Raising the bar in bar mitzvah


Jewish families look for bigger and better ways to celebrate rite of passage

Photo courtesy of Greg Tuzman, Tuzman Photography, Newton, Mass. Girls in their party finery stoop as low as they can go for limbo-a part of the dance entertainment at this celebration.

"I've seen and heard what's out there," says Jill Katz of Buffalo Grove, mom of an 11-year-old who will become a bar mitzvah in May 2005. "And I think a lot of the parents have forgotten the meaning behind it all. I don't want to spend $50,000. My son knows that. And he's OK with that."

Parents inviting their child's entire class, scheduling celebrity meet-and-greets and hiring hip-hop artists to entertain at their child's bar and bat mitzvah parties would disagree. Opulence over simplicity, always. So are the days of intimate affairs long gone?

Now, more than ever, "there is a push for each party to be more spectacular than the one before," says Judith Davis, author of Whose Bar/Bat Mitzvah Is This, Anyway? "In many ways, we've lost our connections to many Jewish rituals. The bar mitzvah has become the one event through which we try to make up for what we've lost."

She says where the party-planning industry "used to just be Hallmark," there are a plethora of options available these days. Many of these vendors-125 of them-will display the newest trends in catering, entertainment, space design, linens, photography and videography at the 13th annual Women's American ORT Party Planning Showcase Feb. 8 at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel in Northbrook. Sixteen thousand people are expected to attend the event, which raises money for ORT, the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training.

Exhibitors will turn up the glitz to appeal to the wide-eyed preteens who often attend as many as three bar or bat mitzvah parties in any given weekend. Lynda Rose, owner of Lynda Rose Events in Northbrook, says she's seen the show quadruple in size since its inception.

"You can make it [the bar/bat mitzvah celebration] an extravaganza or pick a couple of ways to make the occasion special for the child," says Jeri Rosauer, ORT member and event co-chair. "The amount of detail is up to you."

The term bar/bat mitzvah refers to a legal status in the Jewish religion that defines a person as an adult and a constituent in the minyan (quorum needed for public prayer). It is most commonly used in reference to a religious ceremony and celebration that denotes a child's coming of age (13) in the Jewish community.

The showcase is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission and parking are free.

Women's American ORT supports the world's largest private network of schools and high-tech job-training programs. For further information, call the Women's American ORT Suburban Chicago Region at (847) 291-0475.

Kimberly Straub

Kids Eat Chicago

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