B’nai Mitzvah FAQs

Logistics
1. When does the process start?
2. Who attends what meetings?
3. Tell me about the Mitzvah Project.
4. Please explain the various fees associated with becoming a bar/bat mitzvah at Temple Ahavat Shalom
5. I don’t know this stuff – how can I help my child prepare for his/her bat/bar mitzvah?
6. How do I honor all the people I need to honor?
7. What is the role of the usher?
8. Who makes the b’nai mitzvah leaflet?
9. When should I be where on the day of my bar/bat mitzvah?
10. What is a bima buddy? Who can be one?
11. Can families use TAS as a venue on Friday night for their Shabbat celebration?
12. Tell me about catering.
Ritual
1. Does the bar/bat mitzvah have to wear/buy a tallit?
2. Do we have to wear/order special kippot/yarmulkes?
3. Do we have to participate in the Friday night service the night before?
4. Can we request certain melodies?
5. Help me write my parent speech!
6. Aliyah etiquette
Etiquette
1. Who should I invite to my bar/bat mitzvah?
2. What I should wear?
3. Can non-Jewish family members have honors?
4. Is there a role for siblings in the service?
5. Do I have to include thank yous in my speech, and if so, who should I thank?
6. Can we take photos during the service?

Logistics

1. When does the process start?

Step 1: Choose your date! You will receive a date request email at the conclusion of your child’s “bet” year in religious school after their Hebrew evaluation, which is two years prior to your child’s bar/bat mitzvah year. Quickly fill out the email form to ensure that you are able to receive the date you want!

Step 2: Get informed Attend the b’nai mitzvah orientation, which takes place each year on the first day of religious school (parents attend the orientation that occurs 1-2 years prior to their b’nai mitzvah date)

Step 3: Official individualized kick-off This begins with a preliminary meeting between the cantor and the bar/bat mitzvah student, and takes place about nine months prior to the bar/bat mitzvah date.

After this point, your child will begin preparing his/her Torah reading, Haftarah reading, and ensuring that he/she is ready to lead his/her service by the time he/she walks onto the bima on bar/bat mitzvah day. She/he will also spend time with the rabbi preparing his/her D’var Torah (speech).

2. Who attends what meetings?

Meeting

Parents

Child

B’nai Mitzvah Orientation

X

B’nai Mitzvah Mini-Retreat

X

X

Preliminary meeting with Cantor

X

Family Intake with Cantor

X

X

Pre-D’var Torah meeting with Rabbi

X

X

D’var Torah preparation sessions with Rabbi

X

3. Tell me about the Mitzvah Project:

Your mitzvah project is a key piece of becoming a bar/bat mitzvah, a son or daughter of the commandment. This process prepares you to take your place in the adult Jewish community, and full participation in the Jewish community involves an increased focus on tikun olam, repairing the world. Please check out our Mitzvah Project page for more details on how best to think about and decide what you would like to focus on for your project.

4. Please explain the various fees associated with becoming a bar/bat mitzvah at Temple Ahavat Shalom:

Fee:

Amount:

Payable to:

Required?

Anything else?

Oneg Sponsorship:

$225

Sisterhood

Yes

$200 if the bar/bat mitzvah mother is a Sisterhood member

B’nai Mitzvah Training Fee:

$1320

TAS*

Yes

As of July 1, 2017

Extended kiddush/party**

Varies based on what you do

TAS

No

TAS has room rental rates specifically for our members. See below more details on booking the Social Hall for your celebration.

*Billing for training fee typically begins about 10-12 months prior to b’nai mitzvah date. **When celebrating at the Temple, families are required to use the Sisterhood or one of our preferred caterers or pay an additional fee for an outside caterer. Please note, bar/bat mitzvah families have up to 6 months prior to their ceremony date to exercise their right of first refusal of the Social Hall and after that time, the space is available to anyone on a first come first serve basis. TAS provides reasonable rental rates for our members to ensure they can celebrate at TAS. To book an event at TAS, please contact our Event Coordinator, Laura Hazzard at (818) 208-1955 or via email at tasnorthridgeevent@gmail.com.

