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B*Mitzvah Guidelines

I.  Introduction

Our tradition tells us that a Jew becomes responsible for observing the commandments upon his or her thirteenth birthday, with or without a ceremony — and thus becomes a “Bar/Bat Mitzvah.” Nevertheless, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony has long been a powerful and popular life cycle ritual in the Jewish community. It marks acceptance of responsibility– “becoming a mitzvah person”–before the congregation, the local Jewish community, and the Jewish people at large. It also marks the achievement of a minimum level of Jewish knowledge and synagogue skills, and a commitment to Jewish living.

Traditionally, the ceremony entailed simply calling the Bar Mitzvah boy to the Torah for the first time to recite the blessing for an aliyah. Over time, additional facets were added, including the important Reconstructionist innovation of calling girls as well as boys to the Torah. Presently in the American Jewish community, a child usually reads from the weekly Torah portion (and/or the accompanying Haftorah) and delivers a short talk.

Reconstructionists advocate the creative development of Jewish rituals and ceremonies and we are also mindful of the psychological and spiritual power of rites of passage. We recognize that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah milestone marks the onset of adolescence and not just the specific Jewish responsibilities and obligations highlighted in the ceremony through the demonstration of Jewish skills. At Adat Shalom, we seek to balance these two aspects of a Jewish child’s coming of age. On one hand, we maintain certain ceremonial uniformity in deference to Jewish tradition and to communal expectations. On the other hand, we encourage some personalizing of the ceremony to reflect the interests and commitments of the emerging adult and his/her family.

In the American Jewish community, most Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies take place at age 13. These guidelines focus on Bar/Bat Mitzvah students of that age. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, however, need not take place at age 13. Jews are ready to publicly assume full membership in the community in different ways and at different times. At Adat Shalom, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony could take place at any age after 13 and give the community equal joy in celebrating a member’s transition to full-fledged participation.

II. Child’s Jewish Identity

1.  Jewish Status: The bar or bat mitzvah ceremony welcomes the child into the community as a Jewish adult. Reconstructionists define a person as Jewish when he/she shares a sense of belonging to the Jewish people, identifies with its common past, and is committed to creating a Jewish future. When either the biological mother or father is Jewish and the child is given a Jewish education and upbringing, Reconstructionists consider that child Jewish. Adoptive parents should contact the rabbi to discuss conversion.

2.  Other Religious Education: Beginning at the start of third grade and coinciding with the start of Adat Shalom’s formal Jewish education requirement, students planning to pursue Bar/Bat Mitzvah at age 13 may not simultaneously receive formal religious education in another faith tradition, or regularly participate in religious practices of another faith. For more details, please see [Section IV.3.C] below and Adat Shalom’s Interfaith Guidelines.

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III. Membership

1.  Parental Membership: Raising a child as a Jew means raising a child in a Jewish home. This is the case even when one parent is non-practicing or not Jewish. When two parents (or a parent and a step parent) are raising the child together in a shared home, all the adults in the home need to support the child on the journey to Jewish adulthood. Therefore, when a family anticipates a Bar/Bat Mitzvah for a child, all adults in the household must join Adat Shalom in the family membership.

While there are cases in which the members of a former couple both maintain membership as Adat Shalom (especially when they are sharing custody of children), Adat Shalom recognizes that, for many divorced/separated parents, belonging to the same congregation is too difficult for all involved. In cases of divorce/separation where one parent is a member and the other is not, the non-member parent is still encouraged to participate throughout the bnai mitzvah process.

When a parent has no adult partner in the household, single parent membership satisfies the parental membership requirement for Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

As with all Adat Shalom policies, these policies on parental membership apply equally to same-sex and mixed sex couples.

