Bar and Bat Mitzvah at Beth Chaim
B’nei Mitzvah are truly special for Beth Chaim’s students. In our tradition, young Jews do not “have” a bar or bat mitzvah. A girl becomes a bat mitzvah, and a boy becomes a bar mitzvah. It is not only performative; it is transformative. A Bar or Bat Miztvah become responsible for his or her actions in a different way, a deeper way, a mode that will set their compass for the choices they make as they move beyond their parent’s walls, find their paths to their special role in the world, and begin their own families. At Beth Chaim, we look at the nature of mitzvah (“obligation”) with an eye to setting spiritual practices of sharing, learning, and acting kindly towards others in the hearts of our young adults.Attention is paid to the practice of tefilah (“prayer”) and blessings, as a pathway to nurture awareness and create habits to help in times of trouble. We explore how to be a mensch, and that most central of mitzvot, to treat all people as created b'tzelem Elohim, in the image of the Creator. Students connect becoming bar or bat mitzvah with the commitment to lifelong practice, the observation of mitzvot as the path to living a rewarding life. We aim both to share the richness of Jewish tradition and to assist them in crafting a meaningful response to the plethora of mitzvot, all designed to guide us in creating a holy community and leading a life of gratitude, sanctity and joy.
In keeping with this change of status, preparations take place on all levels to welcome our young adults and give their families an opportunity to experience this event as truly awe-inspiring. B’nei mitzvah families meet as a group and with Rabbi Dan separately as they explore what it means for one family member to take on this new and powerful identity. Students prepare to lead prayer, read from our Torah scroll, share reflections about the texts, and take on new responsibilities. To facilitate all of this, our program requires attendance at the Beit Midrash for at least three years of religious school classes prior to entering the Bar Mitzvah program. Attendance through May is expected, regardless of B’nei Mitzvah date. The expectation is that the year is begun with a reasonable grasp of Hebrew reading, and tutoring will be recommended in the spring for 6th grade students who have not yet mastered this skill. Students coming from other synagogues or with extensive background in Hebrew consult with the Rosh Beit Midrash (Head of the school) to determine ceremony timing and class placement. The B’nei miztvah training includes:
- "Jew Crew" — On Sundays, Jew Crew combines Tikkun Olam (social justice) experiences and environmental education (such as hiking), along with volunteer opportunities at Beth Chaim. Midweek, it focusses on honing skills for the ceremony: Torah chanting, and making Jewish ritual a dynamic part of one’s life.
- Monthly B’nei Mitzvah Family Class — Students and at least one adult are expected to attend a monthly class and potluck, held on Sundays. Here we form our community, learn about the whole class, study together, and kvell (rejoice) as our young people take the lead into the future.
- Attendance at Shabbat services — At least 12 Shabbat morning services and 6 Friday night services before the bar or bat mitzvah.
- At least 12 hours of volunteering for Beth Chaim as a family.
- Attending private trope and D’var Torah study sessions.
- Participating in the B’nei Mitzvah Tzedakah Fund.
A complete guide to the B’nei Mitzvah program, including details of all requirements, can be obtained from the Beit Midrash office.