of this special process and celebration in the same way that some have explained. It makes the entire thing seem arrogant and self serving which appears to be the opposite of what this celebration represents. If large sums of money is the reason to have a celebration of this nature then those throwing the party should be smarter about their invitation list. Since when did developing an appreciation for your religious heritage and pride become related to being given money in large amounts the only way to be celebrated or validated? I agree that if you are invited to a party then the host should be accepting of whatever the guest brings even if the only thing they can bring is their presence and love because you should have been invited for that reason alone, not based on what you will bring them. All of those "things" and expectations mentioned in mom from CT post are not "necessary" just examples of how people have lost sight and turned something beautiful into something more about status.
May 23, 2015, 5:22 am
Mom from NY says:
I'm in complete agreement with Julie from Florida. The main point is that you should "give with love." As the gift giver, this is not a question of how much you should give. It is whether or not this is a gift from the heart. If you give from the heart (taking into consideration the 13 year old, not the wealth or lack thereof of the parents) you will be all good! Trust me when I say the parents do not come close to breaking even on these events. The only "winners" financially are the vendors who work the event.

I can also see the mom from CT's point...this is a significant event in a thirteen year old's life. This is a coming of age event that the bar/bat mitzvah child has devoted his/her life to for several years. Becoming a bar or bat mitzvah is not as simple as saying, "I do" to become a Jewish adult. My daughter's bat mitzvah took place in February this year and she had several guests who took the time to understand the significance of the occasion and gave what they were comfortable giving. She was appreciative of every gift, and we believe they were all gifts from the heart. However, it is my humble opinion that it is unacceptable to show up to a bar/bat mitzvah without so much as a greeting card. I cannot think of anyone who would attend a wedding (or, birthday party) without even a greeting card. Also, please do not re-gift. My daughter received a clearly re-gifted item which has no significance to our tradition or family. This was the most disappointing gift because it clearly was not a gift from the heart. So, just give with love.
May 24, 2015, 10:10 am
Jan from NY says:
I think each comment merits reading. I read all of the comments because I am looking for guidance as I attend my first bar mitzvah for a member of my extended family. I am not Jewish, and I think it's important to make oneself educated about this event in order to understand what it's about.

I don't think it's appropriate to denigrate or chastise others for their comments and feelings. Each one needs to be heard and respected. Irresponsible remarks shows who they are.
May 25, 2015, 11:53 am
Dad from NY says:
I'm a little perplexed at all of this. The idea of a gift is good, certainly, but the focus should really be on the child's passage. It takes years of study to accomplish all kinds of things, many of them far harder than studying for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This is really nothing more or less than a right of passage which has grown into something of a potlatch with an unfortunate twinge of "keeping-up-with-the-Joneses" thrown in. Tacky can go both ways! I've come to the conclusion that sticking with the ritualistic $18 - $54 or a book (about being a mensch) is the rule I am going to follow accompanied by a hand written note.
May 29, 2015, 3:07 pm
Dad from Florida West Coast says:
$18 is good enough! Cheers!
May 31, 2015, 1:50 pm
Mom from CT says:
My intention was misconstrued. I was attempting to explain why it is that mitzvah celebrations are of such a significance to command the sometimes pricey celebrations that take place.

I felt a desire to explain because derogatory comments had already been made about the expense undertaken to host these events. I am a non Jew, married into a Jewish family. I understand that some of this may be foreign to some people. That does not mean they should reactively jump to a judgmental attitude about it.

It is easy to question why someone would spend a five figure sum on a birthday party for a 13 year old child. My lengthy reply was intended to be explanatory. There are some people who have the means who view the expense as justifiable.

As I said previously, and I meant it, I was not being flip or dismissive when I previously posted... Either, one can understand this value or one can't.

I did not say what I value. What I value was incorrectly assumed. Fortunately I am difficult to offend.

My own child's bar mitzvah for 80 people was smaller and less costly than most. Even at that the cost was $75 per guest which I was happy to spend because I can afford to and I made a beautiful day for my family and friends. Most importantly, we celebrated my son who was a beautiful bar mitzvah child and who is deserving of celebration. I was not concerned about keeping up with anyone or about recouping my expense.

