Teen Bar and Bat Mitzvah (B'nai Mitzvah)
Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a special time in a child’s life as s/he makes the transition to Jewish adult status. It is also a time for your entire family to reconnect or to strengthen your relationship with the Jewish community. It is a time for the whole community to celebrate and welcome a new “adult member” to the Jewish world. It is a time for study, demonstrating commitment to Torah and the Jewish people, and for celebration. On the day of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration at PSJC, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be called to the Torah for an aliyah, read the maftir portion from the Torah, chant the Haftorah, and share a teaching in the form of a D’var Torah. B’nai Mitzvah youth are also encouraged to lead parts of the service.
The Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony can take place either on Shabbat morning or at mincha (the afternoon service) on Shabbat. In January of children's 5th grade year, students and parents will attend a meeting to discuss the date selection process for Bar and Bat Mitzvah at PSJC, as well as various options and opportunities for this celebration.
The PSJC Shaarei Mitzvah program is an opportunity for all b'nai mitzvah students and their families, whether in PSJC's Hebrew School or attending a Jewish Day School, to create connections and explore the themes of becoming a b'nai mitzvah. Beginning in the spring of the 6th grade, Shaarei Mitzvah events include student-only programs, as well as family programs, and provide an integrated experiential education opportunity for students in the Hebrew School as well. Click here for information on PSJC Shaarei Mitzvah.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a recognition of the moment when a Jewish child reaches a certain level of maturity and understanding about Jewish life. As such, in addition to halachic requirements (i.e. that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah youth must be Jewish according to the standards of the Conservative movement, and have reached his/her 13th birthday by the celebration date according to the Jewish calendar). We ask that each Bar/Bat Mitzvah has attended religious school (in our Hebrew School or Jewish Day School in a program acceptable to the Rabbi) for a minimum of five years.
We also feel it is important for B’nai Mitzvah and their families to be a part of the larger PSJC community. Therefore, we ordinarily ask that families be members of PSJC for two years prior to the celebration of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
In order to become familiar with the basic outline of Shabbat morning services and the life of the synagogue community, B’nai Mitzvah students (along with an adult family member) should attend services, either at Junior Congregation or the main service, at least 30 times during the two years prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date. At least half of service attendance must be in the main sanctuary.
A few months prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah, students will meet with the Rabbi to prepare a D’var Torah. It’s never too early, though, to begin studying one’s Torah portion! The Rabbi also works with individuals to discuss ways you and your family and friends can participate more fully in the service on the day of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. From reading Torah, leading parts of services, creating readings, there are many opportunities to participate. Rabbi Carter is also happy to walk through the service with you to help you and your family better understand service itself. A child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a wonderful opportunity for all in the family to learn.
Rabbi Carter will happily assist a family in finding a suitable tutor to help prepare for this day. PSJC tutors range in experience and skills and can work with students to learn their haftarah, Torah reading, elements of the service, and supplementary Jewish knowledge. Families arrange fees and tutoring schedule on a one-on-one basis with their tutor.
There is a $600 Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee. This covers meetings with the Rabbi, the B’nai Mitzvah coordinator, use of the synagogue, and the Sha’arei Mitzvah program. As this is a community celebration, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family is expected to sponsor a kiddush lunch or the community after services in celebration of the event. This should be arranged through the PSJC office.
Becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not only about counting in a minyan or being able to participate more fully in the ritual life of the community. It is about taking on a personal obligation to live as a Jew in every aspect of one's life. Mitzvot (commandments) are not only about ritual behavior, but about ethical responsibility as well. In addition to participation in Shabbat services and teaching through a dvar Torah, students are asked to create a personal mitzvah project. Through this project they can give something to the broader community at the moment of taking the first steps as an adult member of the PSJC community. These acts of Tzedakah (justice/charity) and Gemilut Hasadim (acts of loving kindness) mark a personal commitment to making mitzvot an integral part of a student's life. Some examples organizations that have been the focus of some past Mitzvah Project include: Wells Bring Hope, AJWS, Peace Passers, and Charity Water.
For more detailed information and resources, see PSJC's B'nai Mitzvah Guidebook.
PSJC's first Adult B'nai Mitzvah Group
Adult Bar and Bat Mitzvah
PSJC periodically convenes an Adult B'nai Mitzvah group for adults who were unable to celebrate bar or bat mitzvah when they were teens. Participants meet regularly with the Rabbi throughout the year and take on the responsibility to learn to read Torah and/or Haftorah and lead parts of the Shabbat morning service. The class culminates in a group Adult B'nai Mitzvah celebration, where the participants share leadership in services, Torah reading and Haftorah. PSJC members who are interested in adult bar or bat mitzvah should contact the Rabbi.