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How Much to Spend on a Bar Mitzvah Gift

Updated April 17, 2017

In the Jewish religion, a bar mitzvah is a rite-of-passage whereby a boy becomes a man. When most Jewish boys turn 13, they lead a special Jewish service and then celebrate the occasion with a party. Although some Jewish boys enjoy the religious responsibilities of a bar mitzvah, others like their bar mitzvahs mainly because of the parties and the gifts they receive. For people who plan to attend a bar mitzvah (or the female equivalent, bat mitzvah), remember to bring a present. Gift amounts vary based on your relationship to the Bar-Mitzvah boy and other Jewish traditions.

Your Relationship with the bar mitzvah Boy

Although Bar-Mitzvah gifts often fall into a few common categories, you must consider your relationship with the child having the bar mitzvah to decide the best gift. Approach the bar mitzvah as if you would approach any major birthday. If the bar mitzvah is like a son to you, consider a more meaningful gift. While this does not necessarily mean a more expensive gift, feel free to spend generously within your means if you have a special relationship with the bar mitzvah.

If you are more of an acquaintance than a close friend, opt for a less-expensive gift. Search for a meaningful item under £16 that you think the Bar-Mitzvah boy will like. When in doubt, give a gift token or money.

Multiples of 18

Many people give cash or checks as Bar-Mitzvah gifts, in part because Jewish tradition encourages bar mitzvahs to donate some of their gifts and gift money to charity. As you decide how much money to give the bar mitzvah boy, consider the number 18. In Hebrew, the word for life is "chai." Jewish mysticism/numerology assigns number values to different Hebrew letters. Added up, the letters of chai equal 18. Therefore, according to tradition, checks or gift tokens for £11 or in multiples of 18 will pass good luck onto the bar mitzvah boy.

For a more personal and symbolic gift, buy a tree in Israel from the Jewish National Fund. The JNF will plant the tree on behalf of the bar mitzvah for £11 (as of 2009). Trees come with certificates of authenticity.

Traditional Gifts

If you have knowledge of Judaism, consider a traditional Jewish gift such as a shofar (a horn made from a ram's horn) or a yarmulke (a Jewish skullcap). Jewish books are another option. Prices for these items vary depending on the materials used, the place of manufacturing and other factors. Since many people buy traditional Judaica for bar mitzvahs, price points will range from high to low. Ask the Bar-Mitzvah-boy's parents for some traditional gift ideas if you have limited knowledge of Judaism.

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About the Author

Alexander Grouch is a freelance screenwriter, journalist and children's book author. He currently writes music reviews for "The Red Alert." Grouch has visited all 48 contiguous states and plans to document his journeys in a travelogue. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Africana studies from Brown University.