Boston-based venture capitalist Andy Goldfarb has a side hustle: He’s the founder of home holiday resource Breaking Matzo, a labor of love that he works on during weekends, nights and days off. The website helps families create meaningful, magical holidays at home, from crafts (personalized kiddush cup, anyone?) to recipes. Little-known fact: While studying in Japan as an exchange student, he worked with soy sauce manufacturer Kikkoman to make it kosher.
“I even cooked soy sauce for the emperor,” he says.
Now, as the father of two grown daughters, he wants to share his love for Jewish holidays, fostered when he was a child.
“Jewish home holidays have been an incredible passion of mine. I loved Passover. I loved Sukkot. With my family, we actively celebrated the holidays, and we cooked all the time. Breaking Matzo started with my children: At Passover, I would write a custom Haggadah every year,” he says.
He began to share his work on social media, and it took off.
“I gave blessings to people by contributing ideas to their seder, and they gave blessings to me,” he says.
He’s expanded his site to offer bar and bat mitzvah insights to make the event less stressful and more personal. (That is the point, right?) His hope is to make these special rites of passage “magical, meaningful and memorable.” Not morose, morbid or maddening.
If you’re overwhelmed with planning, costs, interpersonal woes, family dynamics or squabbling with your child over visions for the event, Goldfarb offers a mantra: “It should stimulate the mind, touch the heart and uplift the soul.”
The most important thing, he says, is to make sure it’s personally significant. For instance, he had an “extravagant bar mitzvah, but unusual. My parents moved our cars out of our two-car garage, swept it and decorated it. The kids’ party was downstairs in the basement. My uncle, who was a rabbi in Israel, made freshly baked challah. It was sweet and simple.”
So, how can you have a bar or bat mitzvah that’s significant, not stressful?
Step one: Stimulate the mind. This involves understanding the history of the bar or bat mitzvah, he says.
Step two: Touch the heart. “The heart is the Torah. Connect with text that has been around for thousands of years, but make it meaningful to you. Find something in your heart that connects with the words on the page. If you can do that, you teach the congregation,” he says.
Step three, and perhaps the most important: Uplift the soul. Remember, this is about your child’s journey, not yours, he says. (Goldfarb refrained from reading either of his two daughters’ speeches, even after one speech vanished with lost luggage after a family trip and needed to be recreated from scratch.)
“Many parents interfere too much and are too heavy-handed. It’s about the kid. Remember what matters the most. Parents might think it’s their social event and overlook the interest of the kid. Ask, ‘What’s good for my child? How can I help them go from being a Jewish child to a Jewish young adult?'”
If you’re still overwhelmed with logistical woes or wondering whether Aunt Debby will cause a scene on the dance floor because the event wasn’t to her liking, take a pause.
“Close your eyes, go to a quiet place and try to imagine the feeling that you would like your son or daughter to have at the end of the day,” he says. “The bar or bat mitzvah is about the beauty of unique expression. If your kid wants to do something unique, you should be so proud that he or she wants to do something meaningful. You don’t want them to just follow the course.”