Toward a meaningful Bar Mitzvah

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1 Toward a meaningful Bar Mitzvah 1

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3 WHAT I WISH FOR MY SON, I WISH FOR ALL MY CHILDREN. I wish for you to be a person of character strong but not tough, gentle but not weak. I wish for you to be righteous but not self-righteous honest but not unforgiving. Wherever you journey, may your steps be firm and may you walk in just paths and not be afraid. Whenever you speak, may your words be words of wisdom and friendship. May your hands build and your heart preserve what is good and beautiful in our world. May the voices of the generations of our people move through you and may the God of our ancestors be your God as well. May you know that there is a people, A rich heritage, to which you belong And from a sacred place You are connected to all who dwell on earth. May the stories of our people Be upon your heart And the grace of the Torah rhythm Dance in your soul. Putting God on the Guest List Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin 3

4 INTRODUCTION Welcome to Emanuel Synagogue. As we believe that the family, regardless of configuration, remains the centre of Jewish life, we feel privileged that you are allowing us to strengthen your family heritage by enrolling in our program. You will receive great joy watching your son learn, grow and then read from the Torah on that special Shabbat. In this booklet, we offer you some guidance to assist in making this experience loving and meaningful for the whole family. You will also find our philosophy regarding bar mitzvah including the requirements and responsibilities that will need to be undertaken by both you and your son. With the commitment, encouragement and enthusiasm of both you and your child, our aim is to create an experience which will be beautiful for the whole family, especially your son. Please read this booklet carefully, discuss it together with your child and do not hesitate to contact us with any further questions or concerns. 4

5 WHAT IS A BAR MITZVAH? Nothing is mentioned in the Torah about bar or bat mitzvah; the Talmud declares that the age of legal majority for boys is 13 and girls 12 according to the Jewish calendar. However, the Talmud does not discuss any ritual for marking that occasion of legal responsibility. Over time, boys put on tefillin and were called to the Torah on their 13th birthday. The Talmud teaches that upon attaining the age of thirteen, a child becomes bar mitzvah, literally, a son of the commandments, and thus responsible for his own actions under Jewish law. At this age, his parents are absolved of their burden. It was the custom, that upon the child s birthday, the father would recite a blessing in the synagogue wherein he declared that he was no longer responsible for his child s actions. Today, most legal burdens of a child and parent are governed by Australian, not Jewish, law. Nevertheless, from the age of bar mitzvah, a boy is held responsible for his Jewish life and destiny. Two of the most important mitzvot are to study Torah and to recite prayers. Until two hundred years ago, a Jewish boy would learn these commandments, along with the ethics of Judaism, in his school studies there was no mathematics, science, history or other subjects that form the basis of the contemporary school curriculum. Hebrew was the natural language of study. Being called to the Torah to read the lesson of the day and leading the congregation in prayer was an honour bestowed upon the bar mitzvah which did not require special preparation. Today, we still honour a bar mitzvah by calling him to the Torah, having him read the Torah, the Haftarah, and leading the congregation in blessings and prayers. However, today s boy generally does not have the same background or Jewish self-understanding as a child of 200 years ago, and requires special instruction to be both mentally and spiritually prepared for the day. 5

6 From this brief history of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, we can see that Judaism is dynamic and able to respond to changing times. In this way, it is possible to constantly renew and re-establish the covenant between God and the Jewish people. The Bar Mitzvah ritual can thus renew and strengthen the community. Through joining with us for this celebration, we are able to deepen and enhance Jewish life for the entire community. Bar Mitzvah connects us to covenant and community through the special conversations with friends, a grandparent speaking to the third generation, a scene of aesthetic beauty that we call hiddur mitzvah (enhancing the performance of a mitzvah), the pride of watching a son fulfil a mitzvah that ensures our continuity, expressions of family love, or the awakening of a spiritual moment in prayer or knowledge. These are the things we take with us: a feeling of affirming life and choosing goodness, of loving family and bonding with community. These are the precious events, the images and voices that stay in our mind, ideas from which we grow, memories that make up our lives as Jews. 6

