Thursday, May 2, 2013 | return to: supplement, celebrations


Celebrations |  Opulent or overboard? B’nai mitzvah parties gone wild

by gil shefler, jta

Follow j. on   and 

Dressed in a black-and-white tux and surrounded by a Secret Service detail, former President Bill Clinton greeted well-wishers at a bar mitzvah at an upscale hotel in Los Angeles, shaking hands with guests and patiently posing for pictures. Once everyone had arrived, the president turned to the audience to introduce the guest of honor.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the Clinton look-alike. “It is my distinct honor to introduce the next president — and the first Jewish president — of the United States of America!”

“Hail to the Chief” began playing from loudspeakers, and a 10-foot-tall model of the Washington Monument in the center of the room opened up to reveal an ebullient young Jewish teenager waiting inside.

The bar mitzvah had officially begun.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed strikes a pose with Daniel Blumen for Blumen’s viral “Save the Date” bar mitzvah video.   photo/you tube
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed strikes a pose with Daniel Blumen for Blumen’s viral “Save the Date” bar mitzvah video. photo/you tube
“The kid had been the class and school president, so he wanted a presidential theme,” said Jay Shwartz, the Los Angeles party planner who organized the affair. “We put up balloons in red, white and blue all over and had models of the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore and the White House.”

Themed bar mitzvah parties are nothing new. As long as American Jews have had a taste for the tacky, there have been parties inspired by cheesy Hollywood films and nearly forgotten pop stars. But the combination of growing Jewish affluence and the availability of new technological toys are driving the trend into the 21st century.

“Everybody’s trying to be creative and do something different than the other person,” said Joel Nelson, whose Bay Area company has been producing bar mitzvahs for 31 years.

Some years ago, Nelson helped a family stage an “Alice in Wonderland” bat mitzvah in a rented warehouse on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The party featured the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter and other characters wandering around, as well as a section designed to look like the Mad Hatter tea party.

“There are very few who spend that kind of money, it’s not the norm,” Nelson said. “Sometimes I wonder if it might be a business write-off. But if you have one kid and you own a company in the Silicon Valley, then I can understand why you might want to put up a party.”

Increasingly, some of the money dropped on a lavish bar or bat mitzvah isn’t even spent on the event itself. Like the “save the date” video for Daniel Blumen’s May 11 bar mitzvah. The video, shot at locations around Atlanta and featuring cameos by Mayor Kasim Reed and basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, has the bar mitzvah dressed in an Atlanta Falcons jersey and draped in bling, rapping that the party “won’t stop till Sunday morn.”

Blumen’s spot went viral in February, and was featured on the “Today” show, ABC News, CNN and even London’s Daily Mail. More than 130,00 people have viewed it online.

“It’s getting more and more outrageous,” said Sara Lowell, a high-end party planner in South Florida. “In one [video], the bar mitzvah boy has been kidnapped. In another, he’s flying a jet. If the dad knows the Miami Heat, he’ll get the players to make an appearance in the video to wish him a happy birthday.”

And at the party itself, the guest of honor’s entrance can take on the form of a Vegas spectacle. These include boys and girls making entrances accompanied by NFL cheerleaders, descending from the ceiling by a rope like Peter Pan or cruising into a room driving a miniature Ferrari.

“It’s a big deal,” said Alex Einhorn of Siegel Productions, a Boston firm specializing in planning bar mitzvahs. “Once they make the entrance, the stress is off. It’s a statement saying ‘I’m here and I’m excited to celebrate with you.’ “

In 2008, the excesses of contemporary bar mitzvahs became a national issue when the New York Post

reported on a New York affair that reportedly cost $1 million. The bat mitzvah made her entrance by donning a Catwoman suit and descending by a rope to the floor of Cipriani, a swanky Manhattan restaurant. Upon landing, she was serenaded by rock star Jon Bon Jovi for 45 minutes.

“My husband did well that year and he was proud of himself, and he wanted to throw a huge party,” Liza Sandler, the girl’s mother, was quoted as saying.

The tendency to go a little overboard is by no means a uniquely American phenomenon. In Israel, a b’nai mitzvah trend has celebrants surprising their guests by jumping out of objects — soccer balls, Torah scrolls and oversized hearts, to name a few.

