Ask Helen: Your Questions Answered

Dear Helen:
I come from a large family with three uncles and lots of cousins. Every b’nai mitzvah is a chance for someone to show off how rich they are with a bigger and bigger party. I want mine to be small, and I want to ask people to donate some of the money they would have given me as a gift to social justice charities that I would select. My mother says I will embarrass everyone if I say that. What do you think?
— Grossed Out

Dear Grossed Out:
The adults are missing the point of growing into adult- hood. Showing off wealth has nothing to do with the spirit of Judaism.
If you pontificate, the grown-ups might write you off as self- righteous or snotty, which won’t make them listen. Consider a short email saying how important it is to you that the family use the occasion as an opportunity to express their values. Explain that’s why you went small. Ask them to channel their gift money into tzedakah to make the world a better place. You might ignite a volatile discussion about politics by your choices, but it’s a big step ahead of measuring whose matzah balls are bigger. PS: Your relatives may not appreciate you, but in my book you’re officially a junior mensch!

A resident of eugene since 1981, Helen is a member of Temple Beth Israel, where she studies and speaks on Torah. She claims to have black belts in schmoozing, problem- solving, and chutzpah. She’s a writer and an artist ( Please email your questions to helen@yourjewishfairygodmother. com and check out the blog at


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