5. I don’t know this stuff – how can I help my child prepare for his/her bat/bar mitzvah?

As Rabbi Lutz says, “parents who don’t know how to play piano are still able to sit and support their child as that child practices piano.” The most important thing you can do is be supportive; listen to them practice, check in and ask them how they think they are doing. Make sure to set aside time for them to work on their prayers and aliyot. You yourself don’t have to read or understand Hebrew to sit with them, listen to the audio file they are using, and hear where they match up with the chanting and wording.

6. How do I honor all the people I need to honor?

There are many opportunities to recognize friends and relatives throughout the service. You will learn more about this in your meeting with the rabbi. Feel free to take a look at this PDF version of the Family Honors Sheet.

7. What is the role of the usher?

The ushers hand out the blue Torah commentaries and the service leaflets.

8. Who makes the b’nai mitzvah leaflet?

Temple Ahavat Shalom puts together your bar/bat mitzvah leaflet.

The leaflet includes:

a) A list of those people participating in the service (including anyone who has been given an honor by your family) b) The name of the child from Kolin that you have chosen to be paired with (when applicable) c) A short description of your mitzvah project

Additionally, leaflets for the morning service include the TAS calendar of upcoming events, and leaflets for the afternoon service includes the havdalah service.

If you are interested in creating your own leaflet, you are welcome to do so though it is not necessary. If you do choose to put your own leaflet together, it must include all of the above-mentioned components. Often the motivation for “homemade” leaflets lies with a desire to provide additional explanation for the different ritual aspects of the service. Please contact the rabbi for help with wording these explanations.

9. When should I be where on the day of my bar/bat mitzvah?

Anyone participating in the service, including ushers, should be in the sanctuary 30 minutes prior to the beginning of your service.

10. What is a bima buddy? Who can be one?

A bima buddy is member of the board of trustees or someone else who is in a leadership role at TAS. He or she is there to represent the TAS community and to witness the ceremony. The bima buddy also has the privilege of presenting the bar/bat mitzvah with gifts from the Temple Sisterhood and Men of TAS.

11. Can families use TAS as a venue on Friday night for their Shabbat celebration?

Yes. There are two spaces available to congregants interested in catering dinner for family members at the synagogue: the social hall and the activities center. The social hall must be clear by 5:00 pm, so for a slightly later dinner, the activities center is preferable.

12. What can you tell me about catering?

If you host your celebration at TAS, you have the option to use one of our preferred caterers. All of preferred caterers were recommended by congregants, have previous experience working with synagogue communities, and have proper liability insurance and provide workers compensation. However, you may choose to use an outside caterer for an additional fee and the caterer must meet all of the insurance requirements. Please note, bar/bat mitzvah families have up to 6 months prior to their ceremony date to exercise their right of first refusal of the Social Hall and after that time, the space is available to anyone on a first come first serve basis.

Ritual

1. Does the Bar/Bat mitzvah have to wear/buy a tallit?

Yes. Jews wear tallitot during services in which we read from the Torah. This custom comes directly from our text – Numbers 15:37-41 teaches us: “Tell the Israelites to make fringes in the corners of their garments…that you may look at it and remember all God’s commandments and do them.”

Tallitot can be procured in a variety of ways:

a) Some families pass down tallitot from parents or grandparents b) Often, children are invited to make their own tallitot during their religious school education or while at camp. This could be a lovely family project!

Here is an article describing the requirements for a “kosher” tallit, and there’s a wikiHow for tallit-making!

Alternatively, there are many places from which you can purchase a tallit. You can:

a) Check out the TAS Sisterhood Gift Shop b) Learn about Women of the Wall and buy a tallit in support of their efforts. c) Take a trip to Shalom House TAS will provide a tallit for use during the ceremony if you don’t have one of your own and aren’t interested in purchasing/making one.

2. Do we have to wear/order special kippot/yarmulkes? No. You definitely can if you would like to, and some families do choose to order special kippot. We encourage the wearing of kippot by both men and women but it is ultimately your personal choice. The temple has kippot in the sanctuary and they will be available for those who choose if you choose not to have special ones made.

