Family Guide Becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah

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1 Family Guide Becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Beth David Reform Congregation Gladwyne Fall 2015 Rabbi Beth Kalisch Susan Levey, Educator Jill Cooper, Executive Director

2 Beth David Mission Statement Inspiring a community of seekers, learners, and doers to pursue the best in ourselves and the repair of the world (tikkun olam okug iueh,). Beth David Religious School Mission Statement The mission of Beth David s Religious School is to empower our students to establish a lifelong commitment to Jewish learning, living, and the practice of mitzvot, and to identify as Reform Jews. We inspire our students to develop knowledge of culture, language, history, practices and values that will permit them to integrate Judaism into their daily lives and the lives of their families. Dear Families, Congratulations and Mazel Tov on approaching one very special milestone in a Jewish Family: the Bar/Bat Mitzvah! Beth David Reform Congregation hopes that the experience of preparing for and celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in your family will be meaningful and enriching. During this emotional and exciting period, many loving hands will assist you. You will receive support from all of us. Becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a significant event in any Jewish child s life. The journey can be stressful and requires focus, commitment and a balancing of priorities. This period of intensive study is about one year prior to the actual day, but longer if you need additional preparation time, including working over the summer. Students may need to adjust their schedule and other activities to allow adequate time for the demands of their studies. The Beth David clergy and professional staff encourage you to meet as a family well in advance to discuss how you plan to accommodate enough time for practice and studies in light of your family s busy life. The B nai Mitzvah process is a bonding experience for families and is as meaningful as the actual day of the B nai Mitzvah itself. Family members should choose tasks or assume responsibilities that will keep them involved in the process. Parents can help by listening to your child chant his/her Torah portion even if you don t know Hebrew. Work with your son or daughter and analyze together the meaning of the Torah text in English. Siblings may take part in specific tasks assigned by a parent. The involvement of the entire family helps to be of great support to the B nai Mitzvah student. Mazel Tov! Rabbi Beth Kalisch Susan Levey, Educator Jill Cooper, Executive Director 1

3 History and Meanings-Becoming A Jewish Adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not mentioned in the Torah, nor is there any biblical indication that thirteen is the age at which one attains religious majority. Many ancient civilizations conducted tribal initiations for young males at the age of thirteen, including circumcision, like Abraham s son Ishmael. After the second or third century C.E., a father kohen (priest) would also offer a prayer expressing the hope that the boy would learn Torah and live a happy life of good deeds. At that point, the young man was eligible to be counted as a member of the minyan (quorum of Jews required for prayer) and could also then buy and sell property and make vows that are binding. It wasn t until the Middle Ages that a fully developed ritual emerged. A boy would be called up to the Torah, chant the blessings and all or part of the Torah portion of the week and/ or Haftarah section from the prophetic books. The father would recite a special blessing, followed by a seudat mitzvah (a meal celebrating the performance of a mitzvah). As for the girls, beginning in the second or third century C.E., Jewish girls took on legal responsibility for the performance of mitzvot, although girls were subject to far fewer commandments. In 1921, the first known Bat Mitzvah in North America took place, containing many of the same components as the Reform Bar/Bat Mitzvah service of today. Bar/Bat Mitzvah literally means Son/ Daughter of the Commandment. Historically, Bar and Bat Mitzvah represented a ceremonial recognition that a young person reached the age when he or she had become responsible for the performance of mitzvot. The individual was then no longer a minor according to Jewish law, and thereby took on new religious privileges and responsibilities. For boys this age was thirteen, for girls, twelve. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah party derives from the custom of serving a seudat mitzvah (a meal celebrating the performance of a mitzvah), which arose in the Middle Ages. As early as the thirteenth century, the concern was that such a feast might become ostentatious and a wasteful display of wealth, detracting from the ceremony s religious significance. Community leaders often enacted formal legislation, guidelines and even taxes to limit the size and nature of these feasts. 2