I brought up expense initially and include it here, because there are several different realities coexisting in the mitzvah calculus. One reality is that a bar or bat mitzvah is surely an event worthy of celebration. Another reality is that celebrations innately have some measure of expense tied to them. Other assumptions that are sometimes true is that people's feelings can get tender where their children are involved. People can also sometimes take umbrage where matters of money are involved. Not everyone is equally mature, equally sensible, equally well grounded. These are just realities that can and do enter into the mix of social graces.

Why? I don't know. It is what it is.

All I suggested and I still defend the idea of suggesting... was understanding

1. what the day is,
2. why some families spend so lavishly,
and
3. to know that in fact, some families DO spend lavishly BEFORE deciding to stick $18 in card and showing up with your spouse and three kids to a function that costs a few hundred dollars a head.

It wouldn't offend or hurt me personally, but it could offend or hurt another host or hostess.

My sister in law, who can afford the expense she put into her daughter's mitzvah, was hurt terribly by a life long friend.

She paid for the hotel for their family of six for three nights, and paid for several days worth of social events and activities for them to enjoy, sent them all home with very nice favors and remembrances, etc. and they put $20 in a card from the family for the mitzvah child.

I cannot speak articulately about the depths of why my sister in law was so hurt, but I know that she is still hurt five years later.

Did her life long friend intend this hurt? I'm thinking probably not. She does not even know that this hurt exists, but I know.

In my original post my intention was to advocate for nothing more than thinking twice for the purpose of being considerate.

As I already said previously, verbatim:

Your decision as an invited guest is solely how to best conduct yourself as a mensch. Which is the Yiddish word for a person of integrity and honor. If you feel it is appropriate to leave an $18 gift for a child who has worked a decade to get to this day and whose parents are shelling out $500 for you to attend a party, then that is what you think.

I add now, good on you if that is the case. There ARE some instances where that is entirely appropriate. There are also clearly some instances where it isn't. And it isn't about keeping up with the Joneses. It's about valuing the relationship you have with the person extending the invitation and with the mitzvah child and not wanting anyone to feel undervalued.

I seriously doubt that anyone would question spending a lot to host a wedding, and thus I wonder why it is so easy for people to sit in judgement of how another person chooses to celebrate an equally important life cycle event. I equally doubt that many would attend a wedding leaving a paltry gift.

Maybe I am wrong about that, but I don't think so.
June 2, 2015, 11:54 am
Someone from Denver from Denver, CO says:
Our entire congregation was invited to attend the service and kiddish after service for a bar mitzvah of a member who is (and whose family is) very active in the congregation and the congregation means a lot to this family. The invite was not for any party beyond the service and kiddish. We are friendly with, but not particularly close to, the family. I'm thinking an $18 donation to the synagogue (in honor of the bar mitzvah) plus another $18 gift & card to the child who is having his bar mitzvah. Does this sound ok, or would only $18 to each be a disappointment?
June 12, 2015, 12:10 pm
Mom from CT says:
Denver, CO,

I think what you propose is perfectly appropriate, and the added gift to the congregation in honor of the mitzvah child is a lovely gesture.
June 15, 2015, 7:41 am
Patrick from Pgh says:
What is recommended if you were invited to the Bar Mitzvah of an old and valued friend's son (whom you don't know well) and you are unfortunately unable to attend the event?
June 28, 2015, 12:55 pm
Annette from Warren County says:
Kids are invited to a bat mitzvah of a friend/classmate but cant go. Do I still sent a check?
June 30, 2015, 11:12 am
Barbara from Long Island says:
It should NEVER be about money! People should give what they can afford. If the family doesn't think it's enough, then they are rude and missing the point. And it doesn't matter what the family spent on the celebration or what the meal cost. The family should give the celebration that they want to give to their child and no one is obligated to "reimburse" them!!! They CHOOSE to throw that party and shouldn't expect guests to pay a certain amount (otherwise, perhaps they should just charge them at the door!!!). Give what you can from your heart and that should be good enough. If it isn't, then you don't want to be friends with those people anyways!!
July 7, 2015, 8:51 pm
Barbara from Long Island says:
To Mom from CT:

Another point is that you don't know what a person's personal financial situation is. Some people may be in dire financial straights and choose not to tell others. Therefore, your sister should have given from the heart from her friend because she WANTED to, not because she was expecting a big gift in return! Perhaps $20 is all the friend could afford at the time - who knows!! That's why I hate this money thing! Give to others and don't expect things in return!! You don't give so you can get! You don't throw lavish parties because you expect the guests to give big gifts! If that's what is happening, you're missing the point!! I've been in tough financial situations many times and have not been able to give much for a gift. I would hope that my friends would understand and not judge me!! You never know what a person's personal financial situation is and that is their private business!!
July 7, 2015, 9 pm
victoria says:
This is a celebration, an accomplishment. Don't be cheap!
100. and up seems great to me!
July 8, 2015, 12:27 am
Lara Smith from Chicago says:
I am sad beyond sadness as I realize the meaning of a Bar Mitzvah is to throw a huge extravagant party (that you can or cannot afford) and expect and compare gifts from guests. Apparently this is not about friendships or meaningful relationships...reading the comments (mom from CT) and others - comments so appalling and disgusting. I thought this ceremony celebrated something else, but that is not really the case.
I just attended a large Bar Mitzvah and it WAS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. Ugh. sigh. No more Bar Mitzvahs or just get new friends? I find this so sad.
July 16, 2015, 4:08 pm
Cecelia from Santa Rosa, CA says:
Wow. I am not Jewish, but am a teacher who has been privileged to attend a half dozen Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I experienced each of them as a religious service and loved them for the spiritual experience which certainly does not conflict with my own Catholic religion. Yes I gave modest gifts to all. But in each situation, the families seemed genuinely happy that those who attended cared enough to participate in the service honoring their young one. Gifts never seemed to be the focus or point of it all. They are all members of the same congregation, so I guess their Rabbi is doing a very good job.
July 23, 2015, 8:51 pm
Tara from Palm Beach says:
Just curious. My family is going to one and I've been told they are using the money to repay the debt incurred for the Bat Mitzvahs.

We would really like the boy to have something. Can we split a gift into two? A game card and some cash?

Thanks.
July 25, 2015, 6:45 pm
Sarah from Canada says:
Anonymous

People are spending a lot of money for Bat or Bar Mitzvah event. Food, entertainment, gifts for kids and adults. It's cost very often thousands dollars. My recommendation, much better call and to ask. I am sending my kids, and giving $100 per child and from family of 4 minimum $400. This event very expensive like wedding, people minimum need to cover food. If you cannot afford to pay as a guest, much better to skip this event.
July 29, 2015, 5:15 am
Mom from Maine says:
Wow. I don't care what religion you belong to -- throw a party you can afford and invite people who you want to share the occasion with.

I have never heard of the cost per person that the host takes on to be in any way a mark of what the gift to the guest of honor should be. That is one of the craziest (and saddest) things I have ever heard!
Aug. 19, 2015, 1:20 pm
Mom from CA from Los Angeles says:
This site has opened my eyes a great deal. Being a beach mom in LA who will be attending my first BatMitzvah with my daughter, I am especially grateful for the detailed post from Mom in CT. I almost declined because I had heard that these events can be over the top. However, I have a deep appreciation for the entire process and commitment of these kids. Which I learned was not always for girls. I intend to give a thoughtful, personal gift as well as a monetary gift in a multiple of 18. (Probabaly close to $100) Thank you for this site, is full of an abundance of opinions and facts about every subject. I love the internet, where were you when I was 13???
Aug. 22, 2015, 2:54 am
Mom from Boston,ma says:
This is for Mom from Connecticut,I am from interfaith parents, but brought up catholic and for her to say that our conformation doesn't compare to a BarMitzvah is WRONG. First we are Baptized, then we have to learn all about the bible and to memorize all the prayers and the hymes and know our Saints and the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross just to make our Communion in the 2nd grade. Then we have to keep up our studies on all to recieve Confermation. We don't have to recite them in Latin so you get the different language issue, and to say that a person shouldn't go because they wouldn't fit in at a $500 a plate party is just shame on you!!I've always learned from my mother, who is Jewish and taught 5 kids the cathacizm that ALL people our equal!! Shame on you!!
Sept. 1, 2015, 1:53 pm
Man from The World says:
Thank you!
Sept. 5, 2015, 8:11 am
Kimmie from Orange Countymom says:
Mom from CT-

