Bar/Bat Mitzvah


Letter of Introduction from NCRT

Keeping the Bar & Bat Mitzvah in Perspective

NCRT Requirements & Expectations

What Does a Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Do? 
What does the Parent Do? 

Who Else Can Participate in the Service?

Siddur Explanations

NCRT Information Packet:  pdf’s  

Dear Parents & B’nai Mitzvah Candidates,

North Country Reform Temple’s B’nai Mitzvah program encourages our students to continue in the Jewish tradition of establishing an ongoing dialogue with our sacred texts and our history while helping them to create a path for our collective future. Our students will have the opportunity to experience the joy and awe of leading our congregation in prayer and in the reading of Torah and the Haftarah. We ask our students to develop a lesson from their Torah portion that will teach the congregation and give the student the opportunity to reflect on their own lives in a Jewish context.

We require a great deal from our students. Our Hebrew school, Rabbi Liss, Student Cantor Levy, and Hebrew tutors will help to make sure that each of our students is successful. At the end of this process our students will know that they are capable of taking their place as an adult in the Jewish community. Likewise, our students will understand how much they are appreciated by their family and the NCRT community.

We depend heavily on our families to support our students. The first step is the commitment to our Hebrew school. Our school is very respectful of different learning styles and the needs of students. However, we need consistency in attendance at school and Shabbat services to support their learning. We are trying to build community with our children as we are trying to build community with our adults.

We are often asked if we have any “tricks of the trade” when it comes to learning the Hebrew prayers. We do! Practice makes perfect. Your B’nai Mitzvah student will be helped immensely if you attend our Friday evening services and you encourage practice at home. We try to teach our students that practicing prayer is like practicing an instrument or a sport. The more we practice the better we get. The better we get, the deeper our experience.

We look forward to working with you over the next year. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.



(From the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Handbook: A Manual for Parent and Student, Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield, NJ)

· Bar/Bat Mitzvah Is about the Acceptance of Responsibility. In the final analysis, this is the bottom line of becoming a bar and bat mitzvah. It’s not about acquiring the skill of k’riah,-“the reading of the Torah.” Rather, it’s about acquiring the skill of responding to a challenge: a mitzvah. This is how Judaism defines maturity.

· The Torah Is the Center of Judaism. Everything we do as Jews, everything we believe, everything we value revolves around the Torah. The Torah is the testimony of our people’s encounter with God. And however you interpret those events in the wilderness of Sinai some three millennia ago, what cannot be dismissed is the sacredness with which our ancestors have embraced this legacy. This is why the first mitzvah we expect our children to fulfill is to stand to read the Torah.

· Bar/Bat Mitzvah Is a Community Observance. It is not by coincidence that we choose to hold this initiation ceremony in public. To be a Jew means to live within a covenantal relationship-not only with God but with other Jews as well. Bar/bat mitzvah marks the entry of the child as a full-fledged member of the community. The awarding of an aliyah, (“being called to the Torah”), is a gift of the Jewish people. For this reason, the marking of the child’s coming of age takes place in the synagogue-the communal home.

· The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony Is Not a Performance: It’s a Celebration. The synagogue is not a theater, and the bimah is not a stage, and the congregation is not an audience. More to the point, the only mistake one can make at a bar/bat mitzvah is to lose sight of this truth.

· Try to Think of the Reception That Follows Not As a Separate Event but As a Continuation of the Celebration. In fact, Judaism has a formal name for the meal after a bar/bat mitzvah: It is a s’udat mitzvah. This meal is in honor of the performance of a mitzvah. It, too, is a sacred gathering. This is not to say that it must be solemn; it is to say, however, that the spirit of the morning’s celebration should be perpetuated through the performance of mitzvot. The recitation of the blessings and the setting aside of a portion of one’s bounty for the poor demonstrate that the morning’s celebration was not an isolated event but a standard from which to follow.

· The Meaning of Becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Is Enduring Only If It Takes Place within a Context of Continued Jewish Growth. Being a bat or bar mitzvah is not the experience of a lifetime. It is a lifetime experience-a state of being that remains with us throughout our lives. Indeed, the true measure of performance comes not on the day one becomes a bat or bar mitzvah but in the days that follow. In other words, becoming a bar or bat mitzvah should be thought of as a Jewish “commencement,” marking not an end point but a beginning-a beginning of a lifetime of mitzvot, a beginning of a lifetime of learning. As such, it is our firm belief that the bar/bat mitzvah celebration is validated and enhanced by a commitment to continue religious education to confirmation.