2.  Length of Membership at Adat Shalom: Our B’nai Mitzvah process is based on core values of participation in community and connection with Jewish tradition and peoplehood. Acknowledging that there are many paths to Jewish learning and affiliation, we seek to meet all of our children and families at whatever point on their path is the right one for entry. In general, we ask families to get as close as possible to meeting the following (and we welcome discussion with those who cannot meet these guidelines):

1) Families who were not affiliated with another congregation or kehilot/Jewish community immediately prior to joining Adat Shalom belong to Adat Shalom for at least five years before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.

2) Families affiliated with another local synagogue kehilot/Jewish community immediately before joining Adat Shalom belong to Adat Shalom for at least three years prior to the ceremony, for a total of five years of membership in local Jewish congregations in years just prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.

3) Families joining Adat Shalom just after moving to the Washington area who were members of a synagogue or kehilot/Jewish community in their previous community for at least five years (not including a short gap associated with the move) may count their previous membership, and are eligible to schedule a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony immediately upon joining Adat Shalom.

3.  Family Participation: A Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony at Adat Shalom is a three-fold celebration: for the child, for the family and for the community. Affiliation with Adat Shalom should build and strengthen the family’s commitment to Judaism, to Jewish living, and to this Jewish community. This commitment to Jewish practice and Jewish community grows over a number of years and cannot be forged in the months just prior to the ceremony. Over time, parents and their children gain an increased sense of commitment and identity by participating in the congregation’s social activities, holiday celebrations, adult and family education programs, and the annual retreat.

In addition to actively participating in the community life of Adat Shalom, parents are strongly encouraged to attend Adat Shalom’s Shabbat morning services regularly from the time they join Adat Shalom. Specifically, we encourage all parents with children enrolled in Torah School grades pre-K through 5 to attend services during the time their children are in Torah School class. All parents are also encouraged to bring their children on Shabbat mornings when they are not in Torah School and on holidays. Torah School takes place on Sunday mornings for grades 6-8 in part so that children can attend Saturday morning services with their parents. Minimum service attendance requirements are set out in [Section VII.1] below.

4.  Membership in Good Standing:  Being a member in good standing means that the family must be current in dues, oneg duty, and any other responsibilities that go with Adat Shalom membership.

At a minimum, families must be in financial good standing at three checkpoints along the path to celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah. These are 1) at the time a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is scheduled, 2) at the point preparation begins with workshops and classes, and 3) three months prior to the ceremony.

As with all other households in the community, bnai mitzvah families are encouraged to come forward to make needs-based payment arrangements and to arrange for needs-based dues reductions. When a family has made special payment arrangements and/or received a dues reduction, “being financially current” means being current with the terms of these special arrangements.

When a family is not current, the Finance Committee has the authority to place a hold on the child and family’s preparations until financial obligations are met. In extreme cases, the Finance Committee also has the authority to terminate membership of those in serious and repeated arrears, thus canceling the bar/bat mitzvah date.

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IV. Child’s Readiness

1.  Minimum Age: At the time of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, both boys and girls must be at least 13 years of age, by either the secular or the Hebrew calendar, with a “grace period” of one month prior to the child’s birthday allowed as necessary for scheduling.

2.  Hebrew Proficiency: Students must demonstrate basic competency in Hebrew, sufficient to learn the blessings for an aliyah and to participate in the service. The Torah School teaching staff and Education Director will regularly evaluate students’ Hebrew proficiency, with the Bnai Mitzvah Coordinator, Rabbi and Education Director consulting about students with problematically low skills. Students with special learning needs will be accommodated appropriately.

3.  Formal Jewish Education: A. Jewish Pre-school Education: Jewish conceptual education, in English, begins in pre-school. We encourage all Adat Shalom families to enroll their children in preschools or daycare facilities with a Jewish curriculum. We also encourage families to enroll their preschool children ages 3 and 4 in our supplemental preschool program.

B. Primary Jewish Education (K-grade 2): Primary Jewish education helps build Jewish identity. Together with home observance, it familiarizes the child with Jewish traditions and observance, particularly regarding Shabbat and holidays. Exposure in the primary years builds Hebrew reading readiness and gives the child a background in Jewish prayer, history, culture and texts. We strongly recommend that children in our community be enrolled in the Torah School or in a Jewish Day School by kindergarten.