While this accomplishment of a 13 year old child should be celebrated, it is disgusting that how much money to gift has become the focal point of the discussion. Simply being surrounded by friends & family should frankly be enough, however for those who would like to further acknowledge the child's accomplishment with a gift should not feel pressured to give something that meets the greedy expectations of people like you.
Sept. 26, 2015, 4:06 pm
Suzanne from Rochester says:
The bar/bat mitzvah is a sacred event worthy of celebration. Unfortunately, for some, it has become more about social status and outdoing others than about hosting or celebrating a meaningful event.

I have been witness to a lack of graciousness on the part of host families and guests alike.

My advice would be to host with your heart and within your budget. Assume people are giving what they can and don't equate the amount they give with how much they value you, your child or the accomplishment. As can be seen from the posts above, factors unrelated to the relationship can be influencing the gift decisions.

To the guests, I agree, give from your heart. To the extent possible, take in to consideration how many people are attending, multiples of 18, etc, but give within your means. Especially for classmates, where many people will be attending a number of B'nai mitzvah during the year, this has to be taken into account when you are planning a gift-and most host families understand this. If you can't afford a monetary gift, but want to commemorate the event-create something (a piece of artwork, a poem, etc), offer to bake or to help with one of the numerous tasks that have to be done. Gestures can be meaningful.
Sept. 27, 2015, 10:26 am
Cici from The South says:
Thank you for the advice! We were invited to a dear friend's daughter's bat mitzvah and are unable to attend, as they live in another state. We will send a card with a bank check for their sweet daughter. I am so touched that they included us in celebrating such a meaningful accomplishment in her life.

P.S. Interesting discussion, too! I suggest we look to everyone's good intentions when reading offered responses. :)
Oct. 6, 2015, 5:20 pm
Mom from PV from Palos Verdes Estates says:
Hey mom from CT. As Christians, we have monumental celebrations as well. Nobody is saying this is not an life-changing event for any Jewish child, that is why most parents throw a celebration for it. It's not much of a celebration if the child's friends don't come!! Aside from bar/Bat Mitzvahs, birthdays, weddings or whatever...it's about celebrating the ACCOMPLISHMENT!! A lot of Jewish families will attend multiple events in the same year...and just like weddings, you have to budget yourself. If I threw a celebration for my child and the person declined because they couldn't afford to give hundreds of dollars, I would feel awful and I know my kids would be devastated by not having their friends there to celebrate with them. After all, isn't that what life is truly about?
Oct. 23, 2015, 11:10 am
Janice from Michigan says:
I join those who are appalled by injunctions to give large amounts, or not go at all. This is a solemn occasion, one to be honored by attending and witnessing. Not everyone is rich enough to give even $36 to each of the 20 bar mitzvahs they attend (let alone the pharaonic sums mentioned here). Nor should the size of the gift be calculated with respect to the cost of the party.

