It turns out when your grandma is a celebrated event planner, the sky’s the limit.
“It’s amazing, because she could get anything I wanted, and she’s super creative,” said Laci Robbins of Lynnfield, who worked with her grandmother, owner and operator of Donna Kagan’s Elegant Touch out of Marblehead, to create the bat mitzvah of her dreams. “I was very involved with every decision.”
Kagan enjoyed working with her granddaughter, whom she thinks picked up some of her party planning panache. “Laci was an integral part – we really didn’t do anything without her,” said Kagan, her voice brimming with naches. “She understands what’s involved in doing these things because she grew up knowing I’m in this business. She understood a lot of the pieces that were out there. Whereas most 12, 13-year-old kids have no clue whatsoever, she was fully aware because we are the total party family.”
On Nov. 10, 2018, after months of working closely together, the party family was finally ready to celebrate this important milestone.
Laci’s bat mitzvah began on a Saturday evening at Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody, where she had been studying with Rabbi Richard Perlman and Cantor Steve Abramowitz. Laci and her mother Shari, a management consultant, decided to hold the religious ceremony in the evening rather than the morning because they felt logistics would run more smoothly that way.
“It worked better for us and our lifestyle to have it altogether,” said Shari. “We’re breaking tradition a little bit – we are Conservative – but the thought of just having to focus on one event, one outfit, one guest list, just seemed a lot more organized and easy to plan.”
Wearing her late father’s bar mitzvah tallit and a custom-made silver leather yarmulke, Laci led a service that combined parts of Shabbat morning and Havdalah services. Laci’s Torah portion was Vayeitzei, in which Jacob dreams that God has extended a ladder from heaven and invited him to ascend. Jacob refuses, feeling that God is as important on earth as He is in heaven.
Laci worked with Rabbi Perlman to craft a D’var Torah that stressed the importance of treating everyone – regardless of appearance, personality, or ability – with respect and kindness. This topic is personally meaningful to Laci, who has worked to create an inclusion program at Lynnfield Middle School by spending time getting to know classmates with special needs, and encouraging her peers to follow her lead.
After Laci gave her speech, Shari followed suit by sharing a few words about Laci. “My speech was not about what I’ve taught her or the woman that I want her to one day be,” said Shari. “It was more about how she, as my firstborn, has taught me how to be a mother; to go outside my comfort zone sometimes. She’s shown me through her authenticity, her innate kindness, and her unconcern for drama that these are qualities that make others want to be around you. I wanted Laci to know how much she’s taught me as I go through my own life, while watching hers unfold.”And just like that, in less than two hours, the culmination of months of diligent preparation was over. Everyone threw candy at Laci, chanted, “Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov,” and she could finally relax.
“It all happened very fast – I wish I could’ve slowed down a bit,” she said. “After the service, it was kind of relieving because it was done, but at the same time, I worked for all those months for just two hours.”
All 150 guests went straight to the party at the Boston Marriott Peabody, where Kagan had worked her magic. The theme of the party was “Beats by Laci,” a reference to the popular “Beats by Dre” brand of headphones. As party favors, all guests received a special “Beats by Laci” pair of headphones, in addition to other fun swag. Laci chose that particular theme because she loves music, and the Marriott Peabody is a former nightclub.
According to Shari, every detail at the reception was designed to get people out of their seats and onto the dance floor. Speeches and toasts were kept to a minimum, and instead of seated desserts, caterers circulated the room with delectable treats like warm chocolate chip cookies and ice cream bonbons.
A mix of sugar, great music, and general simchah kept everyone dancing well into the night. “The party went pretty great,” said Laci. “The DJ played very good music, no one was bored, and all my friends said they had a really good time.”
Laci, who will continue her Jewish education at Temple Ner Tamid’s Hebrew high school, is proud of what she accomplished: “It took a lot of perseverance at some points, but it was definitely a fun journey to go through.”