A video of a bar mitzvah performing an elaborate song-and-dance number after emerging from a giant clam went viral last year on YouTube, gaining more than 100,000 views. Kiril Shahaf, the director of Ilanit Noy Productions, located near Haifa, credited his boss with creating the popular routine, which he called “The Pearl.”

“She was the first to do it six years ago and then everybody else stole our idea,” he said. “ ‘The Pearl’ is more popular today than it ever has been. It’s a huge attraction, and girls love it because they can put on a show in front of their friends and families.”

The lavishness and cost of some of the bigger bashes has been mercilessly mocked online and criticized from the pulpit, to little apparent effect. Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles said he has sought repeatedly to rein in over-the-top Jewish soirees. A few affairs he attended were so outlandish, he felt compelled to say something to the parents.

“I tell them they are giving the wrong message to the child, never mind to the community,” Wolpe said. “Sometimes they are under the impression that the religious value is commensurate with the value of the event. That is not true.”

Lowell, the Florida party planner, admitted some of the showier bar mitzvahs were narcissistic and had more to do with parental ambitions than a child’s desires. Nonetheless, she said there was nothing inherently wrong about putting on a show, as long as it combined substance with style.

“At the end of the day, the message children need to learn is that this is a coming-of-age celebration,” she said. “You look for depth and spiritual meaning, and if that is lacking, no matter how much money you spent, it’s ice cold.”


Posted by Rabbi Steve
05/03/2013  at  03:19 PM
Opulent Alternative

It is not mine to judge whether the Bar or Bat Mitzvah has a sense of true transition from child to Jewish young adult where these events are concerned.  However, I will mention that there is a growth in an alternative, that being a rather small, intimate and very meaningful Destination Bar or Bat Mitzvah service and celebration, especially here in Riviera Maya, Mexico. It is important that the youngsters understand and accept responsibility and accountability.  This and a “good time” are not mutually exclusive but not everyone wants “BIG”!  Some young people are more comfortable in front of a smaller, closer group than in front of a large gathering, not all of whom they even know.

Login to reply to this comment or post your own
Posted by alaxoregroota
09/22/2013  at  08:51 AM
???UGG アウトレット

<a >クリスチャンルブタン メンズ</a> 力も小さくない.十二祖巫神通に至っては、孔玉を隠したのだ、い<a >ugg ブーツ 激安</a> 会う奇遇ですね?本当によかった、もし私が旅行もいい、そんな私<a >モンクレール パーカー</a> が今回神域の大により、5大天尊自然は手を出さずに自分のない対<a >クリスチャンルブタン</a> を教主で高台の後、五大神域の大自然はより継続の行われて、ただ<a >ティンバーランド ブーツ</a> に対していないにもダメージを与え、命がけで2度の祝焱体つきは<a >ugg ムートンブーツ</a> をし続けた後、このが孔玉らん黒雲に自分の部屋の中で法律を守る
<a >ティンバーランド 靴</a> 退すれば、孔玉も彼らに手を出したのは、結局は彼自身を述べて共<a >モンクレール ジャケット</a> て困難なので、たまったエネルギーが巨大すぎる.作者楽屋でずっ<a ></a> 今後孔玉修行の根本は、自然にできないことも、幸いなのは五行の<a ></a> と、ひょっとしてこの二つの恐怖の存在を受けましたか?思ったの<a >ティンバーランド 店舗</a> くべきで、空の中の様子が変わり続けて、まわりの人は驚いていた<a >ティンバーランド ブーツ</a> ーク凶獣、孔玉は相手に勝つ自信があるだけでなく、結局孔玉は神
<a >UGG ブーツ</a> れはすべての人が殺された人物で、これらの人は頼りに飲み込まれ???<a ></a> あれを見ていて五大神域や中央の神々に大陸、孔玉心にこの世界に<a >クリスチャンルブタン 靴</a> ましたが、孔玉後ろ姿を見ていて、石夢で孔明の身で、満面嬉しい<a >ティンバーランド</a> せいにして、心も少し驚いて、孔玉の神を意識の下に、この若い人<a >クリスチャンルブタン 靴</a> をかわす.というわけではないので孫悟空て戦の人ではなくて応戦<a >モンクレール パーカー</a> かかわらず、ただ一歩前進したというが、孔玉の実力は倍に伸びて

Login to reply to this comment or post your own

Leave a Comment

In order to post a comment, you must first log in.
Are you looking for user registration? Or have you forgotten your password?

Auto-login on future visits