Bar and Bat Mitzvah Preparation Fall 2012

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1 Fall 2012 A Guide for Families P.O Box 1317 Columbia, MD P.O Box 1317 Columbia, MD 210 P.O Box 1317 Columbia, MD The purpose of this guide is to provide you and your family with (hopefully) everything you need to know about becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at Congregation Shalom Aleichem.

2 The Bar or Bat Mitzvah is also an important accomplishment for your child that marks the beginning of a lifelong exploration of what it means to live Jewishly. As parents you play a key role in helping your child succeed in this sacred undertaking. This guide will help you and your family to learn about the religious requirements for becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and the choices you have to enhance your family's Bar/Bat experience. This guide is concerned primarily with the religious aspect of your child s Bar or Bat Mitzvah. What will my child be doing? Our Philosophy: Every Jew is entitled to be called up to the Torah (aliyah) on the occasion of reaching Jewish adulthood. In order to have an aliyah, s/he must know the blessings recited before and after the Torah reading. Most Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates do much more than this. Thus, there is technically an absolute minimum requirement, but no maximum. The more a young person knows, the more he or she can participate in leading the service on their special day. In actual practice, most students read Torah and/or Haftarah, lead the major prayers of the service, and give a talk explaining or teaching about their Torah or Haftarah portion, and/or some relevant topic of Jewish interest. It is also appropriate for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to do a service project of some kind that contributes to the well being of their Jewish or general community. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah's achievements reflect a combination of effort, ability, and your involvement. Bar/Bat Mitzvah students at CSA must meet 4 requirements in or to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Congregation Shalom Aleichem: 1. Complete an individual program of Jewish learning with rabbi cantor, or other tutor approved by the rabbi; 2. Attend CSA s Religious School on a regular basis; 3. Attend Shabbat services at CSA in the year before Bar/Bat Mitzvah on a regular basis; and 4. Prepare and deliver a speech about the Torah portion or other approved topic of Jewish interest Each of these requirements is discussed in detail below. 1. Complete an individual program of Jewish learning with rabbi or cantor CSA 2

3 currently has two options available as the course of Jewish study: Option 1: The Traditional Program In the traditional program of study the student learns to do all of the following: Lead some or all of the prayers for his/her Bnai Mitzvah service, Chant the Aliyah blessings and a portion of text from the Torah scroll, Many students choose to do a Mitzvah project that contributes to the wellbeing of people in their Jewish or wider community. Project ideas should be approved in advance by Rabbi Heiligman. Option 2: The Thirteen Mitzvot Program (This option places less emphasis on Hebrew and Synagogue skills and more emphasis on daily Jewish life and mitzvot.) Thirteen Mitzvot is an innovative program that engages the student to explore Jewish history, spiritual teachings, values and traditions by performing 13 mitzvot. The 13 mitzvot are training for a contemporary Jewish life. The first 12 are selected from a wide variety of activities and interests that are divided equally between three broad areas of Jewish endeavor: Torah (which includes sacred Jewish learning of any part of the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, etc.), Avodah (Jewish worship), and Gemilut Chasadim (Deeds of loving kindness). See attachment for more details Under the Thirteen Mitzvot Program, the student s 13th mitzvah is to chant the Aliyah blessings and a portion of text from the Torah scroll at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Shabbat service. 2. Attend CSA s Religious School on a regular basis. (No more than four absences/year) Please contact the Director of the Religious School if you have any questions concerning school attendance. 3. Attend Shabbat services at CSA in the 2 years before Bar/Bat Mitzvah on a regular basis. (30 services in the 2 years prior to bar/bat mitzvah.) IMPORTANT: Student attendance at services will be tracked. 3

4 We strongly encourage all B'nai Mitzvah candidates to begin regular Friday night service attendance at CSA at least two years before their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. If your child s Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be on a Saturday morning or afternoon/evening, we require you and your family to attend Saturday morning services when we have them and at other area congregations. This is the best way to learn what a Jewish service is really like. Consistent Service attendance also provides the following additional benefits to students and their families: Develops the student's synagogue skills as part of a living Jewish heritage; Strengthens the student's and family s sense of belonging to the Jewish community; Enables the student and your family to build and strengthen friendships and connections with peers, as well as adults in the community including the rabbi and cantor. Helps the student to create friendships with his/her cohort of B nai Mitzvah; May reduce tutoring fees since the student will learn the prayers and the service through experience; and Models life-long learning as young people witness their parents learning along side of them. 4. Prepare and deliver a speech about the Torah portion or other approved topic of Jewish interest IMPORTANT: At the beginning of the tutoring process the student must have an initial meeting with the Rabbi to discuss the Torah portion before learning how to chant from the scroll (Sefer Torah.) In addition to the initial discussion of the Torah portion, you must schedule study sessions with the rabbi to work on the speech at least eight weeks before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. These 4 requirements are in keeping with tradition and take into account your child's unique abilities and challenges. We hope that fulfillment of these requirements will serve to deepen your child's commitment to live according to Jewish values, to build confidence and begin to create a life of delight in the Jewish experience. Different children learn in different ways, so do all children have to meet the same requirements? 4