NCRT’s Requirements and Expectations
Eligibility Requirements
Any Jew over the age of 13 years (male or female), meeting the specific requirements listed below is acceptable for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. 

The family of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah must be members in good standing of North Country Reform Temple for three years including the year of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.This does not apply in cases of families new to Glen Cove who have been affiliated with another congregation before moving. 

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah must have both religious education and experience in Reform Judaism, and a proficiency in liturgical Hebrew. In order to satisfy these requirements, all Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates must have the equivalent of three years of education at the NCRT Hebrew School including the Bar/Bat Mitzvah year. The Rabbi will determine equivalency of other education programs. Those children determined to have an equivalent education are required to attend NCRT’s Hebrew School for that portion of the program which focuses on Synagogue Skills, liturgy, torah commentary, and Reform Judaism (Sunday mornings), for a minimum of one year, during the year of their ceremonies. This enables these children to become more familiar with the Reform Service, and enables them to become a part of the NCRT community.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah must participate in an approved Social Action Project.
In order to put concepts of living Jewishly into practice, Bar/Bat students will participate in Tikkun Olam. This will take the form of an individual social action project which will involve the student regularly for an extended time (usually several months). Students may also be involved in one or more class mitzvah projects.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah families must meet as a group for a discussion with the (Student)Rabbi prior to the ceremony.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidate, is required to attend at least 13 (thirteen) Shabbat services at NCRT in the year prior to the ceremony. 

The Rabbi is the primary contact for the scheduling and arrangements pertaining to all Bar/Bar Mitzvah ceremonies. Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies are normally held on Saturday mornings. Friday evening, Havdallah, or Minchah ceremonies may also be considered.

Flexible participation will be arranged in order to insure that candidates with special needs have the opportunity for a meaningful and appropriate ceremony.


The family of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is responsible for hosting, at the Temple, an Oneg Shabbat or Kiddush immediately following the religious ceremony. An open invitation will be placed in the NCRT Bulletin inviting the NCRT membership to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony and to the Oneg or Kiddush following. 


(From the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Handbook: A Manual for Parent and Student, 
Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield, NJ)
There are basically four areas of participation for a bar/bat mitzvah at a Shabbat morning service: to be a sh’liach tzibur, “leader of worship;” to chant from the Torah and the haftarah; and to offer a d’var Torah or teaching on the week’s Torah portion.
Sh’liach Tzibur
One of the oldest and most prestigious roles in the synagogue is to be the sh’liach tzibur. Literally, the “representative of the community,” the sh’liach tzibur leads the congregation in prayer. Each bar/bat mitzvah student joins with the rabbi and cantor in this sacred role.
Most of the Hebrew prayers for the service have been learned in Hebrew school. The Rabbi and tutor will meet with each bar/bat mitzvah student prior to his or her b’nai mitzvah date to assess their proficiency. The basic Hebrew prayers expected of a bar/bat mitzvah are:
Sh’ma/V’ahavta/L’ma-an Tizk’ru
The student must also know the Torah and Haftarah blessings.
In the instance of a double b’nai mitzvah, the liturgy will be shared, and prayers will be added to accommodate two students. The specific Hebrew prayers that have to be additionally learned will be determined in consultation with the Rabbi and tutor.
The K’riat Hatorah 
Each bar/bat mitzvah assumes the role of the baal(at) k’riah, “Torah reader,” for the day. This entails the learning of the selection from the week’s Torah portion, which is determined by the rabbi or tutor.
The Torah scroll is unvocalized (without the diacritical vowels or accents); moreover, students are normally expected to learn the trope or traditional cantillation melody. This skill is taught by the tutors in private tutoring sessions.
The bar/bat mitzvah will chant the Torah blessings only for the final aliyah. (The previous aliyot can be given to family members and friends.)
The Haftarah 
Following the reading of Torah, the bar/bat mitzvah student will chant the Haftarah or secondary biblical reading. Like the Torah reading, the Haftarah is usually chanted according to a specific melody to be learned from the tutor. The number of verses to be read will be determined by the Rabbi and tutor.
The D’var Torah 
After the reading of Torah and Haftarah, the bar/bat mitzvah will deliver a brief (three to four minute) explanation of the week’s Torah portion (Torah teaching). This teaching will be prepared in consultation with the Rabbi, tutor, or service leader.

