Bar Mitzvah Bouncers

Bouncer with headset

This kind of brawn is not needed...in most cases.

I now know that my middle son’s recent bar mitzvah celebration, which I had thought was well planned and executed, was lacking in one way. Sometimes you just don’t know what you are missing until someone points it out for you. That is what happened when I spoke with a friend from New Jersey today.

My friend and I were comparing bar mitzvah notes, since her son became a Jewish adult just a few weeks before mine did. I mentioned that the only thing that caused our celebration to receive less than a 100%/A+ on the bar mitzvah grading scale was our teen guests’ two timing us. It turns out that another boy from my son’s school (one my son does not know), was having his bar mitzvah party at the next door hotel at exactly the same time. We had not been made aware of this ahead of time by the hotels’ event planner, and none of my son’s friends had alerted us that they had been invited to both parties. At a certain point during the evening, we noticed a couple of unusual things. First, many of our teenage guests seemed to be disappearing and then reappearing. And second, some of them reappeared wearing and bearing party favors (funny hats, oversized sunglasses, gaudy faux gold chains) that we were not giving out.

“Didn’t you hire bouncers?” inquired my friend. “What do you mean ‘bouncers?’ I’m talking about a bar mitzvah party, not an exclusive New York night club,” I replied, honestly having no idea what she was talking about.

party motivators

Very "Keeping Up With The Steins." These are party motivators (different job and profile than bar mitzvah bouncers).

It turns out that my friend, like all the parents of bar mitzvah age children in her New Jersey community, include bouncers alongside DJ’s, food, party favors, invitations and centerpieces on their bar/bat mitzvah party essentials list. Apparently, parents think it is well worth the extra few hundred bucks to ensure their (the parents’, not the teenage guests’) enjoyment and peace of mind. By hiring bouncers, they (unlike me, who once I figured out what was going on, was torn as to whether it was my job to play the heavy with the kids who were running across the dark parking lot between parties, or whether it was their parents’ responsibility to teach them how to be gracious guests) are able to focus on family and friends and savor the simcha.

Thankfully, the image in my mind of hulking, scare-the-s–t-out-of-you tough guys was dispelled once I started doing a little internet research on the bar mitzvah bouncer phenomenon. It turns out that, at least in the case of the largest and most established such outfit (Bar-Mitzvah Bouncer, Inc.), the bouncers are all professional teachers who take on this weekend moonlighting to supplement their meager salaries. Although they do act as a security outfit, and some of them appear pretty beefy, they dress like the teams of clean-cut, young Mormons I see around Palo Alto – only the bouncers’ freshly pressed shirts are bar mitzvah blue, rather than missionary white.

Bar Mitzvah Bouners 016

A Bar-Mitzvah Bouncer, Inc. bouncer on the job.

While the only mischief I had to worry about was my son’s friends’s enjoying two parties for the price of one and joyriding in the hotel elevators, many New Jersey parents are motivated to hire bouncers by rumors of teenage hanky panky. According to a 2005 article in The Record, a local Bergen County publication:

The rumors have been a boon for Evan Wofsy, a middle-school teacher from Livingston, N.J., who doubles on weekends as the Bar Mitzvah Bouncer, a tamer of 13-year-olds at fancy affairs.

Anxious parents, including plenty from North Jersey, hire him to make sure kids don’t misbehave on the bus between the synagogue and the banquet hall, or in the bathrooms, alcoves and parking lots outside the party room. He gets enough calls to keep him and a few teacher friends chaperoning well over 200 parties a year.

“Do the kids try and make out? Oh, absolutely,” Wofsy says. “But more than that? It just doesn’t happen. I can’t say what goes on when I’m not there, but even when the kids tell me the stuff they’ve heard, they admit they’ve never actually seen any of it happen. I think things get fabricated: One thing happens and overnight, there are 14 versions of the story, none of them accurate. That’s how middle-school kids are.

“Not that these kids don’t keep me busy. They have food fights, throw things out of the bus window, wrestle, put toilet paper rolls in the toilet to clog it, pull fire alarms or break things or hurl party favors at each other. I’ve got to tell you, keeping these kids from being sexual is the last thing I have to worry about.”

Charming. Seems that the impact of the “Today I Am a Wo/Man” speech and fanfare about thirteen-year olds becoming Jewish adults fizzle out on the short ride between the synagogue and the party venue.

Maybe New Jersey parents swear by bar mitzvah bouncers, but I would have to agree with Y-Love, who recently tweeted on Twitter about these guys , saying, “It’s kind of sad that we need this, klal Yisrael.” Given the demographic of Y-Love’s fans and audience and the mode of his message’s delivery, I think it is being directed primarily at the teens. As it should be.

© 2009 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “Bar Mitzvah Bouncers”

  1. Evan Wofsy Says:

    Just wanted you to know that I love this article. Please call me when you can 973 758-9800 is the office or my cell 201 232-5705 All the best, Evan ( Owner)

  2. hetaher frieman Says:

    this company started was i was young and look its still going strong and they are SIMPLY THE BEST 20+ years later !!!!

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