7 Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of the covenant. Adonai said to Moses, Come up to me on the mountain veyehe sham, and be there (Exodus 24:12) Menachem Mendl of Kotsk, a great Chassidic teacher, asked, If Moses had come up the mountain, why did God also have to tell him to be there? Because, the chassid answered, it is possible to expend great effort in climbing a mountain, but still not be there. Sometimes you are somewhere else. Bar mitzvah is a sacred mountain in Jewish time. We climb this particular mountain because it brings us closer to God, closer to Judaism, closer to our people, closer to ourselves. 7

8 REQUIREMENTS FOR BAR MITZVAH 1. EDUCATION We see bar mitzvah as a process. It is the time during which the congregation has an opportunity to welcome the bar mitzvah into its ranks as an adult member, and an opportunity for him to mark and celebrate the process of religious development and study he has undertaken until this point. It is crucial that the day be a part of a greater educational and religious experience. It is for this reason that we require a variety of different activities to be undertaken by the bar mitzvah prior to the date of the service. a. BEIT MIDRASH EMANUEL Beit Midrash Emanuel provides an important opportunity for the bar mitzvah to meet and interact with other Jewish people his age. Many of the friendships formed at the Beit Midrash last a lifetime. All students are required to attend a minimum of two years of education at our Beit Midrash (at least four terms of our school s Year 6 curriculum and four terms of Year 7.) If the Bar Mitzvah is attending a Jewish day school for Years 6 and 7, this requirement is waived. Please note that our two-year requirement applies regardless of your child s age, independent study with private tutors or attendance at a public school or private school s Jewish scripture classes. GRADE 6 Meets on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon from 4:10-6:00pm. The courses studied include Hebrew and Jewish Studies. GRADE 7 The Bar Mitzvah attends either Tuesday or Thursday afternoon from 4:00-5:30pm. This course concentrates on the Jewish studies element of religious education and aims to create Jews who are familiar with the basic philosophies, texts and customs of our tradition. 8

9 b. PRIVATE HEBREW TUITION An integral part of the experience of bar mitzvah is the opportunity for the bar mitzvah to conduct part of the Shabbat services and to read from the Torah and Haftarah. To acquire the skills to lead the congregation in prayer, each bar mitzvah will have a period of private tuition in which he will study the parasha and the various prayers and readings for that Shabbat. On average, this tuition takes approximately ten to twelve months. It is a beautiful mitzvah for the parent to teach the child; however, if you are not able to do so, we have a number of skilled tutors as part of our community and they are available to teach either at home or other venue by arrangement. The tutoring arrangements are private, and you will be responsible for paying the tutor after each lesson. When you meet with the rabbis, they will provide you with a document explaining the tutoring process and allocate a tutor to you. You may then arrange with the tutor to begin as soon as possible. c. FAMILY PROGRAMME B MITZVOTAV EDUCATION BOOKLET Each bar mitzvah student will receive a B Mitzvotav booklet listing a broad selection of Jewish activities. It is the responsibility of the bar mitzvah student to complete the activities with at least one other adult member of the family. This booklet will allow your family to jointly experience fun Jewish activities together. d. MEETING THE COMMUNITY During the year there will be special b nei mitzvah activities, such as a special Shabbat dinner or lunchtime activity with the rabbis for all the people in the bat mitzvah program. You will receive invitations to each of these sessions. This will be a wonderful opportunity to meet other Bar/Bat mitzvah families. 2. SERVICE ATTENDANCE As the bar mitzvah will be leading the community in prayer, it is important that he be familiar and comfortable with the Shabbat service. In order to facilitate this, we require the bar mitzvah to attend a minimum of 25 services throughout the year preceding bar mitzvah. Attendance at festival services is also required. We ask that the majority of services attended be in the synagogue service in which you will be having the bar mitzvah ceremony. Attendance at services can be a wonderful time for your family to join together in an activity of learning and enrichment. Please do not let your child come to synagogue alone and sit solitary amongst the crowd. Attending services can be a very positive and beautiful experience but much will depend on your attitude and commitment. Please help us to give your child a meaningful and enriching time of Jewish involvement and participation. Service Times: Progressive Service with a combination of English and Hebrew. Saturdays at 10.00am Main Synagogue Conservative All in Hebrew with full Torah reading and egalitarian. Saturdays at 9.00am Neuweg Synagogue Renewal Service With meditation, music, discussion. Once a month at 10:00am Education Centre. See Synagogue bulletin for dates. Erev Shabbat Following the traditional liturgy, but with some English. Fridays at 6.00pm Main Synagogue 6.30pm Daylight saving time 9

