New Jersey Jewish News
Mitzva in 3D
When Herbie Boll of Livingston says, “I just loved everything about it,” he is talking about his bar mitzva the excitement as he prepared for the service and the way he participated in the planning for the whole event but “most of the reason I loved it was that it was about Israel,” he told NJ Jewish News in a phone interview.
Planning Herbie’s bar mitzva scheduled for this past September, the Boll family of Livingston knew they wanted to do something different for the party that would follow the ceremony. “We wanted to bring Judaism back into the forefront instead of Hawaii and grass skirts,” said Randy Boll, Herbie’s mother. “We wanted it to be more about the mitzva than the bar,” she added.
What they chose to do was to honor Israel, which the family visits almost yearly and where Herbie’s father, Henri Boll an Americanized version of his Israeli name Bolimovsky was born. Decorating the tables were 23 soft sculptures figures and scenarios composed of bits and pieces bought here and abroad mostly illustrating contemporary Israeli life, Jewish holidays, and Bible stories.
“We started this three years before the bar mitzva,” Randy Boll explained. After the family decided on a theme, they made it a point to scour the tourist shops on their trips to Israel. And, she said, “we brainstormed. We have many books, including Judaica catalogues from Sotheby’s auctions.”
They then turned to someone who could make their visions part of the celebration the artist/owner of Abby’s Designs in Roseland.
“We asked Abby Sanders to put centerpieces together using what we brought back,” said Randy Boll. “We gave her Kiddush cups, mezuzas, miniature prayer books anything I thought could work.”
Herbie and his sister, Adina, “attended every meeting we had with Abby,” said their mother.
“It was a lot of fun. It was the second bar mitzva of all my friends and they were just very excited,” Herbie Boll put in, participating in the conversation on the upstairs extension phone. “I love every detail Abby put into it (see photos). Everyone had a good time and everyone had a lot of energy, which kind of uplifted me. My dad really got into it, and he loved to go to stores [in Israel] and pick out little Haggadot and prayer books.
“My family came up with the idea, but Abby put it together.”
For the family, the project had many payoffs. “When we finished,” Henri Boll said, “instead of flowers, we had something meaningful made in Israel, so we also helped the economy.” Summing up the family’s major motivation, Randy Boll explained that in all the Jewish denomination streams, “one thing that unites us is the beauty of our tradition leave out the conflicts and emphasize what unites us.” Adina is 11, “and we didn’t know what theme she was going to do,” but now, she said, “we’re already planning for her bat mitzva.”
In an interview with NJJN, Sanders, who has been working on party design for 38 years, emphasized the uniqueness of the experience for her. “In all these years, this is only the second time I’ve been asked to do an event with a Jewish theme,” she said. “The Bolls are so inspiring. They did so much research on their own. It was a really lovely experience.”
The Bolls donated most of the sculptures to local Jewish institutions so they can be seen and used at other functions, Henri Boll said. “We gave the holiday sculptures to our synagogue, B’nai Jeshurun,” in Short Hills. The family kept a few of the sculptures, gave two to area Jewish day schools, and donated the rest to the Women’s Department of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey now on display at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany for visitors to enjoy.
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