5 We recognize that not all children are the same. Different children have different skills, abilities, and challenges. Also, not all children learn the same way. Therefore, the rabbi, and cantor will develop your child's specific Bar/Bat Mitzvah requirements in keeping with his/her unique abilities while maintaining the integrity and substance of this sacred undertaking. What's the best way to learn the Hebrew prayers? ATTEND SERVICES!!!!!!! Of course, we also expect our students to learn how to read Hebrew by sounding out the words with Hebrew letters and vowels. This way, the student will have a skill for life. I don t read any Hebrew--How can I help my child prepare for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Even if you can't read Hebrew, you can still give encouragement, set goals, and have the student practice in front of you. In addition, you can use your child's upcoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a marvelous opportunity to set a good example for life-long learning by learning some Hebrew yourself. You can take a Hebrew class, use foreign language software, use books with tapes and flashcards, or best of all, you can switch roles and let your child teach you some Hebrew. This would be a tremendous gift to your child, and to yourself. Spiritual and Religious Customs Considerations There are many beautiful objects and customs associated with Shabbat and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony: Wearing a Tallit It is CSA s custom for all adult Jews to wear a tallit when receiving a Torah honor. It is not necessary to acquire a tallit for your child, but many families choose to do so. A new or heirloom tallit is often a special gift from a family member. Prayerbooks CSA has two sets regular prayer books for Shabbat that you may use for your Bar/Bat Mitzvah service: o Likrat Shabbat for Friday night services; and 5

6 o The spiral bound books entitled Prayers for the Sabbath Day compiled and edited by Rabbi Joanne Yocheved Heiligman for Shabbat morning and afternoon services. Personalized Handouts We do not have copies of the Torah to hand out at services, so we recommend you make copies of your child s Torah reading and any other greetings or prayers you wish to include. This is about a 2 to 4 page document. The rabbi will provide the text in Hebrew and English in PDF format. Yarmulkes/Kippot The congregation has an assortment of yarmulkes. We do encourage male guests to wear them. In recent years, some women now wear yarmulkes too. There are many online companies that provide personalized yarmulkes if you want to offer them as souvenirs to your guests. Special Situations What are the expectations for a double Bar/Bat Mitzvah? In the case of double Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, one student would do Torah and the other Haftarah. The Haftarah is easier to learn, but the blessings are longer. So it balances out. A highly motivated student at a double Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony could do the Haftarah and some Torah reading as well. Can we still have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah if my child cannot learn all of this and complete these tasks by age 13? There are two ways to approach this question: You could postpone your child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah to when he/she is a little older; or The rabbi can develop a program of study for your child for a ceremony at age 13 that takes into account your child's skills, abilities, and challenges. Suggested Timeline for Bar/Bat Mitzvah Service (This will differ by child) Step When Action 1 2 years before child turns age 13 Begin attending services regularly if you do not already do so. Attendance will be tracked 2 1year before child Meet with Rachael Shapiro Demb, Director of CSA 6

7 turns age year before child turns age 13 4 When Hebrew is good enough, 1-2 years before desired date Religious School to discuss: Guidelines for CSA Bar/ Bat Mitzvah process; Any special learning needs for your child; tentative Bar/Bat date Meet with Rabbi to: or ) 1. Discuss any special learning considerations and religious needs for your child; and 2. assess your child s Hebrew reading skills If Hebrew ready, confirm Bar/Bat Mitzvah date with Director of Religious School, Rabbi and Cantor If Hebrew not ready, set up tutoring for Hebrew reading. IMPORTANT: Bar/Bat Mitzvah date cannot be assigned and confirmed until Hebrew is at an acceptable level. So we do not recommend making significant non-refundable deposits before date is confirmed Confirm Bar/Bat Mitzvah date and time of day with Rabbi and Cantor Ceremonies may be on Friday evening, Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon and possibly other times in special circumstances as approved by the Rabbi. 5 6 months-1 year before Bar/Bat Mitzvah date 6 6 months-1year before before Bar/Bat Mitzvah date 7 6 months -1 year before before Bar/Bat Mitzvah date Book venue for service and reception. IMPORTANT: Do not book venue until date confirmed with Rabbi and Cantor Begin tutoring as soon as possible with assigned tutor-- Rabbi or Cantor. Rachael will inform you who your tutor is. Rabbi assigns Torah portion based on date and time of day for Bar/Bat Mitzvah and sends info to cantor if Rabbi is not primary tutor. The Torah and Haftorah portions are determined by the 7