C. Elementary Jewish Education Requirement (grades 3-8): It is a basic minimum requirement for bar/bat mitzvah that, by the beginning of third grade, students must be enrolled in and attending a regular Hebrew/Jewish education program approved by the congregation’s Torah School Board (which includes any Jewish day school.) This includes participation in both the Hebrew and Judaics program. This requirement is in addition to the family membership requirement in [Section III.1] above. Students in grades 3-8 (Gimmel through Chet) and not enrolled in a Jewish day school are required to attend Torah School regularly and to complete class work and homework.

D. Problematic attendance affects eligibility for Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Adat Shalom.

Note that specific B’nai Mitzvah tutoring is in addition to this core curriculum. Students are expected to remain enrolled in the Torah School or Jewish Day School and to continue to attend class when they begin bnai mitzvah tutoring. Arranging for tutors is addressed below.

4.  Alternative Education for Special Needs Students: In some cases of documented special needs, it may be more appropriate for a student to be tutored privately in Hebrew, rather than participating in the Torah School. In such cases, an appropriate, individualized Hebrew program must be coordinated with and approved by the Adat Shalom Education Director. The family incurs the cost for this private education.

Very rarely, a student with documented special needs may also require special tutoring in place of participating in the Judaics program. Such arrangements must be coordinated with and approved by the Adat Shalom Education Director. Again, the family incurs the cost of this education.

Families whose children are not enrolled in the Adat Shalom Torah School or in a Jewish Day school and who have not coordinated their children’s alternative education with Adat School should not assume that their children will meet Adat Shalom standards for Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

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V.  Scheduling

1.  Date Assignment: Bar/ Bat Mitzvah scheduling is done once each year in late winter/early spring for the calendar year two years in the future.

While the B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator attempts to assign a date as close as possible to the child’s actual birthday, the occurrence of birthdays in a given year may mean that the assigned date could be as much as one month prior to the child’s 13th birthday, with no limit imposed by the guidelines on elapsed time for scheduling after the 13th birthday.

Joint ceremonies for more than one family (doubles) will be scheduled during Torah school vacations, including the summer and secular holiday weekends. The Bnai Mitzvah Coordinator attempts to schedule doubles so as to avoid a wide disparity in abilities. Every family should be prepared for the possibility of a shared date.

2.  Regularly Scheduled Service: Because this ceremony marks the child’s entrance into the community, Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies may occur only at scheduled Adat Shalom services when the Torah is read.

3.  Hardship and Special Needs Exception: In cases of hardship and/or special needs, the Bnai Mitzvah Coordinator, in consultation with the other clergy and with the Religious Practices Committee, may be schedule a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at a time when Torah is traditionally read but when Adat Shalom does not ordinarily hold a congregational service.

A situation where close relatives are shomrei Shabbat and cannot get to our building on a Shabbat morning is one example of hardship. Bnai mitzvah ceremonies for children of such families are usually held at a Sunday Rosh Hodesh service (which is a scheduled Adat Shalom service) or on the Monday of a secular holiday weekend (which is not).

In the case of documented special needs, the family and clergy may determine that the child requires a ceremony in a setting with fewer people, such as at a Saturday afternoon Mincha service. (Of course, a child with special needs who does not require a smaller setting is welcome to celebrate becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah at any regularly scheduled service, with the child’s role in the service adjusted appropriately.)

4.  Delayed Ceremonies: Families who decide that their child will not be ready to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at the time of the child’s thirteenth birthday will receive preference for dates near the child’s fourteenth (or subsequent) birthdays. Families who prefer that their child be scheduled in a season other than that of their birthday will be accommodated on a space-available basis if possible, with priority given to those with birthdays in that season.

