When I was first told about Hillel’s annual Bar Mitzvah party, I was nothing but excited. “A Bar Mitzvah party with the classic cheesy music, decorations and games? Cool. Bucky’s going to be there? Awesome! I can’t wait to go to that event.” But I was quickly reminded that I would not only be going to the event, I would be planning it.
As the UW Hillel Foundation’s Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow, planning programs is just part of the job. Some are small, low-key and more intimate. Some, like the annual Bar Mitzvah party are anything but small. Last year there were approximately 350 people at the second annual “Bucky’s Bar Mitzvah Party”.
This year, it was up to me and a planning committee of students to made the event happen all over again with just as much success, if not more. The name was changed the Badger Bar Mitzvah and the date set for April 21st, and with that I opened the inch-thick file that held the paperwork and notes from the past two yeas and set to work figuring out how to make this even happen. The ultimate goal would be to have an event that celebrated a timeless tradition in Jewish culture and one that was fun, educational, and hopefully something that any student on campus (regardless of religious orientation) would want to attend.
The planning committee consisted of approximately 10 students who met weekly to establish what the event should look like and the kind of ambience we wanted to set up. Ruthie Edelstein, a freshman from California, is one of those students. “At my first Badger Bar Mitzvah meeting we discussed possible venues, our exciting theme and most importantly, how the event was going to be more than just an average party… Throughout the weeks leading up to the event we would each work on our respective jobs including food ordering, publicity or decoration planning. …[we] made the big decisions.”
The chosen theme was Hollywood, decided upon partially because of the opportunity it afforded for hopelessly cheesy decorations. Ruthie and her fellow committee members really got into the spirit of the bar mitzvah party. “A Badger Bar Mitzvah went Hollywood! There was a sign in board, like at all Bar Mitzvah parties, with a picture of the Bar Mitzvah boy, Bucky, accepting an Oscar. We gave out glow sticks, served Bar Mitzvah cake, and most importantly, lifted our mascot Bucky, who made an exciting hour-long appearance, on a chair.” And, perhaps the most fun part of planning the event was participating in the end result. The planning committee had a great time encouraging everyone to enjoy the sunglasses and inflatable microphones, as well as dance the night away on the venue, Pizzeria Uno’s, dance floor. Brain Avner, a senior from Chicago confirms the good times had by all by saying “Over four hundred people came through the doors of Uno’s that night in what is sure to be a night they won’t soon forget… Between the dynamite dancing, Bar Mitzvah cake, glamorous guests, delightful Hollywood-style decorations and Bucky himself, it was impossible for anyone not to have a mind-blowing time”. It was also a chance for these students who had put In so much hard work to see It all pay off.
In the end, the size and spirit of the event proved to be a huge success, but the most important element of getting through Badger Bar Mitzvah was getting the students involved in making it happen.
As an “engagement professional” my job is to get students involved in Hillel on their own terms, and BBM (as the planning committee came to call it) did just that. A freshman from the Minnesota confirms “It was exciting to see everything come together at the end, and to be at the event and think, 'I helped make this happen'. As a freshman, it was a nice opportunity to get involved at Hillel, and meet other students.”. So, with plenty of notes to add to the file for the next JCSC Fellow to look over for next Badger Bar Mitzvah, I am certain that not only did this Hillel event make an impression on all of the partygoers, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, it most certainly allowed a group of students to make their impression on Hillel. And, with any luck, they will continue to be involved for many Badger Bar Mitzvahs to come.