Mazel Tov—There’s a celebration coming up in your family!

But before the happy day arrives, you’ll be faced with many nitty-gritty decisions about hosting a celebration and about how to spend money. Jewish lifecycle events represent key moments when we can reinvigorate ancient rituals with a modern sense of community and values or we can get lost in cultural expectations that emphasize the material over the spiritual.

Each year, thousands of American Jewish families plan simchas – weddings, b’nai mitzvah, and other celebrations. These celebrations create cherished memories for us and our loved ones. They affirm connections between the generations, celebrate children’s growth, bless wonderful relationships, gather extended families, and connect and reconnect us to Jewish traditions and to our communities.

Whether you’re planning a small family gathering or a large event for friends, you’ll encounter dozens of choices about how to invite your guests, where they’ll stay, what they’ll eat, and how you’ll celebrate together. This guide will help you integrate Jewish values with those decisions.

Our advice in every section is illustrated with real-life stories from families across California who have found creative ways to celebrate b’nai mitzvah, weddings, and commitment ceremonies that exemplify Jewish values.  Your dollars can go to work in the world in ways that are both green and just, and your celebration can be an expression of Jewish values: of tzedakah (righteous giving), of modesty, of not wasting, of honoring workers, and of kindness to animals.

This guide is adapted from the Green & Just Celebrations guide published by our partner in Washington, DC, Jews United for Justice, and written by their local members. Our adaptation gathers new, local ideas and resources for Californians from a range of print and online sources, and from progressive Jews in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Look in this guide for suggestions that are right for your event, your family, and your community. We know it can be daunting to plan a simcha (celebration), so we’ve broken down what you need to know to evaluate vendors and make key decisions about the details of your event.

One of the biggest challenges of making conscientious spending decisions is balancing cost against the impact on the world. Sometimes a green choice will cost less than the conventional item or service, and other times going green will cost a little bit more. We hope this guide will help you identify the areas that your family cares about most and offer some green and just possibilities that won’t break the bank.

Every family is different. Some will choose to implement many of the ideas in this guide while others will find just a few that speak to them or that turn out to be feasible. Bear in mind Rabbi Tarfon’s advice, “It is not your task to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Mishnah Pirkei Avot 2:21).

Dayeinu: That Would be Enough

If you are able to choose a venue where workers have a voice on the job — dayeinu!

If you opt for Fair Trade Certified™ flowers — dayeinu!

If you help guests share rides there and back — dayeinu!

If you ask your caterer to use local and organic ingredients — dayeinu!

This is a special time in the life of your family.  It is also a precious opportunity to grow more mindful of the ways that everyday choices can both connect us with our traditions and help us live our values.

You have already been blessed with a reason to celebrate. Now, use this guide to reflect that blessing outward, into your community, your city, and beyond. Welcome guests to a celebration filled with meaning!

Throughout this guide, specific organizations, businesses and online sites have been listed for your convenience. We’ve made every effort to research the entities we recommend. That said, please do your own homework before deciding to designate resources to a particular vendor or website.


“Blessed are You ... who has granted us life, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.”
--Shehechiyanu blessing

"And you shall reduce, reuse, and recycle with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your resources. And concern for the planet that I command you today shall be upon your hearts. And you shall teach sustainability to your children and speak of it frequently: when you sit in your energy star rated home, or when you ride your bike to work, when you go to sleep and when you wake up. And you shall have a non-disposable mug as a sign on your hand and an organic cotton hat to shade your eyes."
Moshe Kornfeld
A Jewish Tree Hugger's Plea

What about the ceremony? What about the service?
This guide does not address the ritual decisions Jewish families make when planning weddings, commitment ceremonies, and bar and bat mitzvah celebrations, although these choices, too, of course, are a wonderful opportunity to creatively express your values. See Resources for a list of ritual resources.

Have a story to tell about your own green and just Jewish celebration? Have ideas you’d love to pass along? Email