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VI.  Bar/Bat Mitzvah Fee

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee, set by the Adat Shalom Board, is added to the family’s bill in the year in which preparation is anticipated to begin, typically 18-24 months in advance of the scheduled bar/bat mitzvah date. This fee helps offset congregational costs related to the student’s preparation for the ceremony, including cantillation classes, workshops, and the time of the Bnai Mitzvah coordinator, other clergy and administrative staff.

This fee must be paid prior to the start of family workshops or cantillation class, whichever begins first. Typically, families start this preparation process in the spring of the calendar year preceding the scheduled date (e.g. families with 2005 dates began workshops in spring of 2004.) Payment of this fee is part of the requirement that families must be current in their financial obligations to the synagogue before proceeding with the training process and the ceremony.

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VII.  Specific Training and Preparation

1. Service Attendance: To facilitate a better understanding of the structure and meaning of the Adat Shalom Shabbat morning service, students in fifth grade (Hey) must attend the Adat Shalom Shabbat service a minimum of three times during the year with their parent(s). Students in sixth grade (Vav), together with their parent(s), must attend Shabbat morning services at Adat Shalom at least six times during that year. Students in seventh grade (Zayin), together with their parent(s), must also attend Adat Shalom Shabbat morning services at least six times during that year.

2. Bnai Mitzvah Workshops: Starting when their children are in sixth grade, parents of prospective bnai mitzvah students meet periodically, with and without their children. These workshops serve several purposes. First, they provide a vehicle through which the B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator, other clergy, and other Adat Shalom staff can communicate information and provide training that all families need. Second, these workshops provide social support for families. Attendance at these workshops is expected, as they are a crucial educational, social, and logistical part of the Adat Shalom Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience.

3. Group Cantillation Classes: Group cantillation classes cover more than technical skills, giving the students an overview and understanding of the Torah Service and the meaning of cantillation. The classes also teach students skills such as Torah and Haftorah trop (cantillation) and the Torah and Haftorah blessings.

Students attend these classes in the year prior to their Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. Parents interested in learning (or relearning) to read Torah ad Haftorah are invited to attend along with their children.

These classes are not part of the Torah School curriculum and are in addition to the weekday Hebrew and weekend Judaic classes.

4. Individual Bar/Bat Mitzvah Tutoring: Following completion of the cantillation classes, Adat Shalom helps each family find a suitable individual tutor for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student. The family bears the costs of such tutoring.

Adat Shalom places a high priority on identifying tutors with experience teaching students of various learning types. Adat Shalom maintains a list of tutors who meet our standards, who have worked successfully with other Adat Shalom students and who are familiar with our communal practices. If a family wishes to use a tutor not on the list but who is willing to meet our communal standards, Adat Shalom will provide reasonable assistance to this new tutor but families should understand that they might need to play a greater role in facilitating clergy-tutor communication.

Adat Shalom also provides reasonable assistance to qualified parents who choose to teach the child themselves.

5. Clergy Guidance: Throughout the Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparations, the Adat Shalom clergy and staff are available for consultation, guidance, and pastoral services. The child generally meets with clergy members three times during this period, with the parents attending one or two of these meetings.

6. Rehearsal: Most Bar/bat mitzvah students benefit from a rehearsal at which they read from the Torah while standing at the bimah. Rehearsal times must be coordinated with the Bnai Mitzvah Coordinator. The child’s tutor is usually present at these rehearsals.

While parents are welcome to take candid photographs of a child at the Torah during a rehearsal, there may be no professional photography while the Torah is in use. Furthermore, the Torah cannot be used in posed photographs.