4 Making Bar/Bat Mitzvah More Meaningful Mitzvah Projects We encourage families to enhance the B nai Mitzvah experience by working on a Mitzvah project. Finding a Mitzvah project for your family to undertake is a worthwhile and meaningful endeavor. Any righteous act or good deed can become a Mitzvah project. The school office keeps a file with a wealth of information on a variety of ideas, from delivering meals to working with special needs students. There is a Mitzvah project that will work for every family; it just takes time to research. B nai Mitzvah candidates discuss their Mitzvah project in their D var Torah. Contact the school office, and we will be delighted to help. Tallit Presentation Both sons and daughters are encouraged to wear a kippah and tallit on the day he/she ascends the Bimah to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. A tallit is a tremendously personal garment and carries with it a certain degree of holiness. On the Saturday morning of your Bar/Bat Mitzvah you will have a private presentation of the tallit to your child. This will involve the Rabbi reading a passage from Numbers 15:37-41, which is the biblical passage that describes a tallit. This can be found on page 171 of Mishkan T Filah. If there is a special significance or a history to the particular tallit that you have selected, please have that story prepared to share at the presentation of the tallit. Please note that the wearing of a kippah at Beth David (head covering) is optional. Mattan Parasha At Beth David we have a lovely ceremony in the Sanctuary during a Shabbat service that is approximately six months prior to the B nai Mitzvah date called Mattan Parasha, or Giving of the Torah. A parasha is the section of the Torah that a Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidate will learn to chant. At Mattan Parasha, your upcoming Simcha will begin to take on a new and profound importance; therefore the entire family is encouraged to attend this meaningful ceremony. During the Shabbat service, Rabbi invites a cohort of B nai Mitzvah candidates and their family to the Bimah. At that time, in front of the ark and the Congregation, the candidates are presented with their own copy of the siddur, Mishkan T Filah, as well as a booklet containing the parasha for the B nai Mitzvah. The booklet contains the Torah portion, and the Haftarah portion which comes from the books of Prophets or Judges. The Rabbi discusses the portion and invites the students to commit to their journey of becoming a B nai Mitzvah on a more challenging level. The families remain on the bimah for a blessing before returning to the Congregation. (If this material is misplaced during the course of B nai Mitzvah preparation, a replacement cost will be assessed.) 3

5 Prior to the date of your family s Simcha, it is crucial that your child attend religious school and meetings, and of course, practice, practice, practice. Your B nai Candidate will participate in: The Upper School on Tuesday evenings: Here is where the deep BIG PICTURE questions begin to percolate. With bright and new Interim Cantor Jessi and beloved Andrew, seventh grade is their write place to be. The Rabbi will then work with your child individually on his or her devrei Torah. This is what some students refer to as their speech. Failure to be there will jeopardize the important process and creates a situation where the D var becomes a last minute creation, as opposed to a gradual week by week, paragraph by paragraph progression, and being the best work possible. How Do I Write My D var Torah? found below will provide only an outline for use by the student and family for writing a D var Torah. B nai Mitzvah Practice (Workshops and Privates) Down to a science of practice in the Religious School, our well versed teachers and trope experts seamlessly guide the B nai Mitzvah student through a session on either Monday or Thursday afternoons in all aspects B nai Mitzvah. Attendance is crucial! What About the Service? The best way to know how a Bar/Bat Mitzvah service unfolds is to attend numerous Saturday morning services at Beth David, along with your son or daughter. This allows you to observe, see what occurs, and ask questions at your rehearsal about any point that seems confusing. Writing a D var Torah Read the Torah booklet received at Mattan Parasha, including the Commentary and the Haftarah before the Family Meeting with the Rabbi. This will help to become familiar with the Torah portion and the Haftarah. What will the Rabbi ask? After the Family Meeting, the Rabbi will meet with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to develop the D var topic. Before this meeting, attending Tuesday evening Upper School with Cantor Jessi and Andrew should help to develop those big themes and questions running through the portion. To help prepare, read the booklet and create some questions about the parasha. The Union for Reform Judaism publishes Family Shabbat Table Talk and which can be found at These are various lessons designed to help young people understand and study Torah. The Pivotal Question As the Bar/Bat Mitzvah works with the Rabbi, the Tuesday class will also help to develop questions. When it comes to asking a pivotal question, their doesn t necessarily need to be an answer, but we want to guide the student appropriately. Being in a classroom community with other seventh graders is the ideal springboard. Writing Continues Ancient Sources During meetings with the Rabbi she and the student will look for traditional sources that offer suggested answers to the pivotal question. The D var should address (and in some ways be affirmed), that the question is not a new one, but one that Jews have constantly sought to answer. The footnotes of the Torah booklet contain possible answers and the Rabbi will also help find others in the works of Torah commentary. The student should include in the d var information and the purpose of his/her Mitzvah project. Finally, the d var should end with thanking people, which should include the rabbi and cantor, Bar/Bat Mitzvah teachers and tutors, parents, and siblings. 4

