B'nai Mitzvah Program
B’nai Mitzvah is one of many milestones along an individual’s Jewish Journey. The words Bar/Bat Mitzvah literally mean son/daughter of the commandments. It is a fundamental rite of passage, not only for the young student called to the Torah but for his or her family. The experience of Bar or Bat Mitzvah can be spiritually uplifting – it can be transformative by deepening the entire family’s knowledge, understanding and connection to Judaism and TBT. Temple B’nai Torah strives to partner with each family to help make the B’nai Mitzvah (B’nai is the plural) observance a meaningful stepping stone towards the family’s ongoing commitment to Judaism and each individual’s Jewish Journey.
Our goal is for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah students to become educated about Judaism’s ethics, traditions, and to feel comfortable in our synagogue’s activities. Historically, Bar and Bat Mitzvah is the ceremonial occasion that marks the time when a young person is recognized as an adult in the Jewish community and is responsible for performing mitzvot (the commandments of the Torah). At Temple B’nai Torah, the B’nai Mitzvah ceremony takes place within our regularly scheduled Shabbat morning (Shacharit) worship service.
To enable you to focus on the most important spiritual elements of this very special simcha, the staff of Temple B’nai Torah works with you on the many different aspects of the occasion.
Preparing for Bar or Bat Mitzvah
Cantor David Serkin-Poole oversees B’nai Mitzvah training. All specific questions regarding training and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony should be discussed directly with the Cantor. The process of preparing to be a B’nai Mitzvah begins early at Temple B’nai Torah. We expect our youth to have attended and successfully complete four (4) years of Hebrew and Judaic studies, either at our Religious School or in another program that is approved by Cantor Serkin-Poole and the Director of Lifelong Learning. Each student must complete 6th grade and be registered for and attend our Temple’s 7th grade class sessions or, if age-appropriate, participate in Livnot Chai (our community High School Program). We expect all B’nai Mitzvah students to fulfill all 7th grade attendance requirements, regardless of whether these students are enrolled in public or private school. Cantor David Serkin-Poole and Director of Lifelong Learning, Debra Siroka, will work individually with students and their families if alternative educational arrangements are needed.
Every student, as part of the Sunday morning curriculum, during the 2nd half of their 6th grade year takes a class taught by the Cantor. This class includes instruction in the philosophy of B’nai Mitzvah, the mechanics of the service and proficiency in reciting/chanting the prayers. In addition to these classes, the Cantor arranges appropriate private lessons with him and/or the Temple’s tutors. As the date of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah approaches, the student will meet with Rabbi Lipper for 6-8 sessions to prepare the D’var Torah. The Gemilut Chasadim Mitzvah Projects will be developed as part of the Shabbat morning 7th grade Torah class and monitored by our facilitator.
We require our B’nai Mitzvah youth to attend at least two Shabbat or Holy Day services per month for the six months immediately prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date. Regular attendance in our 7th grade class usually satisfies this requirement.
As our “Philosophy” makes clear, B’nai Mitzvah is but a stepping stone in a life of learning Judaism and being Jewish. Therefore, we expect our students to continue with their Jewish education past the Shabbat service through to 10th grade (Confirmation) and Livnot Chai school.
Your Family’s Participation
As we stated in our “Philosophy”, preparation for Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a working partnership among the student, the family and the leadership of Temple B’nai Torah. Your involvement in the training process and in connecting more closely with the Temple community during this period is crucial.
In January of the 6th grade year, you will participate in a one session B’nai Mitzvah class with Rabbi Lipper. This is to enhance parental understanding of the details of the B’nai Mitzvah service and to build relationships among parents going through the experience in the same year. This class takes place on the first week that your student begins their Sunday sessions with the Cantor.
Each family is expected to serve as ushers at least once during the year for services and provide morning snack for the Saturday session.
Because sometimes, families want the same date, we may “pair” students for their ceremony. A paired B’nai Mitzvah is a wonderful opportunity to share this simcha with another family and to expand your own connections within the congregation. By contacting your partner family early in the process you can jointly agree on such logistical issues such as food, set up of the Temple’s Oneg and Social Halls, table flowers, video and photographers, etc.
Topics covered in parent component of B’nai Mitzvah Orientation:
- B’nai Mitzvah is a milestone for the entire family
- Interfaith, Multifaith and Other Jewish Family Issues
- Planning a Meaningful Party
- Writing your Divrei Kodesh
(Class is mandatory for all families)