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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Destination mitzvahs could be Cancun’s next travel niche

A 3-day event was cheaper and less stressful than what a N.J. family would have found at home

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DIY mitzvahs are a growing trend, and Cancun could find a new travel niche. Photo: Courtesy

Cancun may have found yet another niche in the travel industry — bat and bar mitzvahs for Jewish families who don’t belong to a synagogue.

A family from the United States found inspiration from destination weddings.

“We’re not that religious,” explained Tracy Dansky, a mother of three in Livingston, N.J.

When her son Max reached the right age, the Danskys had a beachside bar mitzvah in Cancun.

They hired Ellen Paderson, a Massachusetts-based specialist in destination events, to handle the ceremony at an all-inclusive resort.

“It was a really great time,” said Dansky, whose family hosted 35 friends and relatives in March. The five-day getaway also included a golf outing and a sunset catamaran cruise. Max’s ceremony was officiated by a retired rabbi.

And it was economical compared to a blowout event at home.

“It cost less than doing a fancy party like people do here” in New Jersey, Dansky noted. “It was a more economical choice, and it lasted longer.”

B’nai mitzvahs that take place outside the traditional framework of synagogue and Hebrew school are a growing trend. Rabbi Gidon Isaacs, of Temple Emanuel of Cherry Hill, N.J., calls the shift generational. Younger Americans “are not joiners,” he said. “They weren’t raised with membership as a value.”

The opt-out mitzvah can take many forms. Most families hire a rabbi or cantor for private or small-group tutoring, and to officiate. Six months to a year of weekly sessions is typical — though some children study for years, approximating the depth and breadth of Hebrew school. Venues are golf clubs, banquet halls, destination resorts and even private homes.

“People are getting more into doing it outside of a temple,” said Paderson, whose b’nai mitzvah business has exploded in the past 15 years. Like others who cater to DIY families, Paderson handles everyone from interfaith families to special-needs children who aren’t comfortable in Hebrew school. 

All-inclusive Mexican resorts, cruises and Italy are favored destinations; Paderson works with local officiants as well as a cantor who tutors via Skype and flies where needed. The average family spends US$3,000-$5,000 on the event, with an additional US$2,000-$3,000 for the preparation and clergy.

The Cancun trip was stepping it up a notch compared to the ceremony the Danskys had for their two elder girls: They had rented a private room at the Lucky Strike bowling alley on Times Square.

Source:  Jewish Exponent

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