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Wednesday, May 12, 2021
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Rachel Carus enters a North Jersey party venue, a bag of games and party favors in hand. Rachel’s husband, Ari, follows her onto the dance floor lugging speakers and lighting equipment. Rachel begins conversing with the dancers and party hostess, discussing last-minute details regarding the evening’s itinerary. Ari begins to set up a DJ table, custom-built by Rachel’s father, that holds turntables, laptops and microphones. A bat mitzvah party is scheduled to start in an hour, and Rachel and Ari will be providing the night’s entertainment.

Rachel has always loved parties. “The year that all my friends had their bat mitzvahs was one of the best of my life,” she told me. “I love that I get to throw parties for a living.”

Rachel’s company, JAP Entertainment, has been enlivening bar and bat mitzvahs, engagements and other special events for 13 years. When she was just 15, Rachel was spotted dancing at her cousin’s bar mitzvah and was approached by the party motivator. “You should come work for us,” the motivator told Rachel. “Send an application to my boss.”

Rachel, excited at the prospect of getting paid to party, immediately applied for the job. To her disappointment, she was denied the role. “You’re just too young,” she was told.

Rachel was disheartened, but only temporarily. Sitting in class one day she decided not to let her age impede her ambition. She went home and announced her intention to start a party DJ company. Her parents were immediately on board.

“They were really helpful,” Rachel said. “My parents helped me get my equipment, set up my social media presence and phone system, and build a website. Where many parents would have dismissed this idea as a pipe dream, my parents were really supportive.”

The first gig was a friend’s 11-year-old sister’s birthday party. Rachel charged $50 and hired a DJ and a dancer, each of whom were paid $25. Rachel’s father carried her equipment. The party was a rousing success.

“Word spread from there,” Rachel recalled. People heard that JAP Entertainment threw a great party and had a knack for tailoring events to each honoree’s personality. Requests began pouring in, and Rachel scrambled to recruit more dancers, DJs and entertainers. She designed various party packages, built music playlists, and developed relationships with party vendors including event planners, photographers and artists. Her father drew up a boilerplate contract. Soon, Rachel was booking two, sometimes three parties a day and loving every minute of it.

Rachel met Ari at a Tu B’Av party in 2015. “My mother always told me, ‘All I want for you is to meet a guy who can carry your equipment’,” Rachel said with a laugh. “I knew that whoever I dated needed to learn to be a part of my company.”

In Ari, Rachel found someone more than up to the task. A fitness buff and break dancer, Ari is extraverted and projects boundless enthusiasm. In addition to schlepping JAP’s equipment, Ari has assumed DJ and emcee responsibilities. He seamlessly transitioned into the company, and now husband and wife throw parties side-by-side.

“The best part of this job is that I get to work with my wife,” Ari told me. “The worst part is party venues that don’t have elevators.”

For the last year or so, the COVID-19 epidemic put JAP’s activities on hold, but Rachel and Ari, who both hold day jobs in healthcare, are optimistic. “We’ve started to receive inquiries again now that many people are vaccinated,” Ari said. “We think things will really pick up this summer.”

Five hours after arriving, Ari dismantles the DJ table and unhooks the electronics while Rachel packs a giant, custom-made Twister board. Ari begins carrying their equipment back to the SUV as Rachel thanks and pays her staff. After a four-hour party, the two of them are spent but happy.

“The best part of this job,” says Rachel, “is that I get to relive my own bat mitzvah all the time. I really love making sure my customers have a party that they won’t forget.”

By Zvi Wiesenfeld

 

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