6 Advance Planning Invitations: Invitations are available through Gifted, the Beth David gift shop, and provided by The Party Package, owned and operated by Beth David member Gail Lazarus; Invitations are discounted and a portion of the net proceeds are donated back to Beth David. Kippot and Tallitot: Gifted, the Beth David gift shop has a large selection. Program: Providing a program for your guests is optional and the responsibility of the B nai Mitzvah family. Programs must be approved by the Executive Director prior to printing. Facility Use: You may want to use Beth David for an additional B'nai Mitzvah celebration, either Friday evening for Shabbat dinner or Saturday afternoon/evening. For rental fees or to reserve space, contact the Executive Director. Please note it is standard procedure to tip our maintenance staff. Please make arrangements in advance with the Executive Director. Vendors: If you are planning a celebration at Beth David you are required to get an insurance certificate from all vendors, including caterers, decorators, and musicians. Flowers: Bimah flowers are optional and the responsibility of the family. Still Photography: Families who wish to have pictures taken at Beth David either in advance or on the day of your B nai Mitzvah must make arrangements with the Executive Director in advance. No picture taking is permitted during the service. Video: Families who wish to have their service filmed must contact Vid-Tel Video Services Company and enter into a written contract with them, (see Appendix for form). Vid-Tel is the sole and exclusive videographer of Beth David. No other videographer shall be granted permission to film B nai Mitzvah services at Beth David. Kashrut Policy: Kashrut Policy: Should you decide to offer a meal in celebration of your Simcha, pork and shell fish are prohibited, but meat and dairy together is permissible. Tree of Life: Purchasing a leaf on our Tree of Life is a wonderful way to honor the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. If you wish to purchase a leaf please use the Tree of Life form found this booklet, or contact the office. Financial Obligations: Prior to your child s Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you must be a member in good standing. All dues and fees must be paid in full including membership, tuition, and any Bar/Bat Mitzvah fees that are outstanding.. 5

7 How do I assign Aliyot?/ Selecting Family Participation The word Aliyah (aliyot in plural) means to go up. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah has an Aliyah for the first time when he/she is called up to the Torah. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah family has an opportunity to give the honor of several aliyot during the service to family members (age 13 and above). At Beth David, this honor of Aliyah is given by being called upon to come up to the Bimah to participate in the Torah blessings read before and after each Torah reading by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Family members or friends can also participate in the service by reading an English translation, dressing the Torah, or holding the Torah. We want your loved ones to feel included in this important event. Non-Jewish family members are welcome to take part in the service in a variety of ways, including Torah dressings and English translations. The Rabbi will be happy to discuss your individual circumstances with you. Additionally, children under the age of 13 can participate in any non-hebrew portion of the service. A Service Participation form (see opposite page) will be ed to you months in advance with clear instructions on the process of gathering information. You will be able to meet with the Educator and work on the basics. You must have the completed form ed to the Educator the week prior to the rehearsal. DURING THE LAST MONTHS OF PREPARATION YOU WILL DECIDE ON THE INDIVIDUALS WHO WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE SERVICE. Select your participants and indicate them on the Service Participation Planner l. Get your completed Planner to the Educator via mail within one week of the Rehearsal. The Staff will finalize the English Torah readings and send home with the B nai Mitzvah student two weeks in advance of the Simcha so that participants will practice and prepare in advance. Parents of the B nai Mitzvah will make one final set of English translations to bring on day of the B nai Mitzvah, as someone will undoubtedly forget his or her own copy! Parents will notify all participants to be in the Sanctuary well in advance of the 10:30AM service start time. For Hebrew Aliyah: Ascend to the Rabbi s side of the lectern. Read or chant the Torah blessing. The B nai Mitzvah reads Torah. The English Translation is read from the Cantor s lectern. Read or chant the Torah blessing after the reading. Congratulate the B nai Mitzvah and step right behind the Cantor for the next Aliyah. Remain on the Bimah! 6