If you are interested in ordering special kippot, here are a few fun options:

a) Personalized kippot – this company has been used by TAS congregants b) Plantable kippot – they turn into gardens! c) Fair trade kippot

3. Do we have to participate in the Friday night service the night before?

Yes! On the Friday night of a double b’nai mitzvah weekend, the Saturday morning bar/bat mitzvah family chooses an English reading before candle lighting and lights the candles. Additionally, the about-to-become bar/bat mitzvah leads v’ahavta. The Saturday afternoon bar/bat mitzvah family chooses an English reading prior to kiddish, and the about-to-become bar/bat mitzvah leads the main amidah prayers (avot/g’vurot/k’dusha).

On the Friday night of a single bar/bat mitzvah weekend, the bar/bat mitzvah family will choose two readings, one for before the candle lighting and a second for before kiddush. The about-to-become bar/bat mitzvah will chant the v’ahavta and main amidah prayers.

4. Can we request certain melodies?

Yes. Consult with the cantor.

5. Help me write my parent speech!

Here are two resources to help you prepare a blessing for your bar/bat mitzvah child:

First, this example of what a concise meaningful parent blessing looks like. Second, this packet of blessings put together by Rabbi Lutz.

6. Aliyah Ettiquete:

Can I come up to the bima for an aliyah if I never had a bar mitzvah ceremony?

Yes. You become a bar/bat mitzvah at 13, regardless of whether anything is done to mark that moment. When you turn 21 in the US, you legally reach adult status whether or not you go to Vegas. If you’re interested in celebrating your bar/bat mitzvah as an adult, talk to the rabbi or cantor.

Do I have to read Hebrew to do an aliyah?

All of the Hebrew in our  services is transliterated, and there are transliterated copies of the prayers on the bima.

Do I have to be Jewish to have an aliyah?

Yes, but as the non-Jewish partner of a Jewish person, you may join your partner on the bima for an aliyah.

Do I have to wear a tallit to do an aliyah?

Though it is considered a sign of respect to wear a tallit when coming into contact with the Torah, as the commandment to wear fringes on the corners of our garments comes from the text of the Torah, the wearing of a tallit is a personal choice, to be made by the wearer.

Aliyah choreography

Check out this awesome article for more information on what it looks like to be called up for an aliyah.

Etiquette

1. Who should I invite to my bar/bat mitzvah?

Your bar/bat mitzvah is a joyous occasion; as such it is important to invite those friends and family who are important to you. In regards to the TAS community, we ask that you consider the feelings of your classmates – if you plan to invite 50% of your religious school class, please consider inviting the entire class to ensure that we remain a caring and inclusive community. Additionally, when building your guest list, think of people who have had an influence in your child’s religious education (such as the teachers and the director of education).

2. What I should wear?

Most people feel that it is important for anyone who spends time on the bima to have their shoulders covered and wear skirts that are knee-length. Additionally, overly formal clothing is discouraged. Remember that you are going to be on a platform that is higher than everyone else, and that you will need to walk up and down a set of stairs. Remember also that you will be standing for the majority of a 2-hour service. Keeping all this in mind, dress accordingly.

3. Can non-Jewish family members have honors?

Yes. Talk to clergy about which honors are most appropriate for helping your non-Jewish family members participate in this special occasion.

4. Is there a role for siblings in the service? Yes – there is the optional opportunity for siblings to say a few words to their sibling at the beginning of the service. They also can participate in almost any of the honors. To come up to the bima for an aliyah, you have to be at least 13.

5. Do I have to include “thank yous” in my speech, and if so, who should I thank?

You do not have to include a thank you portion in your speech. But if you would like to, please consider those people who played a significant role in preparing you for your bat/bat mitzvah: teachers, clergy, tutors, director of education.

6. Can we take photos during the service?

Your photographer is welcome to take photos from the sound booth area of the sanctuary. No flash, please. Congregants and guests participating in the service may not take pictures during the service. We suggest that you spend some time with the photographer prior to the date of the ceremony to write up a list of those people and memories you want to ensure are photographed. Additionally, please remind your photographer that she/he is working in a sacred space, and have him/her avoid climbing on furniture. Often, people take a couple of quick photos with the clergy immediately prior to the service. If you would like additional pictures with the clergy, please notify the clergy assistant so that they know to make themselves available after the service.

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