For Jewish families sick of the sometimes outlandish and spiritually empty MTV-style bar or bat mitzvah celebration, a growing number of Israeli hotels are creating family simcha experiences that accentuate Jewish history and adventure without skimping on the ceremonial aspect of the life-changing event.
According to several Israeli hotel industry executives, Jerusalem and the Tiberias-Galilee regions have become bar/bat mitzvah magnets for American Jewish families.
“Jerusalem is a place where you can offer location, atmosphere, a high standard of service and tremendous value for the money,” said Ilan Brenner, executive assistant manager for marketing and sales at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel (inbalhotel.com). “We can provide connecting family rooms for the bar mitzvah guests, arrange for the photographer, flowers and entertainment, even before the family arrives in Israel, which saves both time and money. ... For larger affairs, we highlight a main ballroom that can accommodate up to 550 guests, or our spectacular courtyard, where we can offer lavish buffet brunches and dinners.”
The David Citadel Hotel (thedavidcitadel.com) is renowned for its bar mitzvah brunches on the hotel’s terrace, which offers a panoramic backdrop of the Old City. “Many of our guests like to make a trip to the Kotel [Western Wall] on a Monday or Thursday morning, where the bar mitzvah boy reads from the Torah and then they head back to the hotel for a dairy brunch party on the terrace,” said Raphael Weil, the David Citadel Hotel’s director of banqueting. “The outdoor brunch is very popular with the youngsters, because we set up special buffet stations featuring pastas, Mediterranean-style salads and cheeses, pizzas, omelets, shakes, etc. Of course, we can also create lavish themed bar mitzvah celebrations in our ballroom, which can accommodate up to 350 people.”
Lure of the Galilee
Both the Kinar Galilee (kinar.co.il) and Kibbutz Lavi (hotel.lavi.co.il) hotels offer a fascinating combination of country-style glatt kosher Shabbat experiences and weekday outdoor adventures amid the pastoral beauty of the Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) region.
“Most American Jews are literally unaware of the long and rich history of the Jewish people in the Galilee region, dating back to ancient times, when Gamla was the capital of Northern Israel,” said Heli Jacobs, the Kinar Galilee’s marketing director. “More and more American families are coming to our hotel to make a weekend bar mitzvah because we can offer them unique outdoor adventures on Friday before Shabbat or on Sunday. They can swim in the Kinneret, which guests can see right outside the hotel windows. We can arrange guided jeep tours of the nearby Golan Heights, which are becoming very popular with American families, historical-themed visits to Gamla or the ancient synagogue in Katzrin.”
The Shabbat bar mitzvah ceremony is held in one of the hotel’s private synagogues, followed by a festive Kiddush and meal. The hotel’s dining room can also host a more lavish affair.
Both the Kinar Galilee and Kibbutz Lavi hotels boast a dedicated staff of event planners capable of taking care of every last detail, from the color of the napkins and flowers to finding the best photographer.
“We have a bar mitzvah in our hotel every Shabbat, so I can say that we are experts in understanding the needs of Israeli, European and American families,” said Guido Sasson, Kibbutz Lavi’s sales manager. “Families like making bar mitzvahs in our hotel because we are 100 percent shomer Shabbat, and they appreciate the special connection to the kibbutz lifestyle.”
The Kibbutz Lavi Hotel, located above Lake Kinneret and just minutes from downtown Tiberias, also offers a variety of Galilee-themed outdoor experiences with licensed tour guides.
“If you enjoy fresh mountain air and seek a different kind of family bar mitzvah experience, then come and discover what we have to offer,” Sasson added.