8 date and time of the service. The rabbi will find specific verses within the portion that will be most meaningful. 8 6 months -1 year before 9 6 months -1 year before before Bar/Bat Mitzvah date 10 6 weeks before before Bar/Bat Mitzvah date 11 2 months before before Bar/Bat Mitzvah date weeks before before Bar/Bat Mitzvah date Set up meeting with rabbi and child to discuss Torah portion Order invitations, kippot, tallit, etc. Finalize any logistics for reception Send invitations Contact friends and relatives to decide who will have Torah honors, Aliyot, and readings Use form from rabbi or cantor to keep track of who will do what. This does not need to be finalized until a few days before the service. Set up at least 3 tutoring sessions with the Rabbi for child to work on speech. (This is in addition to regular tutoring with rabbi or cantor) Walk-thru (rehearsal) with Rabbi and Cantor. Finalize honors, Aliyot, etc. Give proof of any booklet with Hebrew text to Rabbi for review Gather Hebrew names for Aliyah honorees days Give camera ready copy of any handout approved by the rabbi before copying. When contacting CSA clergy to set up a tutoring session, meeting, etc.. Please do not call the synagogue staff on Shabbat or Jewish Holidays out of respect for the Jewish tradition and commandment to "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. " Bear in mind that the rabbi s and cantor's availability is very limited in the month preceding the High Holidays. The following information is subject to change: 8

9 Booking the venue for the service Bar and Bat Mitzvah Preparation Before you begin tutoring on the Torah portion that will commit you to a particular date, it is wise to a reserve a location for ceremony and any additional celebration. Tutoring may begin for Hebrew fluency and prayers before a date is set. If you would like to have the ceremony at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, please contact them at to confirm availability. The congregation does not automatically do this except for our regular Friday night services Please remember to estimate the number of guests when reserving the room to determine the appropriate room size. If the room requirements for a regularly scheduled service expand beyond the regular room, additional costs will be born by the family. Booking the venue for the celebration If appropriate, select a location for reception. The type of reception and location is up to each individual family with the exception that the use of spaces that belong to, or are controlled by groups that specifically target Jews for conversion to other faiths are not acceptable. Contact staff at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center to reserve and confirm availability if you want to use OBIC for the reception immediately after the ceremony, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Costs And Fees There are several costs associated with a Bar/ bat Mitzvah. The list below is not all inclusive, but covers the main costs connected with Shalom Aleichem. 1. CSA Bar/Bat Mitzvah Fee: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee payable to CSA is $1250. This fee covers the cost of the initial consultation, a dress rehearsal, and the actual event. It also covers one session with the rabbi to prepare child s speech and service and the prepearation of the Torah or Haftorah text for your handout. 2. Room for the Service: There is a cost for using a room at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center if it is not our regularly reserved room at our regularly reserved time. Currently, regularly reserved times are normally the 1 st and 3 rd Friday 7:30 each month. 9

10 3. Tutoring: Tutoring payments are made directly to your child s tutor (rabbi or cantor) at the time of each lesson. 4. If a session is missed, and 24-hour advanced notice is not provided, the tutor may assess a cancellation fee of 50% of the tutoring session. Cancellation may be by phone call. No cancellations are accepted during the Sabbath unless there is an emergency. The rabbi also accepts s for cancellations Group sessions may be available for a discounted cost. Frequency of meetings may be adjusted according your child s progress. Depending on how many students are preparing simultaneously, the rabbi will attempt to hold group lessons at least monthly to focus on spiritual aspects of becoming a Jewish adult including understanding the Torah, synagogue skills and prayer, being part of a community, projects, etc. Current (1/2012) tutoring rates are 70/hour private lesson, $80/hour divided by the number of students for group lessons. Remedial Hebrew: The Hebrew Instructors may be available for Hebrew tutoring sessions. Please contact Meryl Robinson, (410) , or Alan Robinson (410) , to determine availability and fee. 5. Torah Chanting Software Programs: Trope Trainer or other software can be helpful to assist your child in his/her preparation, but is not required and is not a substitute for tutoring and building a spiritual relationship with the rabbi, cantor and your child's classmates. Trope Trainer is available from various vendors on line, some local Jewish bookstores, and you may find a used copy within the congregation. There are three different versions available. The rabbi recommends the standard version, particularly if you have more than one child or wish to sell of give it away after your celebration. The Deluxe version is not necessary unless you will be having a holiday Bar or Bat Mitzvah and the rabbi recommends it to you. 6. Oneg during Friday Night Service: If your child s Bar or Bat Mitzvah is during a regularly scheduled Friday night service, it is customary for the family of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah to sponsor the Oneg Shabbat, if able. Additional Resources Now Go and Learn! 10

11 There are many good books that can help with the planning of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony and celebration here are a few: Putting God on the Guest List, by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin; Jewish Lights Publishing How to Be a Jewish Parent, by Anita Diamant with Karen Kushner; Schocken Books, New York 11

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