(From the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Handbook: A Manual for Parent and Student, 
Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield, NJ)

· Participating in the ceremony of the handing down of the Torah (Jewish family members only).
· Having an aliyah, which involves reciting the Torah blessings (non-Jewish spouse may stand beside Jewish spouse doing the aliyah).
· Offering comments for the bar/bat mitzvah
· Other readings or prayers as may be decided upon in consultation with the Rabbi.

The intent of the parental comments/speech in our service is to afford the mother and/or father the opportunity to publicly acknowledge-in a sacred setting-the joy and pride they feel at that moment. More important, however, they can also use that time to share their hopes and dreams for their child, particularly in relation to his or her being called to the Torah. In other words, it’s an opportunity to articulate the meaning of the moment.


The Order of the Service
The prayer book is called Siddur, which means “order.” Every service has an order.
Mah Tovu
The first line is a blessing of Bilaam (Bilam) from Numbers 24:5. Bilaam was hired by the King Balak to curse the people of Israel. Bilaam looked into the tents of the people of Israel and instead of a curse, he praised us with the words of “Mah Tovu”
The Kaddish
Kaddish comes from the Hebrew word for holiness. There are five variations to the Kaddish prayer. This Kaddish is called the “Hatzi Kaddish” or the half Kaddish because it omits one verse from the basic version. It is also called the “Readers Kaddish” because it is used to separate the different parts of the service and offer a holy transition. Because our connection with the Kaddish is with mourning, we include the Reader’s Kaddish at the beginning of our service to tell mourners that they are welcome here, to praise God and to separate the first part of the service from the second part, the Barchu.
The Shema and Its Blessings:
Jewish tradition emphasizes praying with a community. “One who prays with a congregation will have their prayer answered.” (Talmud). As the first word, Barchu, is spoken the leader slightly bows to gently call each congregant to prayer. At the word Baruch, the congregation bows to acknowledge and respond to the leader.
The first statement of the Shema is, “Shema, Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad,” is from Deuteronomy 6:4ff. The response to the first statement of the Shema is “Baruch Sheim kevod malchuto leolam vaed” Blessed is the God’s glorious kingdom forever and ever. This response originated in the days of the Temple. Only the High Priest was permitted to say God’s holy name (represented by the Hebrew letters Yud Hey Vav Hey), and only from within the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. The congregation’s response to this most holy of utterance was “Baruch sheim kevod…”
Tradition calls us to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim – our going out from Egypt, in every service. We remember that we were slaves and know that until all people are free not one of us is completely free. Though we mourn for the suffering of the Egyptians and know that the journey ahead is long and difficult, we join together in celebrating of this precious moment of complete freedom. The wisdom of celebrating that moment has carried us through times of deep despair when a glimmer of hope came from remembering the miracle at the shores of the Sea of Reeds, when Miriam the prophetess took her timbrel in her hand and together with Moses, led the Israelites in song and dance.
This is the central part of the prayer service. Tefillah means “prayer.” This section has two other names: the Amidah (standing) because the prayer is said while standing, and Shmoneh Esrei (Eighteen) because it originally contained 18 blessings, (a nineteenth was added later, but the name was not changed). On Shabbat just seven blessings are said: three of praise, one for the Sabbath, and three of thanksgiving.
Aleinu (Adoration):
This prayer reminds us that we are no longer victims. We must be on guard to avoid becoming like those nations who oppress. We bend slightly our knees the word “korim” and bow at the word “u’mishtakhavim” in humility and gratitude as we learn from the lessons of our own history and commit ourselves to Tikkun Olam: the restoration of wholeness to our broken world.
Mourners Kaddish:
As all of our prayers, the Mourner’s Kaddish connects us with God. We rise together and say the same words that our people have said for their loved ones and for all those who have no one to say Kaddish for them, to continue the blessings of their lives, and for community members and friends who have died recently or at this time in seasons past.