8 Service Participation Planner 7

9 Final Rehearsal The final rehearsal takes place the week of the B nai Mitzvah, usually on a late Monday afternoon. Plan on spending ninety minutes for a full rehearsal. Parents must be present during the rehearsal. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah must bring: 1. Siddur (marked) 2. Materials received at Mattan Parasha 3. Completed D var Picture taking is an option on the day of the rehearsal, instead of the morning of your B nai Mitzvah. Please check with Jill Cooper, Executive Director, to schedule photographs on rehearsal day. You must also advise the photographer of the time of the rehearsal and indicate that photographs are to be taken either before or after the rehearsal. Name Rehearsal Date Bar/Bat Date Evan Prince 11/9/15 11/14/15 Aviva Kosto 11/16/15 11/21/15 Jacob Marsh 11/23/15 11/28/15 Eli & Ethan Pollack 12/7/15 12/12/15 Alex Gerstein 12/3/15 12/5/15 Lauren Lesser 12/14/15 12/19/15 Elizabeth Ward 1/4/16 1/9/16 Sam & Luke Finkelstein 1/11/16 1/16/16 Lilli Kelly 1/25/16 1/30/16 Sophie Slipakoff 2/2/16 2/6/16 David Brandeis 2/16/16 2/20/16 Sarah Singer 2/29/16 3/5/16 Hallie Bender 3/7/16 3/12/16 Jason Castello 3/28/16 4/2/16 Sam Knoll 4/25/16 4/30/16 Josh Fontak 5/3/16 5/7/16 Anna Fenkel 5/9/16 5/14/16 Catherine Hebert 5/16/16 5/21/16 Hillary Lutz 6/2/16 6/4/16 Avery Tapper 6/6/16 6/11/16 8

10 Friday Evening Service The Shabbat candle-lighting and Kiddush (prayer over the wine), and Motzi (prayer over the challah) is recited at Shabbat Services on the Friday evening before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and is recited by the entire family during the service. These readings are found on pages 2-5 of Mishkan T Filah. Saturday Morning Service The best way to prepare for and familiarize oneself with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service is to attend other Saturday morning services at Beth David as frequently as possible. This allows you to observe what occurs, and ask questions before your rehearsal about any point that may seem confusing. You will be made aware if other Beth David life-cycle ceremonies such as a baby-naming, Aufruf, or Community Shabbat will be a part of your Simcha. These special moments often add to the joy of the day, as we witness Judaism and Torah beyond Bar/Bat Mitzvah. In either instance, you will have the same number of honors as every other family to extend to your loved ones and we are only adding to the joy we hope to celebrate within our Beth David community. Torah Service Please refer to page 250 in Mishkan T Filah, or page 10 of this booklet for the Torah blessings said both before and after the Torah readings. Practice them several times and urge others whom you have selected to lead the blessing to practice together prior to doing it for the first time on the bimah. Torah blessings may be either read or chanted. After completing an Aliyah, all the participants should move from the stair side of the Rabbi s lectern to that which is closest to the Ark. After completing the English translation the reader should return to his/her seat. After the Torah reading is completed, the Torah will be dressed and placed in the lap of a designated person, who will hold the Torah during the reading of the Haftarah. When the Torah reading is completed, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will read his/her Haftarah. After the Haftarah is completed, the Torah will be returned to the Ark. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah will then read his/her D var to the Congregation. This will be followed by a musical blessing, some remarks made by the Rabbi to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, parent remarks, and words from a representative of the Board of Trustees. We will then proceed to Aleinu and Kaddish The Rabbi will call the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to the Ark for a blessing. An announcement will be made for attendees to remain standing at the end of the service and to join us in the Atrium (or Social Hall) immediately following the service for Kiddush and motzi (wine and challah). We will sing a closing hymn and then the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will join the Rabbi we will say Shabbat Shalom, and this ends the service. 9

