When Susan Leston was planning her son’s Bar Mitzvah she learned it was scheduled for the same day as one for a friend of his from hockey.
“The mother came to me frantic because the kids were going to have to choose and she didn’t want that to have to happen,” she says.
Although it took another seven years for her to launch JRegistry, she came up with the idea for an online calendar where people can share and see other Bar and Bat Mitzvah plans to avoid similar booking conflicts. While Jewish schools in the GTA already have an internal calendar, she says, it excludes other friendships like sports teammates or people their kids met at camp.
“If somebody else from camp was making it the same night, the friends would have to choose which party to go to and if your son or daughter happened to not be the more popular one it was a concern,” she says. “And even if they were, the friends still had to choose and some couldn’t come to yours.”
Since launching the website in September, she says they’ve gained over 250 members, have grown to include lifestyle content like articles on party trends and a vender registry filled with local caterers, photographers and entertainers.
Leston, who lives near Eglinton Avenue West and Bathurst Street, says she knew people would find out about her business through word of mouth so she took part in fairs, as well as local wedding and Bar/Bat Mitzvah shows.
“The Jewish community in Forest Hill is a great way to get the word out,” she adds.
As for the name, she came up with it as a spin-off of JDate, the well-known Jewish dating website. She wanted to keep it general enough so she’d be able to expand beyond Bar Mitzvahs, like this month as she’s adding a wedding date calendar.
“I had a feeling it would branch out,” she says. “I figured we would go to weddings, sweet 16s, baby namings, I wanted to be able to expand as far as the public would want us to go.”
Getting positive feedback and emails about how people appreciate the website makes it worth it, she says. She even received a message about two cousins who almost had their service on the same day.
“It would have been a disaster because then the whole family would have been split up,” she says. “So it avoided the conflict and everything worked for everybody but without JRegistry that wouldn’t have happened and so that’s why they called to thank us.”
In addition to continuing to help families, Leston hopes the site serves as a resource for information on a variety of subjects like where to donate gifts or how to fill volunteer hours for community service requirements. She says she also responds to specific questions via email like advice on doing a twinning, where local families support a struggling family in another country.
“No one’s ever done anything like this before,” she says. “It’s such a simple concept and I have people say the same thing over and over, ‘Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Like it’s so simple and it just makes like so much easier for everyone.”
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