The bar or bat mitzvah is a rite of passage into adulthood — a milestone event in the life of a young Jew and his or her family. Everything that happens during this time-honored celebration is a reflection on him or her, and it is the responsibility of the bar or bat mitzvah, as host, to set the tone and maintain decorum throughout — from the religious service to the reception afterward.
Knowing the proper way to conduct oneself will not only help the student feel more confident and relaxed, it will also help put family members and other guests at ease. This is the single most important element to ensure a successful celebration. To assist the bar or bat mitzvah in achieving this level of comfort and composure, there are five fundamental areas to focus on, which will allow sons and daughters of the Torah to shine beyond expectations on this special day.
Presentation is key. Dress appropriately by taking time to select an outfit that is both classic and elegant. This is a day to pay attention to the smallest details, such as coordinating accessories or shining one’s shoes. Boys should wear dark-colored suits with a collared shirt and conservative tie. Girls should wear a formal skirt suit or dress that is knee-length or longer, and, if necessary, have an accompanying wrap or sweater on hand, as shoulders should not be exposed in a synagogue. If the celebration is immediately following the services, then girls should dress more for the ceremony than the reception. For an evening party that does not immediately follow the religious service, a cocktail dress may be worn, unless otherwise indicated on the invitation.
Show Respect and Behave Accordingly
Act properly and gracefully. Not only does this show deference and appreciation toward the host’s parents for the investment of time and money to bring him or her to this day, but it is also a sign of self-respect and an acknowledgment that one is now considered an adult in the Jewish religion — and ready to behave accordingly. It is the bar or bat mitzvah’s duty to set a good example for both family and friends by showing respect and by being upbeat, positive, patient and compassionate to all.
In many cases, preparing for this day has been years in the making; therefore it is appropriate and necessary for the bar or bat mitzvah, as host, to express gratitude to all family and friends who are attending the celebration and who have helped prepare him or her during this journey. He or she may choose to recite a speech at the reception or recognize certain family or friends during the candle-lighting ceremony. In either case, it is a perfect opportunity to make a real connection with guests by maintaining good eye contact and expressing heartfelt emotion.
Be Warm and Welcoming
The bar or bat mitzvah greets guests with a smile when entering the reception and makes guests feel welcome by engaging them in pleasant conversation. He or she is the first one on the dance floor, ready to have fun and participate in all the activities. The host also knows how to make proper introductions and find commonalities between guests. Should one need to circulate, he or she is aware of making graceful exits and never leaves a guest unattended. The host makes sure to visit each table, remembering that some guests have traveled from far away to attend the celebration and share in the joy of this special day.
Value Gift Giving
A host is highly appreciative of the gifts received and thanks gift-givers in person as well as sending each a handwritten note of thanks. However, the true joy and happiness comes from the gifts he or she is able to give those who assisted during the process of this important life event. A thoughtful gift of thanks to the rabbi, the cantor and teacher who diligently and patiently prepared him or her over a long period of time is most well received, as well as a contribution to the synagogue. Finally, the greatest gifts of all are the social gifts the host gives by embodying a young man or woman of grace, humility, dignity, intelligence and humor, as that is the true meaning of the bar or bat mitzvah.
Lisa Gaché is the owner of Beverly Hills Manners (beverlyhillsmanners.com) and creator of Mitzvah Manners, an etiquette program designed to add polish and refinement to the bar or bat mitzvah.