Washington Jewish Week, March 5, 1998
How to plan a bar/bat mitzvah in Israel
by Aaron Leibel
Studies show that most American Jews have never traveled to Israel. If
you are among their number, I unhesitatingly and enthusiastically recommend
that you visit the Jewish state.
But my experience living in Israel would make me hesitate to advise
planning a bar or bat mitzvah here and celebrating it in the Jewish state,
the subject of this book. Those ceremonies are important and complex social
occasions. There are simply too many family, personal and logistical details
to plan long-distance and too many things that could go wrong. Unless Israel
has gone through a complete metamorphosis in the past 10 years, it is not
set up – neither in terms of organization and nor employee attitudes -
to deliver the kind of services that Americans would expect their bar or
bat mitzvah child and their guests to receive.
My misgivings notwithstanding, the description of the Israeli bar mitzvah
of Deborah Rosenbloom’s son in this book’s first chapter is appealing.
Distant relatives flying in from around the world, taking a camel ride
in the desert, placing a handmade pottery bowl in the rooms of all the
guests as a memento of the celebration – it all sounds great. And we are
reminded, “…we like the combination of Bible and the land of Israel.
This is where it happened and why Israel is the perfect location to celebrate
this milestone in the Jewish life of a child or adult. In Israel, G-d does
not have to be added to the guest list. He is a permanent member of every
But Rosenbloom, on of the book’s authors, tells us that her son’s
bar matzvah coincided with her husband’s sabbatical, and she and her family
spent five months in Israel. Being there makes the whole operation much
If you’re determined to have a
bar/bat mitzvah in Israel, this book
is a phenomenal resource
If you’re still determined to have your
child’s bar or bat mitzvah in Israel, this book is a phenomenal resource.
Well-organized, it presents answers to many obvious, and even more not-at-all
And it’s full of tips. For example, ask if the rental fee for
a synagogue or museum is tax deductible. If you choose the three-day package
at Neot Kedumim Biblical Landscape Reserve, your child ‘s Torah portion
can be written on parchment by a scribe for you. Or, if you decide to hold
the ceremony in a rustic field school run by the Israel Society for the
Protection of Nature, you may want to put young cousins together in children’s
rooms and give adults their own rooms.
Best of all, this book is full of sources – from “rent-a-rabbi” to ancient
synagogues in national parks to “Torah tie-in adventures,” all replete
with names, address, telephone numbers and (where appropriate) faxes and
I am still not sure about the advisability of Americans moving their
bnai mitzvah ceremonies 6,500 miles to Israel, but I am convinced that
those who disregard my warnings should come armed with a copy of this book.
If determined to have a bar/bat mitzvah in Israel, this book is a phenomenal