August 10, 2000
Sites of Passage
A survey of Bar/Bat Mitzvah Web sites.
There are so many elements to keep track of for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, one's eyes could get blurry. Looking through your computer screen might help make things a bit clearer. To help guide you, we've compiled a list of Bar/Bat Mitzvah-related sites. For online access, visit www.jewishjournal.com and click on the "Bar/Bat Mitzvah" button, where these sites are linked.
What It's All About
First, some sites on the ceremony itself:
ORT's "Navigating the Bible" www.bible.ort.org/bible/start.htm features some general-knowledge pages. Scroll down to click directly to the short but thorough Bar/Bat Mitzvah section. For teens looking for something special for their ceremony, Mitzvah99 members.aol.com/mitzvah99/mypage/ presents no fewer than, you guessed it, 99 mitzvot for a unique Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
But for the child who doesn't know how to ask, try Judaism 101 (www.jewfaq.org). "FAQ" stands for "frequently asked questions," and they're all here. This is a great site for all you ever wanted to know about Judaism, with articles on all aspects of Jewish life, categorized by the reader's level of Jewish knowledge. Some shorter, more personal reflections can be found at Jewish Family's Jewish Celebration page (www.jewishfamily.com/jc.html). Enjoy a few articles and stories about Bar/Bat Mitzvot from all family members' perspectives.
One of the biggest hurdles for the young participant can be the Hebrew language. Internet Public Library's "Say Hello in the Hebrew Language" (www.ipl.org/youth/hello/hebrew.html)will help those new to Hebrew unlock its challenges and its beauty, starting with the pronunciation of the letters.
For gifts, the Los Angeles-area Jewish book and gift stores are all worth a personal visit. Be sure also to look at Woodland Hills-based Judaic Collection (target="blank" href="http://www.thejudaicacollection.com">www.thejudaicacollection.com), a site started earlier this year by local businessman Gary Pulver. Brenco Judaica (www.brencojudaica.com) is another good locally based site. Both sites have shopping carts with secure transactions. Out of Chicago, ( www.allthingsjewish.com) offers a wealth of Judaica items tailored both by simcha (Bar and Bat Mitzvah, wedding, even housewarming) and artist. The site also features the magazine "Tribe," geared to young Jews and focused on Jewish traditions.
Jewish Bride... & More (www.jewishbride.com) features five pages of Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts. Simply follow the Bar & Bat Mitzvah Guide... & More link. Some unique gifts are picture frames, keepsake boxes, and disposable cameras with Bar/Bat Mitzvah designs. And the Judaica Gift Store (www.judaicagiftstore.com) has a small but delightful array of pendants, journals, electronics and even Bar/Bat Mitzvah teddy bears.
More hardcore shoppers may want to tackle Jewishmall.com (www.jewishmall.com). The Jewish Mall is just that. Go to the directory or just search this huge site to find the gifts or services you need.
The mall isn't the only place kids go to meet each other and share experiences. Teen-to-Teen (www.ttt.org.il) is an Israel-based site by, and for, Jewish teens from around the world. Teens can read peer-written articles, advice, book reviews, creative writing samples, jokes, and stories and can even post photos.
But how to spark that child who just isn't interested? The environment is one issue that speaks to many teens,and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (www.coejl.org) is one source for "eco-Judaism" with a lot of information on how to integrate saving the environment with Jewish experience.
Helpful sites abound, but surfer beware: Most of these profit from paid advertisements and are not neutral in their recommendations. Two good one-stop shops are www.barmitzvah411.com and www.barmitzvahfindit.com
Lastly, before you set the date, make sure it isn't already taken! B'nai B'rith offers a calendar of Jewish holidays through 2005 (www.bnaibrith.org/caln.html). The Web is a wonderful resource for families celebrating this once-in-a-lifetime simcha. Now if it could just handle the seating chart.
Paul Wieder of the Chicago Jewish News contributed to this story.