10 3. MEETINGS WITH THE RABBIS Each bar mitzvah will be allocated a supervising rabbi who will work closely with him and be present on the day of the ceremony. Approximately one year before the bar mitzvah the rabbi will call for a meeting at which time the process will be outlined and an opportunity given to ask any questions you may have. Following that initial gathering, the rabbi who will be conducting the service on the morning of the bar mitzvah will arrange to meet with the bar mitzvah to check his progress with Hebrew and the B Mitzvotav project, service attendance, answer questions and also get to know him on a more individual basis. These meetings are also an opportunity to discuss the content of the Torah portion and the significance and meaning of bar mitzvah. 10

11 4. ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITIES a. MEMBERSHIP In order to book a date for a bar mitzvah, it is necessary for you to be a member of the Synagogue. If you are not currently a member, please call the office and ask for the membership forms and they can be sent to you. b. BOOKING A DATE Due to the size of the congregation, the dates for bar mitzvah often begin to fill up with bookings as far as three years in advance. To be sure that you have the greatest choice in available dates, it is prudent to call as early as possible to book your child s bar mitzvah. The forms are available in the office or online and you will need to pay a non-refundable deposit of $100 to secure your chosen date. To book a date, call our Director of Education, Sandy Hollis at the office. c. COST The cost for bar mitzvah is in three parts: 1. The Administration Fee: $500 which includes $100 booking deposit. 2. The tutor payment: a scheduled fee charged on a per lesson basis and which is a private arrangement between the tutor and the bar mitzvah. 3. Beit Midrash Fee: a charge to cover teachers, text books and supplies for those required to attend the Beit Midrash. Financial assistance is available for anyone who has difficulties with payment. Nobody will be turned away because of financial reasons. 11

12 d. KIDDUSH AND THE HALL It is customary in Jewish tradition, to celebrate any joyous occasion with a seudat mitzvah: a festive meal. Our congregation provides wine and challah, but it is appropriate to provide a light meal consisting of fresh fruit, vegetables and dips, and other kind of appetizers and drinks. The Kiddush must be kosher under our auspices. Details are at the back of this folder. Emanuel is unique among synagogues around the world in our running a range of services with different affiliations (renewal, progressive and masorti.) We are committed to living in harmony and celebrating diversity in community and in this spirit we share in one Kiddush after Shabbat services. Because there may be more than one simcha being celebrated (bar or bat mitzvah, aufruf, baby naming or anniversary) we will help co-ordinate the kiddush with you and any others providing the celebratory meal. 12