The family should put on a party they can afford, and consider the whole affair to be a gift to their child and his/her community. Guests should give what they can without hurting. It is shockingly inappropriate to make this occasion into a display of wealth on either side.
Oct. 30, 2015, 2:16 pm
Lindsay from Chicago says:
Okay, I'm sorry. But the comment I just read that said "You wouldn't want to be the cheapest gift, would you?" is ludicrous. You give what you are able. I am attending a bar mitzvah of a very close family friend. I am a working adult, and cannot afford a $200 gift, as was suggested "appropriate" by some. I can afford a modest $36 gift with a heartfelt congratulations offered in my card. "If you went out to a nice dinner with an open bar..." -- yeah. I can't afford to do that either. I'm not paying for my dinner and drinks. I'm rewarding this amazing, special young man for his dedication and practice and achievements at becoming a bar mitzvah. It's insulting a LOT of people to suggest that you're somehow "less than" because you can't afford a $200 gift. Thank the hosts for a wonderful service and reception, and give what you can. And if I'm the "cheapest gift at the party" then so be it. I still love that little man with all my heart.
Nov. 6, 2015, 4:02 pm
Ronald Van de Camp from Waterloo, Iowa says:
I'm new to bar/bat mitzvah and am going to one for twins in NYC next weekend at the Pierre Hotel. From the information I have read in this guide, a gift of $18 ($9 for each of the twins) sounds in order. Should I bump up to $18 for each? What say you? Thanks!
Nov. 7, 2015, 4:42 pm
Leah from NYC says:
I found this site when trying to figure out if people give checks anymore. What I am shocked by, after reading all of theses comments, is the lack of mentioning of donating to a favorite charity. Part of a bar/bat mitzvah is learning the importance of giving back to the community. If you want to be show-y you can usually list the amount you gave, but if you want to acknowledge this moment in a young persons' life (especially if you can't make the engagement) a small (or large if you can afford it) to a Jewish charity or the youth's temple is a lovely idea.
Nov. 15, 2015, 2:06 am
Jay from Boston says:
This was all very helpful but I must say that deciding on a gift due to how wealthy the family is should not be a consideration. I believe to make a gift that you can afford, just the same as you would do for a family who is not wealthy.
Nov. 20, 2015, 2:42 pm
Kris from McHenry says:
A confirmation is study for 8 years or longer. At 2nd grade a person becomes responsible for their own sins during reconciliation. When confirmation happens they become an adult in the faith. Communions are big deals but done at home. They are family affairs, including extended family. Since everyone makes it the same month there isn't a lot of invites. You can't go to 60 different parties over 4 weekends. Confirmation usually is celebrated with just parents, siblings, grandparents and sponsor for a simple meal at a restaurant. The parent and sponsor and maybe grandparents gift. No aunts or cousins come or gift. That said guests realize the host put forth effort and cost to invite them, a guest wants to feel they are gifting the cost of the meal. No one wants to offend. It's not polite to ask the host. People want to know so they ask the internet.
Sept. 8, 7:02 pm
Kris from McHenry says:
Leah I think the person receiving the gift should be donating themselves. They can decide to share, spend or save what they are gifted. They are an adult and it's all about them.
Sept. 8, 7:08 pm
sally from miami says:
I'm sorry...religious event or not..its a child's 13th birthday. I would give whatever you normally give a 13 year old at their party. OK you want to bump it up a bit if its at a nice restaurant (instead of Chuck E. Cheese) then give $20 more (or $18 if you want to keep with the numerical tradition). Same with a latin family's 15th birthday party. I respect everyone's religious and cultural traditions and all but if I give Joe McDuffy $30 for his 13th birthday party then I'll give Ira Goldstein the same. And if Ira's parents are snobby millionaires and expect $500 then gracefully bow out and tell them you have a family event to go to and can't get out of it. Its not my responsibility to give more if a parent decides to have it at a 5 star location(which is their right to do so if they choose) instead of the local park. If they are doing it for the profit then obviously they aren't doing it for their religious beliefs,traditions and to show their child how proud they are of them, they're doing it for the monetary reward. I've thrown parties for my kids with magicians and cotton candy machines and ponies and never have I expected anything from anyone. I didn't do it for the reward at the end of the party I did it so my kids (MY KIDS) have a birthday memory that they will never forget.
Sept. 20, 10:52 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BarBatMitzvahGuide.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BarBatMitzvahGuide.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

Community News Group