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Points of View
’Tis (always) the Season
My Point of View--October 8, 2003
© Rabbi Jack Moline

Our bar and bat mitzvah season is about to start up again, and I enter this one filled with fond memories of my children’s celebrations. Hundreds of thank-you notes later, our family remains overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of family, friends and just acquaintances who gave Jennie, Julia and/or Max a gift in their respective turns.

It is sometimes hard to come up with something meaningful and creative for kids, and so we all fall back on the sure-fire gift cards and on-line credits. A contribution to tzedakah is always appropriate, but you may prefer something tangible. If you know the child’s interests, it is easier to select a more personal gift of sports, music, reading, art, or whatever. But what do you get for a child you don’t know quite so well?

Here is a list of suggestions that may inspire you, culled from our own experiences as well as conversations with others.

  • An Israel Bond. This investment begins at $144 and goes up. It is a lovely gift from a group of friends.
  • A US Savings bond. They begin around $25. Purchasing these bonds is about to get more difficult – they will be available only on-line. Here’s a hint: send the bond to yourself, then give it to the child as bonds do not indicate who purchased them.
  • A fountain pen. The classic gift, and it preserves the memory of my father’s livelihood.
  • A Bible, with or without commentary. You would be surprised how few Jews actually own a Bible.
  • Membership in the Jewish Publication Society. The publisher of an extraordinary range of quality Jewish fiction and non-fiction offers books as a benefit of initial membership and deep discounts on future purposes.
  • A DVD/Video of a good Jewish film. Most kids have never seen “Gentleman’s Agreement,” “Duck Soup” or even “The Pianist.”
  • A museum membership. Okay, maybe they will go only once – but you will have put the idea in their head. Consider the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a way of supporting the museum and preserving memory in another young Jew.
  • One month of a pre-paid college tuition plan. Parents are probably loathe to suggest this gift, but if you make the offer, your check really does go to the ubiquitous “college fund.”
  • An alarm clock. A Swiss Army knife. Tools for the garden, household repairs or a hobby. A watch. A cookbook.
  • A classic Jewish text. A reference book in hard copy. The book you loved in high school or college. Okay, they will roll their eyes now, but that book will sit on the shelf until the spark of adolescence is kindled into the flame of intellectual curiosity.
  • A flag flown over the United States Capitol. Contact your Senator or Representative.
  • An autograph of someone famous – particularly if he or she is a good role model.
  • Day-you-were-born/day-you-had-celebration material, such as coins, newspapers/magazines, or stamps. They give the child a sense of his or her place in current events, which is the rough draft of history.
  • A functional ritual object – yad, tzedakah box, havdalah candle. It is a Jewish occasion, after all!
I am sure you have your own list of favorites to give, and your own list of favorites to receive. If you share them with me, I will publish another list in the spring. Meanwhile – mazal tov to all celebrants!

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