13 e. REHEARSAL AND MORNING MINYAN A rehearsal will take place before the bar mitzvah scheduled with you and the supervising rabbi. In addition, you and your child will attend our Monday and/or Thursday morning service (from 6:45 am for about 50 minutes) the week of the bar mitzvah. f. PHOTOGRAPHS A great opportunity to record the bar mitzvah ceremony and to take photographs is during the rehearsal which usually takes place during the week preceding the bar mitzvah. The morning minyan is also a lovely time to take some photographs. In respect of Shabbat we do not permit any photography or videography during the bar mitzvah ceremony or the Kiddush following. g. YOUR FUNCTION It is important to remember the context and content of this occasion. The context is that your child is turning thirteen. The content is that this is the time of accepting the mitzvot and the values of Judaism. A lavish party is inappropriate. We ask that you observe a level of kashrut at your function as this is a Jewish celebration and event. There must be no traif: pork products or shellfish served at your function. It is not necessary to have kosher meat, but if you will be serving meat it is essential that no milk products be served alongside. Further, it is important to have a fish or vegetarian option for those who will not eat meat which is not kosher. If bread is being served, then the blessing should be recited as well as hand washing facilities made available. Finally, if the blessing for bread is recited then birkat hamazon, grace after meals, should also be said. If you have any questions about this policy, please ask the rabbi. 13

14 WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE WEEK OF YOUR BAR MITZVAH MONDAY AND THURSDAY MORNING MINYAN (6:45AM): Students: Wear tallit and tefillin Chant 1st and 3rd paragraphs of the Sh ma (plus 2nd paragraph if able) Open/Close the Ark Carry the Torah Recite Torah blessings before and after Torah reading Chant Weekday Torah Reading Rishon (if able) Parents: Recite Torah blessings before and after Torah reading SHABBAT EVENING SERVICE (6 PM IN WINTER, 6:30 PM IN SUMMER) Students: Chant 1st and 3rd paragraphs of the Sh ma (plus 2nd paragraph if able) Recite Kiddush for Shabbat evening Recite Hamotzi in the foyer after services *If two students are celebrating bar or bat mitzvah on the same night, passages of the Sh ma will be shared appropriately and the students will recite Kiddush together. 14

15 SHABBAT MORNING SERVICE (9:00AM MASORTI, 10:00AM PROGRESSIVE) Students: Wear tallit Chant 1st and 3rd paragraphs of the Sh ma (plus 2nd paragraph if able) Read Ten Commandments in Hebrew and English Carry the Torah Deliver d var Torah (brief sermon explaining the themes of the Torah portion) Recite Torah blessings before and after Torah reading Chant 1st Aliyah of Torah Reading Rishon (if able) Chant conclusion of Torah reading Maftir Chant Haftarah blessings before and after Haftarah reading Read/Chant Haftarah in Hebrew (selection from the Prophets) Read Bar/Bat Mitzvah prayer in English Recite Shabbat Morning Kiddush Receive a blessing from the rabbi in celebration of this special occasion in their lives Parents: Present their child with tallit and read Tallit Presentation in English Recite Torah blessings before and after Torah reading Read Parents Bar/Bat Mitzvah Prayer in English Chant Torah (if able) Other Relatives: Older siblings who have already reached the age of bar/bat mitzvah may be called to the Torah, recite Torah blessings, and chant from the Torah (if able) Younger siblings read Younger Brother or Sister s Prayer Other relatives may participate in various parts of the service (opening/closing the ark, lifting/dressing the Torah, call-ups to the Torah, chanting from the Torah, English readings) all of which will be assigned by the family approximately 4-6 weeks before the service Interfaith Participation: Both parents are invited onto the bimah to present their child with his/her tallit and to read the Bar/Bat Mitzvah prayer in English. Only a Jewish parent may be called to the Torah to recite Torah blessings and chant from the Torah. The contribution of the non-jewish parent to their child s Jewish education will be acknowledged by the rabbi during his/her blessing at the call-up. Non-Jews may also be invited to read the Prayer for Traditional Land Owners and a special version of Prayer for Australia. 15

