Work Situations – A Colleague’s Son’s Bar Mitzvah

A colleague’s son is having a Bar Mitzvah in a non-Orthodox setting. The son went to Hebrew school, and the father has shown some interest in Yiddishkeit. You’re invited and can’t make it to the party, but would like to purchase a gift. Do you give:

1) A non-religious gift

2) A religious article such as a pushka or a menora

3) An english sefer on a Torah topic

If you opt for choice 3), what sefer would you give.

19 comments on “Work Situations – A Colleague’s Son’s Bar Mitzvah

  1. The book “To be a Jew”

    He will put it on his shelf until the week in college when he is invited over to the Hillel rabbi’s home for Shabbos dinner, at which point he will panic about what it means to celebrate Shabbos in a traditional setting. His mother will FedEx him the book, he’ll read the appropriate section, accept the invitation (rather than succumbing to his fear and turning it down) and maybe keep the book around for the next holiday…

  2. I also second the vote for a Kiddush cup. Point being, it’s likely to be used, not forgotten, especially perhaps for Pesach.

  3. I’ve also given “This is My G-d” as a preliminary introduction to Judaism. If the reader takes the trouble to look through it, they’ll realize that it’s not about “Orthodox Jews”, and it may, therefore, survive being abandoned to that dusty bookshelf. Of course, if you know that the recipient of the gift is the type of kid who will read anything, then go ahead with the deeper books such as those by Rabbis Pliskin or Tatz. .

    Books with a religious spin about Israel may also prove productive, especially those that are coffee table style with lots of pictures.

    As far as giving a siddur goes, I feel the same way about giving them as I did about putting benchers on the tables where my non-frum guests were seated at a simcha. I was afraid that they’d take them home and then dispose of them – obviously not properly.

  4. We tend to give the Simcha Raz book A Tzadik in our Time about Aryeh Levin. So, I would have to agree with Aaron above.

  5. I recommend:

    Herman Wouk – “This is My G-d” which was recommended by Rabbi Yitzchak Kirzner zt”l. When I gave it to a friend, he told me it was the first book I gave him that he ever was able to get through.

    Rabbi Tatz- “The thinking Jewish Teenagers Guide to life”

    Rabbi Mordechai Katz – “Understanding Judaism” which is on the Partners in Torah recommended list.

    Although I think the Katz Haggadah is another great choice.

  6. How about “The thinking Jewish Teenagers guide to life, by Rabbi Akiva Tatz, published by Feldheim. I think that it is important, with kids who may not really know what a Bar Mitzvoth is about, to provide some information. If his neshama is interested, he will open the book at some point.

  7. My father always insiste on giving books to non-religious Bar Mitzvah boys because he believes strongly in promoting Jewish Education although not completely observant himself. He usually gave Rabbi Donin’s book “To be a Jew,” and I’m guessing the only copy that was ever read was the one he gave me for my 10th or 11th birthday.

    I’m not opposed to giving an (English) sefer or book, but it should be one that has a greater potential of being used. I love the above idea of a Haggadah since everyone celebrates Pesach! A nice bencher with basic prayers for Shabbat and holidays might be nice too. If the boy has a specific unique hobby or interest, something that could enhance that from a Jewish perspective could be nice.

    If I was giving a gift for a Bat Mitzvah girl, I might try one of the many fantastic kosher cookbooks. The beautiful and diverse dishes from all over the world make keeping kosher look like a pleasure. One who has only been exposed to their grandmothers’ kosher cookbook might have a warped view of Kosher cooking and eating.

  8. I recommend Reb Zelig Pliskin’s “Gateway to Happiness.” I’ve given it as a present to a number of non-frum people, and they all appreciated it.

  9. When I’ve been in the situation I have given a kiddush cup, ingraved with the boy’s Hebrew name. The attached note would make mention of the fact that we commemorate our holidays (everyone has a seder) and milestones over a cup of wine, etc… Avoids dusty bookshelf syndrome.

  10. I would give the book “A Tzaddik in our Time” by Simcha Raz. It is a biography of R’ Aryeh Levin the famed “Rabbi of the Prisoners” during British rule in Palestine. R’ Levin was one of those rare Jewish leaders who truly showed his love and compassion for each and every Jew no matter what their background or level of observance. Also, this book is really just a collection of short stories most are about half a page to two pages so young readers won’t get bored.

