Big Ideas for Bar or Bat Mitzvahs

Are you planning your child’s upcoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah or other milestone celebration? Use that coming-of-age event as a means to give back.

Mitzvah events on the North Shore have long been known for their fun, festive parties shared with family and friends. And while Rabbi Steven Lowenstein of Glencoe’s Temple Am Shalom says he’s not opposed to grand events, he thinks the focus should be more on the “mitzvah” and less on the “bar.”

In the Jewish faith, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah marks a rite of passage, at age 13 for boys and 12 for girls. The child is viewed by his or her congregation as an adult, culminating in a ceremony rooted in the commandments and coupled with a mitzvah, a charity project of the child’s choosing.

Before you plan your child’s next Mitzvah, Quinceañera or Sweet Sixteen, consider these family-friendly, philanthropic and out-of-the-box ideas from some of the North Shore’s top party planners.



Ditch the stuffy suits after the service and head over to a local indoor sports venue. Invite kids to a jeans-appropriate event that all generations will appreciate. Rent a court, rink or even an indoor track by the hour for a fun, interactive, yet low-key bash to include pizzas, simple desserts and a whole lot of fun!

Sports-minded venues:

Chicago Indoor Racing
301 Hastings Drive, Buffalo Grove

Joy of the Game
158 S. Waukegan, Deerfield

Windy City Fieldhouse
2367 W. Logan Blvd, Chicago

Mitzvah-powered ideas:

Ask your guests to bring their gently used sports equipment, which will be donated to 25 Chicago-area organizations that support sports programs for under-privileged youth.

The Sports Shed, Inc.
(847) 791-7320



Instead of investing in pricey décor to replicate that woodsy charm of camp life, why not take guests right to the forest by booking a picnic or BBQ-style soiree at a local forest preserve or state park?

Venues with a picture-perfect backdrop:

Lakeview Center in Gillson Park
800 Gillson Park Drive, Wilmette

Independence Grove Forest Preserve
1899 Winchester Road, Libertyville

The Grove Redfield Estate
1421 Milwaukee Avenue, Glenview

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe

Mitzvah-powered ideas:

Joyce Pollakoff of Joyce Pollakoff Events, Northfield, created centerpieces for a recent camp-centric mitzvah using flashlights, sunscreen, water bottles and sunglasses which were later donated to summer camp programs for children from low-income communities. Guests received living trees as party favors to commemorate the occasion. “I try to get kids to connect to their charity so their mitzvah is important to them for life,” Pollakoff says.

SCOPE (Summer Camp Opportunities Promote Education) Inc.
5 S. Wabash Ave, Chicago


Music/Night Club/Theatre 

Let your guests fulfill their rock-star dreams and hire Live Band Karaoke, a lower cost alternative to pricey DJs or bands. This 3-6 piece high-energy band will take the stress out of taking the stage to entertain your guests all night long.

Venues that rock:

1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston

Viper Alley
275 Parkway Dr., Lincolnshire

Mitzvah-powered ideas:

Highland Park’s Randy Schuster of Randy Schuster & Associates suggests requesting donations to the child’s favorite charity in lieu of gifts.

Another idea: Create centerpieces from gently used musical instruments, and donate them to schools in need after the event.

Rock For Kids
314 W. Institute, Chicago

Merit School of Music
38 S. Peoria St., Chicago

The Music Theatre Company
1850 Greenbay Rd., Highland Park



This hot theme can be done at a discount by using items found in resale and vintage shops, colorful shopping bags and clothes hangers as props. Schuster suggests making centerpieces to look like magazine covers with photos of the girl on the cover for a personal touch of glam.

High-fashion venues:

North Shore Performing Arts Center
9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie

River East Arts Center
435 E. Illinois Street, Chicago

Chicago Illuminating Company
19 E. 21 St., Chicago

Mitzvah-powered idea:

Ask guests to consider donating used party dresses, shoes or accessories to The Glass Slipper Project, an organization that provides prom attire, free of charge, to Chicago high school students who are unable to purchase their own.

The Glass Slipper Project
311 W. Washington St., Chicago

  Who We Are       NFP Support       Magazine       Programs       Donate