"All right, everyone stand up and shake hands with three people you don't know."
Anyone who has attended a lecture by a motivational speaker has likely heard just that. It's called an icebreaker — defined by Webster's New World Dictionary as anything serving to lessen formality or break down reserve. Games can be used as icebreakers to help people meet each other and feel comfortable at any kind of social event.
Icebreakers can help the host ensure that the attendees have a good time. And, with a little creativity, icebreakers can be tailored to better serve Jewish groups of youth, adults or families.
Here are some icebreaker ideas for the party host:
*Pairs game: Upon a guest's arrival, give each a card with the name of a Jewish person or character well known for being part of a pair. Then invite guests to find their "mates" and introduce themselves, first as the name on the card, then as their real selves. Some examples are Abraham and Sarah, Adam and Eve, Bubbe and Zeide, Groucho and Harpo (and Zeppo), Rogers and Hammerstein, and Larry and Curly (and Moe).
*Two true, one false: Get a group together and have the members take turns saying two facts and one fallacy about themselves relating to their Jewish lives. The rest of the group has to guess which thing is false. You can learn some interesting things about people — "I celebrated my bar mitzvah in 1965; I once won a hot dog eating contest at Camp Mitzvah; and my cat's name is Motek."
*Birthday partner: Have your guests identify the person whose birth date is closest to their own. Ask them to find out two Jewish-related things they have in common. They may find out they know people in common, have attended the same events or have family in the same city.
* Who am I?: When a guest arrives, tape the name of a famous Jewish person on his or her back. As the party-goers mingle, they should seek clues to their identity by asking questions that only can be answered with "yes" or "no." Some examples: Queen Esther, Barbra Streisand, Bella Abzug, Moses, Judah Macabee, Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, Al Jolson, Sandy Koufax, Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, Harry Houdini, Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Irving Berlin and Sigmund Freud.
*Personal bingo: Give each guest a bingo-style card, with each square containing one tidbit of information about a different guest. Instruct everyone to mingle to identify the person who goes with each square. Keep moving among the guests until all squares are filled by writing in the person's name that matches the piece of information. Set a time limit, say, five minutes. Interesting bits of personal information might be, for example, "born in Israel," "father is a rabbi," "favorite food is falafel," "brother sings in a klezmer group," "teaches Jewish nursery school" and so on.
*Name tag trivia: Prepare name tags with the name of the guest and a single piece of information about the guest's relationship to the host. Some examples: former roommate, friend from college, co-worker, neighbor and friend from softball team. This final suggestion is one that always gets rave reviews because it takes little effort on the part of the guests. And, since it revolves around the host — whom everyone seems to know — it may be the easiest way to strike up conversations and put the guests at ease.