11 10

12 Preparation Time Line To Do Check List 3 years prior Family receives Bar/Bat Mitzvah date which generally happens in the fourth grade. 1 year prior - Educator meets with family and explains the overall required assignments; Hebrew prayers, Torah portion, Haftarah portion, D var Torah (speech), service preparation and mitzvah project. Students will be assessed for prayer and Torah readiness and a tutorial plan will be made accordingly. Student begins planning and implementing his/her Mitzvah Project. 7 months prior - Family receives date for Mattan Parasha. 6 months prior - Family attends Friday evening service for Mattan Parasha. The typical B nai Mitzvah candidate will attend school on one additional mid-week afternoon to prepare with the staff. 4-5 months prior - Cantor begins weekly tutoring appointments. Tutor, Michael Bitton, will assist Cantor with the chanting preparation. 2-3 months prior - Rabbi meets with the family to discuss aspects of the service. - Select/ask family and friends to participate in Saturday morning service honors/aliyot. (See Service Participation Planner) 8-10 weeks prior - Student meets with Rabbi to begin writing D var Torah and discuss final service preparation with Rabbi. 2 months prior - Student and family attend a B nai Mitzvah to observe in our Sanctuary, and prayer book should be marked. - Contact Vid-Tel Video Services to secure your date for filming. See Vid-Tel form. - Ask board member or committee chair to sit on the Bimah for Saturday service. About a month - Student and family participate in final rehearsal in the Sanctuary. 30 days prior- Discuss with the Executive Director all non-ritual details. It is required that the B nai Mitzvah candidate be enrolled in Religious School, including the year of Bar/Bat Mitzvah. 11

13 Glossary Aliyah: Literally means going up but is also the honor of blessing the Torah. Plural: Aliyot Ark: The cabinet situated in the center of the east wall of the synagogue in which the scrolls of the Torah are kept. Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Literally, Son/Daughter of the commandment. Plural: B nai is two boys, or one boy and one girl. B not is two girls. Bimah: Pulpit, the raised platform in front of the Sanctuary. D var Torah: Literal, word of Torah. The B nai Mitzvah students share their interpretation of the Torah portion with the Congregation. Plural: Divrei Torah Haftarah: The weekly portion from the Prophets that is read after the reading of the Torah. Kiddush: Literally, sanctification. Blessing over the wine. Kippah: A religious head covering worn to respect G-d. Mattan Parasha: The granting of the Torah portion during a Friday evening service. Mitzvah: Commandment; a religious and moral obligation to be responsible to Jewish observance, teachings and practices. Plural: mitzvot. Oneg Shabbat: Literally, Joy of the Sabbath. A special celebration held following services, including refreshments. Simcha: Joyous event. Tallit: A prayer shawl with fringes. Torah: The five books of Moses; the scroll from which the Torah reading is conducted. The sacred text of the Jewish people. Tzedakah: Righteousness, helping and giving. 12

