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Promoting Mitzvot and Good Deeds
A Conservative Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

A bar and bat mitzvah party is also an opportunity do do good for the lesser fortunate and for the community.  Some bar mitzvah boys and girls ask their guests to donate to a charity of choice in lieu of gifts. Some use their celebration to promote the opportunity for others to join in doing good.  For example,  you may ask guests to bring old coats to the party and donate them to an organization that clothes the poor.

Variations on this theme: old eyeglasses can be put to good use. Call the Jewish Heritage for the Blind (718) 338-4999. They participate in a program that sends optometrists and crates of used glasses to the poor in third world countries.

Canned good food drives are easy to pull together. Tuck a note about the food drive into the invitation. At the party, set out a basket to collect the canned goods. There is a widespread effort to donate 3% of the party expenses or gift revenue to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and a food drive is a tangible way to build upon the contribution to Mazon.

Use centerpieces to display your commitment to doing good. Build centerpieces around posters, ads or brochures from charities who will benefit from the bat mitzvah celebration. On a card describe a donation of time or money that has been made to the organization (or a pledge based on expected bar mitzvah booty.)

Jewish charities abound. Each one has a different focus and serves a special need from infant health networks to Jewish teen crisis lines to meals on wheels for the elderly. Choose organizations with missions that mean the most to you.

Post-Party Good Deeds
s Wrap up leftover food for a homeless shelter.
s Save cake for a senior citizens center.
s Send flower centerpieces to hospitals or shelters for battered women.
s Donate a percentage of the cash gifts to charity. Allow the bat mitzvah girl to choose her own causes.
s Give extra kiddush cups and other double gifts to organizations that sponsor bar mitzvah ceremonies for poor children. There are some in Israel that put together celebrations for war orphans.
s Gather all the books that were received as gifts. Create a family book club and read through one book at a time. Start with the most interesting one first.

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