The Most Meaningful Bar and Bat Mitzvah Gifts EVER: Ethical Sourcing and Becoming a Child of the Commandments

That Perfect, Most Meaningful Gift - Whatever Your Budget By Karen Akst Schecter

The Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremony, or, more accurately, the occasion when a child is called to the Torah as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, is the Jewish coming of age ritual, marking when a child becomes an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community, responsible for fulfilling the commandments and taking full moral responsibility for his or her own actions. Although many of us know that there are 613 commandments, few know every one of these commandments; they range from those regulating relatively minor day-to-day matters to those that are profound, whose observance make the world a better place. In the latter category fall commandments to beautify the holy, thus making it holier, to help those less fortunate, and to honor the Almighty and one’s fellow man in all things one does. In essence, the foundations of Jewish social justice.

As they prepare for the special day, our young adults are learning not only to read Hebrew, to chant their Haftorah and/or Torah portions and about Jewish practice and ritual, but also about Jewish ideals and values. As part of their education, many of these students perform a “Mitzvah Project,” a project in which they live the ideal of social justice and “Tikkun Olum” – to save one life is to save the world.

And what better way to reinforce these ideals than by introducing to these young adults the principles of fair trade and ethical sourcing and the ideals they represent? The fair trade movement reflects not just the ideal of respecting one’s fellow man, but the highest and most righteous degree of charity as well: to support others by endowing them with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with them, or finding employment for them, in order to strengthen their hands until they need no longer be dependent upon others. This is the highest level because, if we can’t take care of those less fortunate, faith is futile and righteousness in question.

In essence, learning about ethical sourcing and fair trade will build a bridge into the secular world, helping our young adults connect their Jewish values to their everyday life regardless of their level of observance.

Bar or bat mitzvah celebrations have become an occasion to give the celebrant a commemorative gift. While gifts of cash and secular items have become common place, we know first hand from feedback that they give us that B’nai Mitzvah celebrants cherish the more spiritual items and that we shortchange them when we worry that these gifts might be “too religious.” A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is, after all, a uniquely Jewish, uniquely spiritual, event. By giving a fair trade or ethically produced creation as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah gift, you will help to perpetuate the Jewish Ideals that the young person learned as he/she prepared for this special day.


1. Tallit (prayer shawl): Traditionally bought by parents or grandparents, the tallit, the prayer shawl that you wrap yourself in, can be a tool to help you connect with and express your spirituality. A fair trade tallit handwoven by Mayan artisans adds the element of social justice to inspire and enhance your prayer experience.

2. Colorful or understated kippah hand crocheted by Mayan artisans: colorful, fun, and cool to boot.

3. Yad (Torah Pointer): Used to keep one’s place while reading the Torah, a privilege only accorded a person once he or she has attained the age of the bar/bat mitzvah, a perfect memento of one’s first public appearance as a Jewish adult. Choose one handmade from silver, with the essential prayer “Shema” surrounding it, appealing to the B’nai mitzvah’s identification as a Jewish adult, one handcrafted on the island of Bali following fair trade principles, or from our collection of yads handcrafted in the US and Israel.

4. Shabbat Candlesticks: It is the duty and honor of a Jewish adult to participate in the lighting of Shabbat or holiday candles; a perfect homage to this rite of passage.

5. Kiddush Cup: Like the Shabbat Candlesticks, it is a duty and an honor for a Jewish adult to recite the Kiddush as we welcome Shabbat; a gift for now and tomorrow.

6. Tzedakah Box: Giving charity, or tzedakah as it is called in Hebrew, is a fundamental mitzvah or commandment of Jewish life. Help enhance and beautify the performance of that mitzvah with a handcrafted tzedakah box – perhaps one the artist calls “Lovingkindness”?

7. Jewelry: There are many pieces of jewelry, handmade or fair trade, that reflect the aesthetics of a teenager while reflecting Jewish identity and values. Among them, a Dog Tag Necklace: Shalom — May our children finally see a world of peace, or a Fair Trade Silver Star of David Necklace or earrings or fair trade bracelets: A perfect way to combine one’s religious identity with the social justice ideals.

8. Just for fun: After all, while they are entering the world of Jewish adulthood, they are still children! A shofar makes a sound that touches our heart and makes us laugh; a Thanks for the Chair Tambourine is a unique and fun way to honor the egalitarian movement enjoyed by many denominations – even a purse made from old Israeli LPs! And a menorah that is fair trade, perhaps the quintessential Tree of Life, or one that is both a puzzle and a beautiful way to celebrate Hanukkah now and for years to come, regardless of where they may be as they embark on their adulthood.

9. The Aesthetic Sense Gift Card: Can’t decide? Let the new adult decide instead! Available in any amount, it is common to give in multiples of 18, since the gematria, or numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for “life” – “chai”- is the number 18. May be used in-store or online.

Visit us in store or online for more inspirational ideas for gifts for all occasions that are Goods for the Soul.

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By Karen Akst Schecter

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