What’s the latest trend in bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs? The traditional Jewish coming-of-age rites of passage are starting to resemble destination weddings. Families are literally taking the show on the road for a fraction of the cost of renting a banquet hall, hiring a band, and providing catering. These days, most standard mitzvahs showcase the child reading the Torah in front of the entire temple – including hundreds of strangers, followed by a themed party at a rented banquet hall or restaurant costing between $20,000 and $100,000.
Jodi and Alan Katz of Marietta, Georgia wanted something different for their son Zach’s bar mitzvah. They figured people would have to travel long distances to the ceremony anyway – so, why not go somewhere else together? They invited 35 relatives and friends to join them on a cruise to Mexico. The family paid a travel agent $500 to book the airline tickets and cruise reservations for the guests – who paid their own way. The cost: $10,000 – for what was really a one-week vacation with friends and family.
The trend is quickly catching on. Travel experts say that families are booking bar mitzvah sightseeingtrips to Spain, Costa Rica and the Caribbean, ski trips to Colorado, dude ranch roundups in Vermont, and pilgrimages to historical places like Kaifeng, China, the site of an ancient Jewish community.
However, not everyone likes the idea. Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin calls them “elopements,” and says that taking a bar mitzvah trip basically removes the child from their local Jewish community. Still, the Katzes said it was the best decision they could have made. The trip was less stressful for everyone, and a lot more spiritual – because they could really focus on their family and friends, instead of planning an enormous party.