I haven’t been to a bat mitzvah since my cousin’s ceremony and party back in 1987. The event was held steps from the Brooklyn Bridge, before the neighborhood came to be known as Dumbo, and I remember it as a sea of off-the-shoulder Laura Ashley dresses (wildly sophisticated compared to my woefully inferior puffy-sleeved “white is for babies” choice for the festivities). There was an epic musical chairs battle. And my first slow dance with a boy that ended in an awkward kiss just as the lights went up. Somewhere there is a VHS tape documenting the whole thing in grainy detail.
Next week, said cousin and I will be up in Providence, R.I., celebrating her niece’s bat mitzvah. (Millie is also my “niece” but is technically my second cousin. Confused? Ask me to explain some time, and/or the fact that I myself am not Jewish but have Jewish family members!)
I have been told by reliable sources that the thing to do is give cash, in amounts that are divisible by 18 because the Hebrew letters for the word chai (meaning “life”) are numerically equivalent to 18.
I’ve also been told that jewelry is welcome as long as you’re not a shiksa giving a Star of David pendant (noted). Someone told me to check out the options at Modern Tribe, and Judaica WebStore reliably has a gazillion sure things, including this necklace that got the thumbs up from someone I trust—it spells out the celebrant’s name in English and Hebrew.
I liked the idea of giving Millie a charm, and in March I found something perfect at the JA New York Show: a diamond hamsa set in 24k gold–plated silver. A sacred symbol of protection that also acts as a conduit for good luck, peace, and prosperity seems just right for my beloved niece, who is so smart, kind, and lovely. I have a vivid memory of her crawling up to me when she was 16 or 18 months old, pointing to the chain I was wearing and saying, “Pitty neckiss.” Just a few years later, she would steal the show as the flower girl in my wedding, picture-perfect in her navy-and-white party dress.
Below are some more bat mitzvah jewelry gift ideas that seemed youthful and feminine, tasteful and classic. And most are coming in under $200!
Having done this research and surveyed the myriad options, I think a bat mitzvah jewelry gift should be chosen with the idea that it’s something the recipient will wear now but hold on to forever. Even if it’s just a souvenir, a little tarnished maybe, but like youth itself, irreplaceable.
Top: Nothing but Love gold-filled beaded bracelet with enamel heart, $92; Bonnie Jennifer
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