  11. Why not pass on one of the dozen “Mesech Chachmah’s” your son received at his Bar Mitzvah?

    Seriously, the Haggadah is a fantastic idea, written by Rabbi Baruch Chait, illustrated by Gadi Pollack. I have the Hebrew one, so I don’t know the title in English, something like “Art and Faith: Rabbi Eliezer Katz Edition of the Pesach Hagadah.”

    However, it’s a relatively expensive sefer, although well worth it. Anyone who doesn’t have a copy should look for it and buy it, I’m certain you won’t regret it.

  12. My “standard” non-Orthodox gift has become a menorah, because I think it’s the religious object that’s the most likely to be used. So many seforim stores have recommended books like “greatest Jewish sports heroes”, which personally I think sends the wrong message for a Bar Mitzvah. A Haggadah would also be a very good choice, and there are so many excellent ones out there!

    Either of the above would assure that the Bar Mitzvah has a kosher religious object without it being too heavy handed. Unfortunately, most seforim will likely be put on a bookshelf and forgotten (and don’t think this doesn’t happen with frum Bar Mitzvah boys as well).

  13. I think the Haggadah Ora is talking about might be illustrated by Gadi Pollack. Mark, what’s it called again?

    There’s an old joke that says: Instead of seforim, you should buy a Bar Mitzvah boy an umbrella, at least you know with an umbrella that he will open it.

    If you are going to go with a sefer, what about buying a gift certificate to a local seforim\judaica store (if it has friendly and informed workers). This way, the boy can go in himself and if he actually chooses something, you know he will be interested n that topic and just might read it.

  14. To add to my post:

    My feeling is that you should not shy away from promoting observance of the mitzvos to your non-observant friends AND FAMILY, but very often you need to do it deftly and subtly.

  15. Shalom,

    My feeling is that you should not shy away from promoting observance of the mitzvos to your non-observant friends, but very often you need to do it deftly and subtly.

    That is our duty — to observe the mitzvos and to help our fellow Jews find the path to Torah. Anything less is an abrogation of our responsibilities, and putting a stumbling block before the blind.

    We attended my old junior high school friend’s wedding last year. It was in a non-religious community centre, although the catering was provided by an authorized kosher caterer.

    They didn’t wash before HaMotzei (we did), and as wonderful as they are and as strongly traditional and connected to their Jewish cultural heritage as they think they may be, they didn’t have a clue about simple observance. Hey, it wasn’t so long ago I was in their place.

    My dilemma… what wedding gift to buy? If I may say, it was a “no-brainer.”

    Instead of coddling their lack of knowledge, we purchased a gift for them that at some point would enhance or encourage their observance somehow — we bought them a Shabbos challah cover.

    Now, they probably don’t observe Shabbos, or have challahs, or at this point in time need to cover them, but we provided them a tool to use for the future. You never know when the spark will become a flame and they will long to draw closer to Hashem.

    Showing by example, and facilitating in small ways, just may be the one thing that triggers their return to the correct path.

    It is a part of kiruv work, and kiruv comes in many many ways.

    Bottom line: I would say a sefer on a Torah topic would be just the ticket for the Bar Mitzvah boy. And the topic I would choose: Kivod av v’eim.

  16. It depends what kind of non-Orthodox you’re talking about. If the Hebrew school was pushing actual mitzvot, then I’d probably go for a sefer on a Torah topic. Something relatively simple but not insultingly so. Maybe something by Aryeh Kaplan, I always liked his books.

    If the family is more strong Jewish feelings but very little observance, I’d probably go for a not openly religious book about a Jewish topic, preferably from a religious perspective. Maybe “A Psalm in Jenin” or “Adjusting Sights” (which I haven’t read in translation but the original is great).

    Ooh new idea, get the cool new Pesach Hagadah by the guy who did the kids books about the bad middot pirates. If he doesn’t already have it. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? I can’t find it on google, but it is a very cool hagadah. Anyway, pretty much everyone does passover, and it’s coming up, so a passover gift could be appropriate.

Comments are closed.