Bar Mitzvah Gifts Nowadays?
July 25, 2015 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Oy vey! Jews of Metafilter, help me out: what is an appropriate bar mitzvah gift in 2015? It's been years since I attended one, but the first one from the next gen of my family is happening soon and I need a gift, shortly to be followed by the kids of a bunch of my friends. Back in the day, a Cross pen was considered a good gift and I just know that moment has passed. More details:

-- the denominations involved: Reform + Reconstructionist + even more liberal Jews with maybe a Conservative thrown in
-- we're in California, if it makes a difference
-- this first one happens to be a bar mitzvah but there will certainly be some bat mizvahs in the mix too
-- definitely for this first one: this is a part of my family I'm not close to. I have no idea what he has already, what others are giving or whatever
-- if it's money, how much and in what format? A check? Something different?

And you don't have to be Jewish to respond. Those of you who are Jew-adjacent, please weigh in!
posted by BlahLaLa to Religion & Philosophy (17 answers total)
 
If you know of any particular hobbies or interests, you might see if you can buy a subscription box relevant to that interest. I know that 13-year old me would have LOVED a Birchbox subscription. For boys, maybe a LootCrate if they're into video games, etc. if they're into video games. Has the benefit of being something that they would receive for a few months after the event.

If you want to give money, it's traditional to give in multiples of $18. Give a check.
posted by honeybee413 at 11:15 AM on July 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's money.

if it's money, how much and in what format? A check? Something different?

Yes, a check. An accompanying card with some kind of personal message to the kid is nicer than just a check, of course. The amount is hugely variable depending on class and cultural context and individual family expectations but the median is probably in the $50-100 range, especially for a kid you don't know well and aren't closely related to.

One thing to know about writing a check, though, is that there are parents who'll scoop all the checks into a college fund or whatever instead of letting the kid spend it. A relative who specifically wants to give a present-day gift and not be conscripted into paying for college five years from now will sometimes go for a gift card instead, just to avoid that.
posted by RogerB at 11:17 AM on July 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


My little brother's bar mitzvah was two years ago, and every single gift was money. His friends got him stuff that he would actually want, but otherwise it was all cash.

Also +1 to multiples of 18 being traditional.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:21 AM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


For folks that you aren't close to, $18 in whatever form is traditional (for numerological reasons.) I got more checks than cash, but cash was welcome! I also got a number of savings bonds, mostly from older relatives. (My parents definitely corralled the checks into a savings account that ended up buying my first (total junker) car. The cash I got to spend however I wanted.)

In terms of physical stuff, I got a bunch of jewelry (from relatives who didn't know me, mostly, because I do not wear jewelry at all) and a couple of my friends clubbed together and bought me a CD player. But mostly I got (and wanted, and liked) money.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:22 AM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Money. Denominations of $18. I got a lot of gift cards to book stores, but everyone knew I was a big nerd who liked to read.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2015


Money, in a denomination of $18, tucked into a book if the giftee is a reader. If you think the kid won't read the book for a while, tuck cash into some pages along with a note rather than a check. For relatives, check with the parents to see if there is an item of Judaica he/she needs. I also always plant a tree via the JUF and get the certificate send to them.
posted by juniperesque at 11:39 AM on July 25, 2015


Nthing denominations of $18, maybe in the form of a Visa/Amex.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:12 PM on July 25, 2015


The correct answer is that modern-day bar/bat mitzvah gifts for assimilated Jews are utterly indistinguishable from any other gift you might give to someone in the same cohort. The only exceptions are that this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so the gifts might be of higher value than those given for a birthday or holiday, and that money in increments of $18 is traditional.

If you don't know the kids well enough to have insight into their tastes, just cut a check for $36 or $54 or whatever and think no more of it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:14 PM on July 25, 2015


Nthing cash, multiples of 18, cash or check.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2015


Yet another vote for money, multiples of $18.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:18 PM on July 25, 2015


Cash or check in multiples of 18. For a fancy party in suburban but not super wealthy New York, $125-$300 from grown adults/couples (or sometimes more from close family), $30-$75 from the kids, in between for younger adults, more distant relatives, single people, those who simply have less money to gift.

This will all depend a lot on how fancy the party is, and there is a LOT of regional variation -- we are on the higher end of the spectrum from a national POV, and yet certainly less than the i-banker set. As with weddings, my rule of thumb is pretty much "try to figure out what the rough cost per head of the party is and give more than you're costing them."
posted by Andrhia at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2015


Depends on fanciness of party and what you think the family expectation is and how much disposable income you have. How much would you give for a wedding? Then make it less than that.

Some fifteen years ago I mostly got $20 (or $18 or $36) from people who weren't close family members for my Bat Mitzvah. Well, and girly bath products and body lotions (ten years later I finally threw out what was left of the incredible stash of Bath and Body Works goods I had received then). But throwing a $20,000 party would have been mind-bogglingly ridiculous for us and I hear about people who spend WAY more. We just had our party in the social hall of the synagogue, and yes there was a DJ/emcee and a buffet dinner, but... nowadays, if it were a cousin of mine, I'd probably give something like $36. I give $50-100 for weddings but just don't think it's *appropriate* for a kid that age to be receiving $50-100 from every single aunt and uncle and cousin (and it sounds like you have a big family so it would add up).
posted by Lady Li at 2:05 PM on July 25, 2015


One thing to know about writing a check, though, is that there are parents who'll scoop all the checks into a college fund or whatever instead of letting the kid spend it. A relative who specifically wants to give a present-day gift and not be conscripted into paying for college five years from now will sometimes go for a gift card instead, just to avoid that.

This. For similar reasons I favor Amazon gift cards if I'm going that route, because you can get pretty much anything on Amazon so it works for all tastes. Prepaid Visas are also a good option. I also like to stick it in a physical copy of a book if I know the recipient well and have a good idea of something they'd enjoy.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:33 PM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was going to suggest savings bonds (which one person upthread mentioned) as a possible alternative to cash or a check, but they don't sound very appealing anymore for a variety of reasons: interest rates near zero; can't buy paper versions anymore; and can only get them in amounts divisible by $50, so can't really do a multiple of 18 (unless you want to spend $450, which seems extravagant).
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 4:23 PM on July 25, 2015


"Jew-adjacent" here, but yeah I agree money is your man. Multiples of $18.
posted by trip and a half at 5:16 PM on July 25, 2015


Nthing cash in $18 increments. I usually let my kid decide whether we go with dollar coins in a fancy bag or $2 bills in a card, we've had a ton of bar/bat mitzvahs this year and those are fun ways to set the cash gift apart (since I have to go to the bank for it anyway).
posted by padraigin at 11:14 PM on July 25, 2015


Okay, well you guys seem pretty united on the answer, so thanks very much.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:41 PM on July 26, 2015


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