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Customary Greed

I used to work for a company owned by Lloyd.  One year I got invited to his son’s bar mitzvah.    Money was tight (Lloyd didn’t pay all that well), but I managed to cough up $100 to give as a bar mitzvah gift.

Two months later, I received a “thank you” note from the kid.    Or, at least I presumed it was a “thank you” until I opened it up.   I’ve long since thrown away the note, but it asked something to the extent “Thank you for the $100 check, but did I make a mistake in the amount?    Most guests gave considerably more money and should he be looking for a supplementary check?”

I got steamed and showed the note to Lloyd.  (He was a divorced dad, and I thought that maybe he wasn’t even aware of the note).  But he told me the “minimum” bar mitzvah gift is customarily $250 in his circles and if I couldn’t afford that, I shouldn’t have attended.    I told him, “Based on how much you pay me, you should know I couldn’t afford $250 and so exactly why did he invite me?”

He really couldn’t come up with a good answer.   And no, I didn’t send a “supplementary” check.    1217-09

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Sandra January 4, 2010, 9:22 pm

    If $250 is the minimum I’m glad I’ve never been invited to a bar mitzvah, or maybe that’s why?

  • dave January 4, 2010, 11:01 pm

    You should have cancelled the check. I’ve never heard of any minimum amount and sending that note was in very bad taste..you could have just sent him a letter congratulating him. Gifts are not mandatory, and that kid needs to learn some of the values behind being Jewish.

  • Bethama January 5, 2010, 7:52 am

    When I got Bat Mitzvahed, I had a non-Jewish friend give me a twenty dollar bill. Silly girl. Someone should have told her that I’d have been perfectly happy with $18 – the representation of “chai” (life), and one of my most common gift amounts.

    $250? Seriously?

  • Erica January 6, 2010, 10:43 pm

    There is absolutely no “minimum” for bar mitzvah gifts — the very idea is ridiculous. I guess greed and bad etiquette transcend cultural traditions…

  • M. January 6, 2010, 10:47 pm

    As if there isn’t enough anti-Semitism in the world without people like the bar mitzvah and his father exacerbating it.

  • Jordan January 7, 2010, 9:17 pm

    As if there isn’t enough anti-Semitism in the world without people like the author making up stories like this and submitting them to eHell.

    I’m well aware that there are people who complain of insufficient cash gifts, but the thank you note and the father’s reaction–not to mention the monetary figures–are so over the top ($100 from an employee viewed as rude) that I feel certain this story is grossly exaggerated.

  • Jan74 January 8, 2010, 7:02 am

    There are plenty of brides who act like this, or worse, when it comes to wedding gifts… so I don’t think it is necessarily made up that some of those people would continue acting this way for their kids’ parties – be it a bar mitzvah or a quinceanera or a sweet sixteen. Greed knows no ethnicity.

  • Dogface January 9, 2010, 1:37 pm

    I agree with Jan74. There are selfish, greedy people everywhere, in every group, and there are plenty of parents training their children to be entitled gimme pigs. This story is relatively tame to some of the stories I’ve heard.

  • Alexis January 11, 2010, 12:34 am

    I agree, I’d have cancelled the check.

  • Katrina March 20, 2010, 11:43 am

    You know Jordan, this story wasn’t a commentary on Judaism, it was about plain rudeness. Sort of like the rudeness you are displaying by calling the o.p. a liar and an anti-semite. Shame on you.

  • NotCinderell April 1, 2010, 1:34 pm

    No rudeness on Jordan’s part. You’ve got the classic anti-semitic elements: cheap boss, lavish party for greedy child, etc.

    Also, I had a large Bat Mitzvah party in the late ’80s and attended several others, and the customary gift then was $18 from the friends of the honoree. Adults would give $36, $54, $72, or possibly a gift (I also got luggage, beach towels, jewelry, a jewelry box, clothing, etc.). My well-to-do grandparents gave me a check for, I think, $1000, but that was obviously not what would have been expected from an employee of my dad.

    Nowadays, if I were a parent of a Bar Mitzvah-aged child, I’d probably write checks for $36 for their friends. If my whole family were invited to a Bar Mitzvah, I’d probably write a check for $54 or $72. I grew up in an upper-middle class background and probably live the same way today. Perhaps things are different in some of the wealthy communities on Long Island, but I highly doubt it. I think that there’s a very strong likelihood that this submission was fake.

  • Former Bat Mitzvah Girl April 1, 2010, 6:42 pm

    I would say, more than anything else, that the roundness of the amounts makes this story seem fake. As several people have mentioned above, $18 or multiples thereof are the expected monetary amount should the gift be monetary-so maybe it would be over the top, but $180 is a much more likely expected amount. For a non-Jewish guest to not know this is normal, but I can’t imagine someone saying $250 was the expected amount.

    I would dismiss it on the level of rudeness or lack of tact, but I’ve come to know better. However, this story does seem to play on anti-Semitic stereotypes of being cheap (the underpaying boss) and money grubbing.

  • Patti April 3, 2010, 12:35 am

    The $250 dollar checks that were the minimum were probably from relatives not employees but snobby mom didn’t think of that. She probably didn’t even know who you were making it even worse.

  • zhoen June 13, 2010, 4:42 pm

    Ah, I remember being told, when I worked in OR 18, by a patient, that 18 was a fortunate Kabbalah number. So $18 makes good sense. $250 does not. Sheesh.

  • Joel June 21, 2010, 12:50 am

    Wow, for my graduations, anything over $20 was quite the blessing!

    I am not Jewish, so I am not familiar with spotting fake Jewish stories, but if you feel the story is fake, you can still be tasteful in telling your concerns. Simply attacking the LW is a breach of etiquette in itself.

  • RP July 22, 2010, 3:04 pm

    No, Jordan was incredibly rude for accusing the OP of lying and antisemitism without having any proof. This story isn’t more outrageous than some of the other gimmie pig stories that have been on the site so why should this one be fake? The numbers may not make sense but when has a gimmie pig ever been logical in their demands for money?

    Back OT, the boss was skating on mighty thin ice by expecting his employees to give his son gifts. Hostile work environment much?

  • Adica November 17, 2010, 9:36 pm

    The numbers may not make sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Many people (especially the more wealthy ones) try to “get in touch” with their religious/cultural roots because it’s fashionable, not because of any religious beliefs. I mean, look at all the dog mitzvahs that are so fashionable with rich people. I’ve also heard a story from a friend about her ethnically Jewish friend’s family who decided to celebrate their Jewish heritage by celebrating Hanukah with a special dinner…of lobster bisque.

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