14 Contact People Name Position Contact Information Rabbi Beth Kalisch, Rabbi (610) ext. 101 Susan Levey Educational Director (610) ext. 106 Jill Cooper Executive Director (610) ext. 104 Jessi Roemer Interim Cantor Joel Kutner Cantorial Soloist Ned Kripke Administrative Assistant (610) ext. 105 Dena Marchiony Administrative Assistant to Rabbi (610) ext. 100 Now What? In the weeks after your child has become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah parents often ask how they can extend thank you to all those who helped prepare their child, as well as to the clergy. There are no firm and fast rules but an appropriate option is Tzedakah by making a donation to Beth David. For the clergy most often donations are made to their respective Discretionary Funds. To honor others, a donation to the fund for Beth David is appropriate. The amount you choose to donate is entirely yours, but folks often ask, What do most people give? Again, the sum is discretionary and should be only an amount that makes you comfortable, but on average - donations generally are $180 (representing chai) and up per individual honored. 13

15 CONGREGATIONAL NEWS The Beth David newsletter includes a column containing news about congregation members. Your child s Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be included in the appropriate month. Please answer the following questions, and either your responses to or give your completed form to the office. Please include a head & shoulders photo of the B nai Mitzvah; either attach a.jpg to your or send in a color photo with your form. Your child s information must be in to us by the first of the month prior to the issue date; i.e. information for inclusion in the January newsletter must be submitted by December 1 st. Child s full name (as you wish it to appear): Nickname: Parent(s) names: School attending with grade: Special interests (sports, hobbies, etc.): Mitzvah Project with explanation: Anything else that might be of general interest: Contact person and phone numbers for questions: MAZEL TOV AND THANK YOU!!! 14

16 BETH DAVID TREE OF LIFE ORDER FORM Throughout the ages, trees have stood as a symbol of life. At Beth David, our Tree of Life symbolizes the growth and flowering of the Congregation itself, as its branches reach out to the members of the Jewish and secular communities. The Tree also reminds us that each Beth David family is part of the larger congregational family, yet enjoys its own unique identity, commemorated by life-cycle events of their children, parents and grandparents. Purchasing a leaf on the Tree of Life or a stone at its base is a lasting way to commemorate these events, such as a birth, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, confirmation, wedding or anniversary. Your family s leaves or stones may be clustered together as a constant reminder of your special simchas. Leaves are available in several sizes to honor a loved one or commemorate a special occasion. There are 50 large leaves priced at $1,800 each, 100 medium sized leaves at $900 each, and 350 smaller leaves at $540 each. Twenty large stones are available at $3,600 each. Your preference for placement of the leaves will be honored on a first-come first-served basis. To purchase a leaf or stone to commemorate your simcha, please complete the form below. Payment in full must be received at the time of the order. Please return this form and your check to the Beth David office: I/We wish to purchase the following: leaves at $540 ea leaves at $900 ea leaves at $1,800 ea stones at $3,600 ea Inscription: Name Phone # Address Street City Zip 15

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18 Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not the end it is a wonderful day filled with many memories. It enhances your understanding of a special family and Congregational event, but you have much more to do! Continue with Upper School on Tuesday evening where you will build community, enjoy your friends and participate in study through Confirmation. Confirmation is a Reform-oriented ceremony, when tenth grade students, individually and as a group, affirm their commitment to the Jewish people. It began less than 200 years ago, and is connected to the festival of Shavuot, the giving of the Torah. At Beth David, our Upper School students in Grades 8-10 study a Confirmation curriculum and work as student assistants (Madrichim) in the classrooms. The Tuesday evening Upper School program provides the opportunity for our young adults to explore themes and ideas that relate to them as Jews and as teens. The course includes a tenth grade trip to the RAC Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, in Washington, D.C. along with two hundred kids from Reform congregations around the U.S. Our students will study a variety of current questions including Jewish views on contemporary topics of the day. Following tenth grade, some Confirmands choose to attend a two-year post Confirmation program, a division of The Jewish Community High School of Gratz College. There are additional ways to engage! Through the URJ, post B nai experiences can translate into attending Jewish camp or perhaps traveling to Israel. For additional programming ideas, visit or contact Gratz College

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