Posted by: Debbie Abrams Kaplan | November 19, 2015

Kaplan Family Bat Mitzvah Spotlight

For those who following this blog and our Bat Mitzvah journey, you may remember that I often referenced They do Bar/Bat Mitzvah profiles. I have no desire to be featured there, but I did want to do a similar profile here. If you haven’t read theirs, you might want to do so before reading this, otherwise this post will make very little sense.

Some examples:

Jessica’s Shoe Gallery Bat Mitzvah

Brooke’s Bat Mitzvah

The Candy Bat Mitzvah

Okay, so now that you’re primed!

The Kaplan family of New Jersey celebrated Dori’s Bat Mitzvah.

The Theme

Dori decided not to have a theme (other than “I’m reading from the Torah and becoming a member of the Jewish community”). When pressed at mitzah fairs, though, she contemplated telling people she chose a “cow” theme.


So instead Dori chose the color orange for her Bat Mitzvah kippot and lunch tablecloths, with no particular colors or theme for the dinner celebration. The lack of a theme meant that many congregants and guests had nothing to talk about all day, and they thought the Kaplans were not very clever.

The Invitation

Dori’s invitation had seeds embedded in it, so that everyone who got an invitation would be able to plant it and grow flowers. But when the Kaplans tried this, they were stuck with a soggy mess that failed to bloom. Such is the luck of those with black thumbs.

The invitation we used, but this one is obviously not customized yet!

The invitation we used, but this one is obviously not customized for us yet!

Mitzvah Venue

After the morning service, the Kaplans hosted a Kiddush lunch at synagogue. Later, the Kaplans had a party for out of town guests, family and kids at a restaurant. Locals said “huh?” Because it’s a restaurant and not a typical Bat Mitzvah venue. The party was spread over two floors, partly to give those who might be annoyed by the loud music another place to go, but really because there wasn’t enough room for everyone on one floor.

The dance floor was large enough for six people to dance comfortably, hence the hora was the smallest you’ve ever seen. And the tall Kaplans almost gouged their heads on the low ceiling when getting thrown around in chairs, since the building was from the 1800s. #horafail

Mitzvah Logo


Mitzvah Decor

For lunch, the Kaplans spent hours upon hours Mod Podging tissue paper to bottles collected over the previous months (Dad Mark was happy to help do this instead of watching professional basketball on TV), filling them with sand and pictures from Dori’s mitzvah project, plus flowers and balloons which Debbie bought at Trader Joe’s and the dollar store, and crammed into her car.


The talented Kaplans made their own lunch table decorations. This is before it’s set up, of course.

The room looked much better once it was completely set up, but we couldn't take pictures because it was Shabbat.

The room looked much better once it was completely set up, but we couldn’t take pictures because it was Shabbat.

For dinner, the Kaplans threw some Gerbera daisy plants from ShopRite on the adult tables, tied with a festive ribbon from the Christmas Tree store (yes, the irony). These made awesome favors the next day for the Mother’s Day brunch.


The kids’ decor included bags with colorful tissue paper so they could take home their photos and lollipops, which had their table number on it. Unfortunately the bags hid the table numbers, so the kids were confused about where to sit. But they’re smart and figured it out. The kids ate their lollipops as appetizers (which wasn’t the Kaplans’ intention), and left the bags behind, stuffed with dirty socks used for dancing (see below).


The party:

The photo booth was a big hit, even though the photo booth photographer was really surly. And the balloon guy was popular too, even though he showed up 15 minutes late because he took public transit from Brooklyn and then went to the Kaplan house, not the restaurant several miles away. Fortunately a neighbor saw the guy wandering around the street with a giant crab balloon (see below) and took pity on him, as he recognized him as the guy who made balloons at the local diner when his kids were younger. He drove him to the party. The most popular balloons were the fighting narwhals worn on the head.


A guest models the balloon narwhal.

stephanie crab

Two overgrown children model the dance floor giveaways and the giant crab balloon for the Bat Mitzvah girl.

In a sign of a successful party, the socks passed out to the kids were disgusting by the end of the evening. Or maybe the venue just needed to clean its floors better.


Mitzvah Music:

There were no paid dancers, and shockingly, the adults and kids figured out how to have fun on their own. Cousin Erica led the kids in a line dance. That’s not the actual line dance below. It’s just some drunk adults dancing to Shout, while the kids got scared away and hid by the bar.

Yup, it's Shout!

Yup, it’s Shout!


The family made no grand entrance, and the Bat Mitzvah girl was not carried in by any dancers on their shoulders. Nor in a golf cart. Nor arm in arm with paid dancers. Nor with a selfie stick. Nor was there an entrance video. Amazingly, the guests could still identify the Bat Mitzvah family.

Candle Lighting Ceremony:

Nope. Didn’t do it. And we’re pretty sure the guests didn’t care.


Didn’t happen.

Special celebrity guests:

Ha ha!

Mitzvah Project:

Dori raised more than $4,500 selling her beaded jewelry in person and on Etsy, with matching funds provided from Dad’s employer. The money went to Breaking the Chain Through Education, an organization that rescues child slaves in Ghana. As favors, the girls all received bracelets that Dori made specifically for them, with Mom making a donation to the cause for each one. The boys got decorative Chinese take-out containers filled with chocolate. It was a hit.



Some advice from Mom: I think I said everything I needed to say here.

Vendors: The following vendors helped to make Dori’s celebration special. If you give any of them a call, please let them know you read about their services on LettersFromNJ.

Party Planner: Debbie Kaplan

Centerpieces: Debbie Kaplan

Florist: flowers sourced from Trader Joe’s, arranged by Debbie Kaplan

Music Entertainment: DJ working his way through graduate school

Invitations: online – (we’ve now had 3 friends order through this company, and we’re going to use them again for the next mitzvah. The company should pay us a commission!)

book: Snapfish, compiled by Debbie Kaplan

Cake: none

Dresses for Bat Mitzvah girl: Century 21 and Macy’s

Tallis: Purchased from the National Museum of Jewish American History in Philadelphia, but you can buy it online too. Here it is in blue.

Dress for Mom: store at Newark Liberty International Airport, Terminal C1 

Brother Zack’s sportcoat/tie: his closet

Dad’s suit: his closet

Hair/makeup: Debbie Kaplan


  1. You are such a great writer Debbie. I’m cracking up!!! You know I live in Springfield so my kids went to tons of bar mitzvahs. I was amazed at how elaborate they were. I don’t think I’ll be able to throw a wedding for my daughter’s that will compete lol! Sounds like yours was a huge hit! Congrats to Dori! Keep writing, I love reading it!

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