What is the Right Amount of Money to Give for a Bar Mitzvah in 2023?

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Struggling with how much money to give for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration? There’s no need to overthink it. We’ve got a guide for you to keep it simple. Let’s get to it!

What is a bar mitzvah?

A bar mitzvah is a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony for boys who have reached the age of 13. In this ceremony, the boy is recognized as an adult member of the Jewish community and is responsible for observing the commandments of Jewish law. The term “bar mitzvah” means “son of the commandment” in Hebrew.

During the ceremony, the boy typically reads from the Torah, the Jewish holy book, and may lead prayers or deliver a speech. The boy may also receive gifts, and a celebratory meal or party is often held afterwards.

In some Jewish communities, girls also have a coming-of-age ceremony at age 12 or 13 called a bat mitzvah, which is similar to a bar mitzvah but with some variations in the traditions and rituals.

What is a typical Bar or Bat Mitzvah gift?

The typical Bar or Bat Mitzvah gift includes:

  • Money in a significant amount ritually but not necessarily quantity-wise
  • Money towards a trip to Israel
  • Money for college expenses
  • Money to start a savings account
  • Money to buy their own personal gift of choice

As you can see, all of the above typical gifts include money. Jewish culture isn’t the same as American culture in the way they view money gifts.

In American culture, it can be considered lazy or thoughtless to give a cash gift to someone. It is better to give the person something that they’ve expressed a want for, or something that’s related to a hobby or interest of theirs. It shows that you’ve put some thought and consideration into it and didn’t just simply come up with it last minute.

On the contrary, Jewish culture does not view money gifts in the same way. It is convenient for busy lives and gives the recipient the freedom to spend the money how they want rather than being restricted to a gift that only has a single particular use. It’s a win-win for both sides, and I agree with it. Why make anything harder than it needs to be and restricts its utility further for more work?

Check out some creative ways to give cash gifts.

How much is the typical Bar Mitzvah gift amount?

The typical Bar or Bat Mitzvah gift amount depends on how close you are. Family members are generally expected to give more, but you also have to take age into account. Younger people are not as financially independent and thus are expected to give less.

The usual amounts range generally from $36 to $540. Whether you’re gifting the higher end or the lower end of the range is completely up to you and subject to your own judgment. A lot of the degrees of relation and familiarity with the recipient are not quantifiable by anyone but yourself or your family.

Here’s a quick table reference for how much you should give for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah depending on your relationship to the person.

RelationRecommended AmountsMultiple of Chai
Father, mother, brother, sister$126 – $5407x – 30x Chai
Second-degree family members$108 – $3606x – 20x Chai
Adult family friends$90 – $1805x – 10x Chai
Adult acquaintances$72 – $1444x – 8x Chai
Young friends and classmates$36 – $722x – 4x Chai
Children of adult acquaintances$36 – $72 (or none)2x – 4x Chai (or none)

Notice that for children of adult acquaintances on the last row, it’s understandable not to have them gift anything or to simply combine their gift with the parents who are acquaintances of the recipient.

The range in the recommended amount is usually due to different factors. In certain locations, such as areas with higher economic status, the expected gift amount is usually higher. You definitely should figure out how much other people are giving, to make sure you do not under-give. Another indicator for how much you should give is how lavish of a party it is going to be. It is generally expected for you to give enough to cover the cost of the food.

What increments of dollar amounts do you give for a Bar Mitzvah gift?

When you gift money as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah gift, it is customary to gift it in increments of $18.

Why are Bar Mitzvah gifts given in increments of $18? What is Chai?

It has to do with the Hebrew word for ‘life’ or ‘living’ which is Chai. Chai has both numeric and symbolic meaning. The word Chai consists of ‘Chet’ which is 8 and ‘Yud’ which is 10, so added together that is 18. The word Chai is also one of the most iconic symbols in Judaism.

It is relatively a recent tradition to be giving gifts in increments of $18, and it symbolizes the gift of life as well as money.

Is it the same for Bat Mitzvah?

The increments of $18 also applies to Bat Mitzvah as well. You are wishing the gift of life upon the recipient.

Should I gift cash or check for Bat or Bar Mitzvah?

You may be wondering if you should be giving the gift money for a Bar Mitzvah with cash or a check. The good news is, you can do either, whichever is more convenient for you. Since all gift money should be in increments of $18, you would need to get the exact amount from your bank, if you are giving the gift in cash.

Checks are often given due to the safety of the money, cash can easily be stolen, while checks cannot. It is typical for the parents of the child to start a Bar Mitzvah fund for them to deposit the money into and keep it safe.

What are some alternative gifts for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah?

  • Jewish educational books
  • Jewish cookbooks
  • Charitable donations under their name
  • Gift cards
  • Jewelry
  • A Dinosaur Menorah

That last one is serious! It’s all up to you to make it as personal or impersonal as you want. Personally, I prefer cash as a gift as I’m sure many guys and girls on their Bar/Bat Mitzvah would too, but as with any kid who’s raised well, they’ll be grateful for your support no matter what you give them on their big day.

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