Bar Mitzvah giftiquette - long distance edition
May 14, 2015 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Much to my pleasant surprise, today in the mail I received an invite from one of my oldest friends to his son's Bar Mitzvah celebration. They live thousands of miles away, I'm sure they don't expect me to make an appearance, but it seems . . . . . inadequate . . . . . to just check the "no" box on the RSVP card. More context below, but the TL;DR is -- what, if anything, would be an appropriate Bar Mitzvah gift for a young man that I barely know? Or should I just send a card to sort of the whole family?

I've known the father for 40 years, besties since we met through high school, although we've lived thousands of miles apart for pretty much all of our adult lives. And given that we're, y'know, middle-aged dudes who don't use social media, our contact tends to be via sporadic bursts of emails. I've attended his wedding, I spent a week's vacation with them about 8 years ago (which is the only time I met the young lad, so it's not like the boy will be crushed that his favorite Uncle Soundguy isn't there), I managed to grab a few hours with him and his wife on a business trip to their city a couple of years ago. (Part of the "surprise" part of the invite was that I didn't know that their son was going to have a Bar Mitzvah ceremony.) So I'm confident the invite is far more about "let our friends know about this important moment in our family's life" rather than any serious expectation that I'll show up or send a gift or anything.

Like I said, though, it feels like I should acknowledge this in some way beyond the RSVP card, given the length of my relationship with the dad. Although this ceremony is all about the young man, so AFAICT any gift should be for him - but I've barely met him.

FWIW, I strongly suspect the ceremony/lessons are more about cultural heritage rather than deep religious feelings (the mom is Jewish by birth and both her parents have passed, the dad was raised "Christian on Easter and Christmas"), both parents are fairly artsy, and the ceremony is being held at what is clearly a Reform, very progressive synagogue, so I don't think any gift/acknowledgement needs to be highly traditional. And I've got no problem asking his parents really direct questions about what the kid's into at the moment, if it turns out the consensus is, "treat it like a birthday present."

So, just in case anyone's lost track, the question is, "Ideas for a good/appropriate gift I can mail to a young man and/or his family to commemorate a Bar Mitzvah, given that I know his father much better than the young man?"
posted by soundguy99 to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What about a check?
posted by Yellow Silver Maple at 5:58 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Card is more than adequate, but if you want to stick in a $20 gift card to Target/Best Buy/Game Stop I'm sure the kid will remember Uncle Soundguy99 quite fondly.
posted by stewiethegreat at 5:59 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A check in denominations of 18, or if you want to go really old school, a fountain pen.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:59 PM on May 14, 2015 [13 favorites]

Best answer: A check for an amount that's a multiple of 18 (like, $36 or $54). Everyone likes money, and in Judaism the number 18 is good luck.
posted by amro at 6:00 PM on May 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

Best answer: A gift of charity in a multiple of 18 somehow would be appropriate and tie in with the cultural heritage/becoming a contributing member of society thing. Or just a check if you think a charity thing would be poorly received.
posted by Mizu at 6:04 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A check or other financial instrument.

There are online calculators that take into account region, relationship, whether you're attending, etc., and spit out a multiple of 18. (Am on mobile so not able to look them up for you; someone else will have specifics.)
posted by wonton endangerment at 6:06 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Aside from the gift, (and a check in a multiple of 18 is considered very traditional/appropriate my circle) I would use this an excuse to send a short note to your friend. Personally, what I would do is use one of the free cards I get in the mail from charity (one with a neutral cover - nature or animals, not Bar Mitzvah themed), write a note saying "Congratulations. Can't believe either one of us old enough to have a 13 year old. Sorry I can't be there for this wonderful event etc.etc." and then tuck the RSVP card in the same envelope and send it.
posted by metahawk at 6:14 PM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

A copy of your favorite book from when you were that age.
posted by brujita at 6:21 PM on May 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As others have said, some $ in multiples of 18 is traditional for a bar/bat mitzvah.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:23 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I always do favorite book for a 7th/8th grader and a check for $36.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:24 PM on May 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing the gift of green in multiples of 18. And I like metahawk's suggestion to also send a congratulatory note to your friend.
posted by hush at 6:35 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In addition to the gift, I think a nice hand written card to the young man relating how long you have know his father, maybe a short anecdote and that you know how proud his parents are of him.
posted by AugustWest at 8:26 PM on May 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, my favorite bar mitzvah gift was from a friend of the family that I later found out was in the printing (of album covers) business that was 18 albums some of which were not yet released and all of which were an eclectic collection of historically important rock and roll as well as some new up and comers like Bruce Springsteen (who I thought was Jewish because of my misspelling of his last name).

The checks are nice, but he won't see any or very much of the money for years. I would get him something he can enjoy now.
posted by AugustWest at 8:30 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Misterben and I attended the Bat Mitzvah of the daughter of his friend of 40 years. We gave a check, which the Mr informs me is the usual thing to do.
posted by matildaben at 8:58 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Checks are always welcome, but feel free to give a gift that most 13 year old boys would like. A pair of decent headphones, binoculars or a telescope, a camera or video camera. For bar mitzvahs, people often give items that signal approaching adulthood like a nice pen, an overnight bag or toiletry kit, etc. It would be helpful if you knew what the son might like, and it's ok to ask his dad.
posted by Leontine at 9:37 AM on May 15, 2015

This drone is my current choice of Bar Mitzvah gift. The two boys I've given it to so far have loved it.
posted by doublenelson at 6:15 PM on May 15, 2015

Response by poster: Bowing to the wisdom of the Hive Mind, cards and a check in a multiple of 18 have duly been sent.

Thanks much, y'all.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:05 AM on June 5, 2015

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