16 16 Additions you may consider

17 LEARNING AND STUDY As the Bar Mitzvah is entering a new stage in his life, this is an opportunity for him to study further. This then becomes a chance for the Bar Mitzvah to reflect on his own family history and goals BELOW ARE SOME SUGGESTED THEMES TO EXPLORE: YOUR ROOTS Learn the story of your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents lives. YOUR NAME Discover the meaning of your name and study something in the liturgy connected to it. For example, a boy named David may study the biblical David, as well as famous David s throughout Jewish history. THE SEASON Explore the moment of your bar mitzvah or your birthday as it relates to the Jewish calendar. If your bar mitzvah falls around Pesach, study the laws and meaning of Pesach. If it falls near a fast day, investigate the laws pertaining to fast days. JEWISH MEN Get to know your forefathers. Familiarize yourself with men in Tanakh, Talmud, and medieval and modern Jewish history. It is important to acknowledge the men who have come before you and to develop role models. 17

18 MITZVOT, TZEDAKAH and COMMUNITY SERVICE Becoming a bar mitzvah is becoming a son of mitzvot (son of commandments). It is important to perform at least one mitzvah as part of the bar mitzvah celebration. SOME SUGGESTIONS: ADOPT A MITZVAH Choose a mitzvah that is meaningful to you (perhaps it is visiting an older person weekly, or walking a disabled person to shul) and perform it throughout the year. PARTICIPATE IN OR INITIATE A COMMUNITY SERVICE PROJECT Feed the homeless or help out in a local shelter. If you see a need for a community service project that does not already exist, perhaps you can get one off the ground with the support of family and friends. DONATE A PORTION OF YOUR BAR MITZVAH MONEY TO TZEDAKAH It is a mitzvah to give maaser or 10% of the money you receive, as a gift to a charity of your choice. Select one that has a special meaning to you or your family. For example, if someone in your family is ill with heart disease, you may want to contribute to an association funding heart research. FOSTER LEARNING IN YOUR COMMUNITY One generous family sponsored a lecture series at their shul in honour of their son s bar mitzvah. A lecture series might also be organized as a community-wide gift: all the families of the b nei mitzvah of the year could pool their resources to coordinate such an event. GIVE YOUR GUESTS THE GIFT OF LEARNING If you have discovered interesting and useful Jewish publications on a particular topic, you might want to prepare a list of them and distribute it to your guests. MAZON Mazon is an organisation dedicated to supporting those in need of food. For more information contact

19 Emanuel Synagogue Kashrut Policy March 2011 Background and Purpose. Emanuel Synagogue is a multi-denominational congregation serving Jewish families from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds. We recognise that the synagogue is a sacred, public place, a communal space where Jewish values must be taught, considered, and practised. We learn our values through Talmud Torah, study of Torah, which teaches us mitzvot, the ways of our ancestors, and halakhot, how we practice those ways in our times. Emanuel Synagogue s pluralist nature affiliates us with Masorti Judaism, which commits us to the observance of mitzvah and halakha, and also Progressive Judaism, which commits us as well to think about core values and ranges of observance, and also to Renewal Judaism which calls us to consider the spirit and intention behind each mitzvah. It is important to know the development of dietary practice in Judaism, known as kashrut, in order to understand how Emanuel has established its kashrut policy. The following Kashrut policy is being instituted in accordance with the principles of Jewish tradition, to heighten awareness of ethical eating, and to encourage our community to regard eating as a spiritual, reflective exercise that in addition to nourishing our bodies, demonstrates respect for the world in which we live. The first story that discusses what food is intended for humans is the very first chapter of the Torah (Genesis 1:29): Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you. This vegetarian ideal has been embraced as the ultimate form of kashrut by many rabbinic authorities for thousands of years, while others consider it to be a mitzvah to eat meat. The first story in which animals are permitted is the story of Noah and the flood; extensive dietary laws of which animals are either permitted or prohibited for food is found in Leviticus chapter 11. In all events, it is clear that the Torah permits the eating of certain types of animals, while establishing many rules to regulate the slaughter of animals and the consumption of meat, particularly the prohibition of the combination of dairy and meat products. The Torah does not give a rationale for these rules, other than saying that we are to be a holy people. These rules have been elaborated in rabbinic tradition over thousands of years to establish which animals may or may not be eaten, how they may be prepared and so forth, all within a practice termed by the rabbis as kashrut, meaning that which is fit for consumption. The Torah, in its system of mitzvah and halakhah, also commands that we do not treat animals cruelly and that we preserve the environment. In contemporary times, these principles often clash with the permission to eat animals, leading to a concept known as eco-kashrut, teaching us that we must not only be concerned how animals are slaughtered, but also how they are raised and the impact that has on the environment. (There are also questions of ethical practices in the workplace as well, see in general In the last few decades, new facts and issues have arisen that impact how we relate to the consumption of animals (including fish): Nearly all animals are raised in cruel, factory farms, violating a core mitzvah of Torah not to act cruelly toward animals. The animal industry contributes 20% to greenhouse emissions, as well as being a major source of environmental degradation in general. Given the forced feeding of animals, including with antibiotics, major health issues for humans arise (and we are commanded to preserve our health).

