Bnai mitzvah that matter

Age-old Jewish practices meet up with cyberspace, modern psychology, 21st-century business and contemporary spiritual inclusion in Rabbi Goldie Milgram’s new book “Make Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah.”

The book’s subtitle states Milgram’s pointed purpose: “A Personal Approach to Creating a Meaningful Rite of Passage.” The breadth of Milgram’s strategy quickly unfolds.

Milgram’s strategy requires a group effort on behalf of the b’nai mitzvah student. Parents, teachers, tutors, extended family and friends are seen as allies in the creation of a highly personalized rite of passage. And for those who might not come to the process with a support system in place, Milgram has concrete suggestions for creating one’s own community.

The author outlines a solid foundation of traditional Jewish values and rituals — and then the customizing begins. Student and support groups are ready to start creating a “BMAP,” or Bar/Bat Mitzvah Action Plan. The process of creating that plan, she writes, “increases enthusiasm, reduces conflict, facilitates cooperation, and expands the vision of what is possible.”

The action plan, she explains, is “based upon an ancient Jewish model for understanding religious experience by considering four essential dimensions” — emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical.

Milgram tells how to explore everyone’s needs in the emotional, intellectual and spiritual dimensions before plans are made in the physical dimension. “When the student and immediate family or support team take the time to establish satisfying goals and objectives for each of the first three dimensions, then it is possible to truly determine the logistics necessary for successful implementation.”

Finally, the book covers the aspects and angles of the party. The rabbi explores all avenues to encourage a celebration that is likely to engender deep, long-term satisfaction and foster few regrets.

“Make Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah” is packed with boxed “Tips” and “Traditions” that range from curing tone-deafness to leveraging your donation dollar. Information-age resource possibilities abound, from the Web site to Case histories from people of all ages bring alive the joys and dilemmas of planning plus avoidable pitfalls.

A 24-page resource guide at the book’s end contains Internet and bibliographic resources, including an online Jewish calendar and an extensive glossary with transliterations and translations. The book’s only obvious omission is an index. However, the material is logically organized and easy to refer back to.

The guidance of “Make Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah” would be invaluable for a student of any age, but an adolescent would likely need the assistance of an adult to navigate its processes. Milgram is careful to address both youthful and mature b’nai mitzvah students, but “Make Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah” is adult in its language, concepts and ambition.

For example, the book incorporates up-to-the-minute organizational and management concepts of today’s business world. Such terms as “mission statements,” “best practices” and “team building” are invoked if not by name, then by reference.

“Make Your Own” offers a respectful, step-by-step guide to a custom-tailored and memorable milestone. While most useful in its entirety, many of its components could stand on their own. The personal reflection exercises, for example, would be interesting and helpful to anyone seeking deeper self-knowledge. The tzedakah opportunities are global in scope and appropriate beyond the bar/bat mitzvah realm.

“Make Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah” nourishes individuality and personal Jewish identity within the safe haven of a loving team of planners. This book could be a treasured resource for a broad range of b’nai mitzvah students and their support teams.

“Make Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah: A Personal Approach to Creating a Meaningful Rite of Passage” by Rabbi Goldie Milgram (272 pages, Jossey-Bass, $19.95).