July 15, 2014

A Bar Mitzvah Gift Guide: Hint, Money Makes a Good Gift

Everyone struggles with gift ideas when they get invited to a bar mitzvah, especially if they haven’t been to one in a while and are out of the loop, so to speak. Money is a good option but what is the appropriate amount to give? What non-monetary gifts do “young people” want these days? After talking to some boys that recently celebrated their bar mitzvahs, we have compiled this gift giving guide to help give you some suggestions.

The most common gift, of course, is money!  Traditionally monetary gifts are given in multiples of 18. In Hebrew, the word for “life,” “chai,” corresponds to the numerical value of 18. Giving a gift in a multiple of 18 ($36, $54, $180, etc.) is a symbolic blessing to the recipient for a long life.

So how much should you give? That answer always depends on how close you are to the bar mitzvah boy, how many family members are attending the simcha, and of course what you can allow yourself to give based on your financial situation. There is no straight forward formula, but here is some data that we collected:

Most friends of the Bar-Mitzvah boys that came solo gave between $18-$54, with a modal value, or most common gift of around $36. Couples gave between $72-$180, and families anywhere between $100 and $360. Of course there were a few close family friends and relatives that gave much more. Some people also gave $280. In Judaism, the number 28 numerically corresponds to the word “koach,” or “strength,” which is also another multiple people like to use when deciding on a gift amount. Monetary gifts came in cash, checks, Israel bonds and of course iTunes and Amazon gift cards.

Money is good, but some people like to add a personal touch to their gift-giving. We found that aside from money, other stand out gifts were often Judaic items. A sterling silver kiddush cup, a yad (pointer used to read from the Torah), a tallit, tefillin (phylacteries), and a handmade kippah (yarmulke) were among the favorite Jewish-themed gifts received by our bar mitzvahs. These were mostly given by close family members, so if you want to get any of these items, I would suggest checking with the parents of the bar mitzvah first. Many of these are items that may be given prior to the bar mitzvah ceremony so that the bar mitzvah boy can use them on his special day. Some other Judaic items that you can consider are a shofar, tzedakah (charity) box, Jewish books or even a new mezuzah for the bar mitzvah’s room.

Other Jewish-themed gifts included our favorite, Judaica jewelry. Usually given by close friends or family members, the most traditional jewelry gift for boys is a yellow gold pendant. When choosing their own pendant, boys generally pick a classic Star of David pendant, chai pendant or a mezuzah pendant. Some other great ideas are sterling silver Star of David cufflinks (that can be worn on his bar mitzvah), a sterling silver Star of David dog tag necklace, or a sterling silver chai ring.

A few other “honorable mention” gifts received by our new men of the hour were sports memorabilia, including signed balls or jerseys from a favorite athlete, a special trip with the bar mitzvah boy, a computer, and a console gaming system. We also saw people buy the bar mitzvah financial stocks, make donations in his name to a favorite charity, and plant trees in Israel in his honor.

For more ideas, check out our Bar-Mitzvah Gift board on Pinterest

What's the best bar mitzvah gift you received or heard of someone getting? Let us know! Here are some of our favorites below:

14K yellow gold Star of David solid pendant

A simple, traditional yellow gold Star of David is a great gift.


14K yellow gold chai solid pendant

Another simple design, this chai is a very popular men's pendant.


Yemenite Style filigree mezuzah pendant in 14K gold

A very nice 14K Yemenite style mezuzah pendant.


Sterling silver Star of David dog tag necklace

A contemporary style Star of David in the style of Israeli Army dog tags.


Sterling silver Star of David cufflinks

Jewish Star cufflinks. Bar Mitzvah cool factor: 10.


Oxidized silver chai ring

Silver chai ring. A man's ring.