What’s an Appropriate Bar Mitzvah Gift?

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Dear Miriam,

Bar Mitzvah cake

Our son-in-law’s nephew is being Bar Mitzvah. We were wondering what the proper gift would be.

Signed,

Relatives Writing a Check

Dear Relatives,

There are certainly some standards and expectations for financial gifts, but these seem to vary by geographical location, extravagance of the festivities and closeness of your relationship. I know this because, though I’ve been to a small number of Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations myself, I asked several friends with more experience in this area than I have, and they all said some variation of, “It depends.”

First, though, I think it’s most important for you to figure out what you are comfortable spending. Ideally, you should feel like the gift you’re giving is an honest expression of your enthusiasm about the occasion and not merely an obligation or a reciprocating of past gifts of a similar size. Even when you’re giving something seemingly impersonal like a check, you should feel good about the gift you’re giving in addition to expecting that the recipient will also feel good about it.

Your son-in-law’s nephew is a relative of sorts, but you don’t say how close you are with the Bar Mitzvah boy or his family. If you see them regularly and have meaningful interactions when you do, consider a gift in range of $100-200 or even more if that feels comfortable and appropriate. Something in the $100 range is typical in many communities for adults to give to kids who are not relatives, so that’s also a fair gauge.

Because it’s a Jewish occasion, multiples of $18 are also expected and appropriate, as are numbers ending in 18 (so, for example $180 is a great choice, but $118 is also just fine). You don’t have to be bound by this, but it helps justify unusual amounts and gives you some creative leeway.

Mazel tov on the happy occasion, and be well,

Miriam