Tuesday, February 2, 2016

It takes a village to plan a special bar mitzvah


Max's bar mitzvah is April 10. Am I calm? Kind of. The sleep deprivation has lulled me into a stupor. Thanks, Baby Ben! I'm also grateful for the people who've been lending a hand since we first started planning.

I knew I wanted to create a special ceremony for Max, but I wasn't sure where to start. Orlee Krass, director of education at Matan (a nonprofit geared toward educating Jewish children with special needs) met with us to brainstorm ideas.


I wanted to get Max a tallit (prayer shawl) from Israel. Paula, a longtime blog reader I've met in real life, was headed there on a trip and volunteered to go shopping. She and her cousin David hit a bunch of stores; we exchanged countless messages and emails until she found the perfect one. Her mother pitched in, too; Paula recently came home from work to find a voicemail message reminding her not to forget to mail Max his tallit.

My brother-in-law's sister bought a kiddush cup (a special cup for a blessing over wine) for Max in Israel.


Over the years, I've done work with the Tonka toy truck people. They generously sent Fireman Max eighteen fire trucks that will be used as table centerpieces (we'll tie red, black and silver balloons to the ladders). Afterward, Max is donating them to a local children's hospital. I think? Because right now, every time he looks at the giant box of them he says, "Mine!"

I needed someone to crochet Max a kippah with his Hebrew name on it for the ceremony. A friend from college, Monica, saw my request on Facebook—and offered to do it.

I also needed someone to make a "Fireman Max" kippah for the party. Max's art therapist, Diane—who used to work with him in his old school and re-found us through this blog—Googled and discovered the Etsy store Judaica Art by Molly. Molly made an incredible one for Max featuring his favorite fire truck, #31 (big reveal to come, Max wants to keep it a surprise—unless you happen to stop by our house, in which case Max will make me bring it out to show you).

My sister proofread the invite list, and my best friends Wendy and Hedy proofread the invite. My mushy brain could not be trusted.


After we got the invites, they sat on the floor of our living room for weeks because I couldn't find time to stuff them into envelopes. Hedy and Jill, another college pal, came over and did the job. Ben offered moral support from the comfort of his swing.

I may or may not have asked Sabrina and a couple of friends she had sleeping over to put stamps on the invites.  


I needed a photo of the logo for Max's bar mitzvah transformed into a vector (I am still not sure what that is) for a drawstring bag we're gifting kids. I crowdsourced on a local Facebook group. Some guy named Paul said he'd give it a shot. I emailed him the photo. Minutes later, he zapped me the vector image.

I needed to check out the suits Dave and Max had on hold at Lord & Taylor. My friend Paola—we studied together in Florence, Italy as juniors—came along. I hadn't planned to shop for a dress for myself. Actually, I've been dreading it (see: recently had a baby). Paola grabbed a dress off a rack and said it would be a good one for me. It was The Dress! Squeeeee! Now I just need to lose 10 pounds. Can I outsource that?

I requested recommendations for a good tailor on a local Facebook community group, and found a lovely woman who came to the house and helped alter Max's suit. My handsome boy.


Months ago I asked for ideas for a "mitzvah project" Max could do—a good deed in honor of his bar mitzvah. I got a lot of great suggestions, including one from Anony Mous who suggested that Max make a presentation at his school about fire safety. Max loved that idea. His speech therapist suggested he use both PowerPoint and his speech app, and we'll be working on that.

So thanks, all. We couldn't have done it without you.

And now: What should the baby wear to the bar mitzvah?!


25 comments:

  1. I know nothing about Bar Mitzvah's but could Ben have a little suit? That would be cute!

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  2. Mazel Tov on everything you've done so far! It all spends like it's going to be wonderful! I want to see pictures if everything, centerpieces etc... After. I'm a mitzvah theme lover. And the fireman theme is adorable. My mind is already whirling at the possibilities ( candy served out of firefighter hats, fireball candy of course....lol)

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    1. There will be pictures galore, I promise! And love the idea of a candy bar served out of fire hats—I am going to make that happen!

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  3. This is so touching. So many people wanting to be a part - even in small ways - to make Max's day special. You have thought of every detail!! I am sure there will not be a dry eye in the house from sunrise to sunset on April 10th.

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    1. So impressed you know that sunrise/sunset song!!! I keep wondering what I'm forgetting, I have to say. Lists are my friend. Invite coming sooooon! xo

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  4. Ben would make a cute Dalmatian at the party :).

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    1. Ha!!! Love it. But I think I might dress him in something a little more spiffy.

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  5. You are so fortunate to have such an amazing "village" of people from all different aspects of your life who care about you and Max so much!!! I am sure it will be a day to remember.

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  6. :-) Just 'cause the whole post made me smile.

    I also vote for a little suit for Ben, but he will be adorable whatever he is wearing as will the entire family. I hope we get to see picts!

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  7. Ben should totally wear a baby fireman costume. Or at least a tiny fire truck bow tie! Though my special needs are drastically different from max, I had an untraditional bat-mitzvah as well. Lots went wrong, but the great thing is that no one but the parents and rabbi even knew. I'm so happy for max to have this right of passage.

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  8. Oh dear... Make it easy on yourself! Put him in a cute little creeper, something easy to change if need be. Forget the suit or costume... This is Max's big day, not Ben's. You'll have plenty of time to shop for a suit for Ben in 13 years ;) Mazel Tov!

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  9. There is good logic here :) And then if there are any of a variety of mishaps, it is not a catastrophe.

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  10. Max looks very handsome in his suit and I like how his bandana looks like an ascot!! Very dapper! It's going to be an amazing celebration!!

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  11. Ben should wear a mini suit with an orange tie.

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  12. Will Max read from the torah?

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    1. No. There is no religious obligation to do so, it's a custom. I didn't see any reason to do that. He does not know Hebrew, for one. I also did not think it would be meaningful to him; creating a ceremony that has meaning to him is the most important thing, for me.

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  13. I love all of this. SO many of the kids I've worked with have been bar or bat mizvahed recently in adaptive ways. So exciting. Mazel tov!!!

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  14. I want everyone to know that the wonderful Kathryn sent me an email with photos of suits she found online, and I got one! So, THANK YOU. It comes with a regular tie, but I might just sub in a bow tie.

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  15. I'm so excited for you! I want to hear more about how you've made the ceremony meaningful for him! I love his Mitzvah project. Mazel Tov!

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  16. All I have to say is Fireman Max...tux...be still my heart! Beyond handsome!!!

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  17. Hi Ellen, Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful moments with us. It is also happy to know that the support you are gaining from others is just amazing.Keep going Ellen and Max.

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Thanks for sharing!