20 Given these issues, we see the ideal at Emanuel Synagogue is to become a vegetarian campus; however, there is understanding that our community is most likely not ready to live this ideal at this time. Therefore, Emanuel Synagogue will be a dairy campus, which means vegetarian and, until further review, fish is allowed. While we encourage our congregants each to adopt this policy of eating consciously and ethically, avoiding the consumption of animals as much as possible within their diet, we recognize that each home is a personal sanctuary and this policy applies only at Emanuel Synagogue. I. Meat free campus Emanuel Synagogue will hence-forth be identified as a dairy/vegetarian/kosher fish campus. All fresh vegetables and fruit are allowed. No meat or poultry and their derivatives, (other than eggs from a kosher animal) may be cooked, consumed, or brought onto the synagogue grounds. Kosher fish and dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt may be used in cooking and consumed on synagogue premises; however, cheese containing rennet and any products with animal gelatine may not be used. II. III. IV. Products Only products identified as kosher by the Kashrut Association of New South Wales (from time to time), or by a universally recognised hekhsher from another kashrut authority, or food approved by the Vegan Society of Australia may be brought onto synagogue grounds, cooked, and consumed on these premises. The Senior Rabbi, or in his absence, one of his rabbinic colleagues, is regarded as the final arbiter on the kashrut of a particular item. Catered Synagogue Functions The synagogue will maintain a list of approved caterers, as determined by the rabbis, in conjunction with the Board of Governance. Kosher caterers, approved by the Kashrut Association of New South Wales, are welcome to serve as caterers for synagogue functions, provided that the catered meal or Kiddush is vegetarian/ fish in nature. Kosher-style caterers, though not approved by the Kashrut Association of New South Wales, are welcome to serve as caterers for synagogue functions, provided that the catered meal or Kiddush is vegetarian/fish in nature, and provided that such caterers prepare their functions on synagogue grounds. Non-Catered Synagogue Functions From time-to-time, the synagogue may wish to hold pot-luck functions. The kitchen is to remain closed and locked during these functions, and no synagogue kitchenware or utensils may be used. All items that are brought for a pot-luck function are to be strictly vegetarian in nature, containing no animal products. All congregants and guests participating in pot-luck functions are to bring their own crockery and/or serving utensils, and be advised that they will not be permitted to wash their crockery before leaving the function. V. Use of Kitchen The Senior Rabbi or his delegate will be identified as the mashgiach (supervising authority) for the synagogue kitchen and will determine who is to be given access to the kitchen. A record of kitchen usage will be kept at the reception desk and reviewed by the Senior Rabbi or his delegate from time-to-time. VI. Informing the Community The synagogue will endeavour to notify the community of this policy by all available means through the TELL, and a copy of this policy will be available on the synagogue website. In the event that the kashrut policy of the campus is broken, the Senior Rabbi, or one of his colleagues, will be responsible for rectifying the matter. In the event that a congregant or staff member brings an item to the synagogue deemed to be unsuitable for use on the campus, the congregant will be addressed respectfully, and informed of the synagogue s Kashrut policy.

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