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VIII.  Elements of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program

Becoming a bar/bat mitzvah is the beginning of participation in the adult Jewish world and not an end in itself. Jewish adulthood has many facets and these are reflected in the bnai mitzvah program at Adat Shalom. Engraved on the panels of our sanctuary are the words from Pirkei Avot: “The world stands on three things: on Torah, on Avodah, and on Gemilut Hasadim.” In entering Jewish adulthood, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah should prepare in each of these areas. Torah implies learning; avodah suggests deepening one’s prayer and spiritual life; and gemilut hasadim, often translated as “acts of loving kindness,” points to repairing the world, both through direct service and volunteerism and through tzedakah. Parents, the B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator, and the other clergy are all expected to help shape a student’s program of preparation in these important areas:

1.  Torah–Text Study: Whether or not the child offers a public dvar torah, it is important that the child experience Torah study. Studying their parsha with the clergy is a key facet of the bar/bat mitzvah experience.

2.  Avodah–Spiritual Practice and Participation in Services: Reciting the Torah and Haftorah blessings and publicly chanting the Torah text are part of adult Jewish spiritual practice. Becoming a bar/bat mitzvah is a beginning, not an end in itself. As a mitzvah person, each student is encouraged to make a commitment to continued Jewish spiritual practice following the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony.

3.  Gemilut Hasadim–Tikkun Olam Project: Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah student at Adat Shalom is expected to undertake a tikkun olam project. The project should be hands-on and developmentally appropriate so that the child is able to see a direct connection between his/her actions and the “repair” of one small corner of the world. Some students participate in group B’nai Mitzvah projects, either at Adat Shalom or in the larger Jewish community.

For many of our families, the tikkun olam project becomes a shared family activity, with children working along side their parents. Ideally, participation in tikkun olam will become a lifelong habit and this is most likely to happen when it becomes a regular feature of family life.

For ideas, see the B’nai Mitzvah Tikkun Olam Projects Guide.

4.  Gemilut Hasidim–Tzedakah: Because the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience is intended to start a young person on a path of regularly fulfilling mitzvot, Adat Shalom encourages our Bar/Bat Mitzvah students to mark this milestone by committing some portion of the monetary gifts they receive to tzedakah, or by asking that gifts be given directly to a particular charity. If desired, the clergy and the Social Action Committee are both happy to acquaint the student with organizations to which s/he might consider giving funds.

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IX. The Ceremony

1.  Service Leaders: Except in emergency situations, Adat Shalom clergy will be present to participate in leading services when there is a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. As bnai mitzvah coordinator, Hazzan Rachel Hersh Epstein works with all children and families. However, at times in the service, the role she serves as pulpit clergy may be played by our founding cantor Jack Feder or by another qualified cantor associated with Adat Shalom, including Cantor Sue Roemer or Cantor Rachel Goldsmith. Any of our rabbinical staff, including our senior rabbi (Fred Scherlinder Dobb), our founding rabbi (Sid Schwarz), and any interim, part-time rabbinical staff or student rabbi, may serve the rabbi’s role in any Adat Shalom service. At some Bnai Mitzvah services, only one clergy member-–rabbi or cantor–will be present.

Adat Shalom, as a Reconstructionist community, values the participation by qualified lay people in leading our services. Which elements of a service are led by lay people and which by clergy depend on many factors. Decisions regarding who will lead the elements of any service rest with the clergy, consulting with the Religious Practices Committee as necessary.

2.  Service Content: As a Reconstructionist community, Adat Shalom includes creative and non-traditional elements in its services. The decisions about when and if to include such elements rest with the clergy, in consultation with the Religious Practices Committee. The clergy, in consultation with the Religious Practices Committee, determine the order of the service and of the elements within the service, including those elements involving the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child and the family.

3.  Family’s Timely Arrival: To coordinate any last minute issues, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and his/her parent(s) are expected to be present no later than one-half hour prior to the beginning of the service.

4.  Role of the Child in the Service: At a minimum, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is called for the maftir aliyah. Virtually all of our students also read from the Torah. Almost all chant the Haftorah along with the appropriate blessings. Many also give a short dvar torah, discussed below. The extent of the role taken by a particular child depends on the ability and comfort level of that student.

5.  Parents’ Blessing & Tallit Presentation: The family may present a tallit to the child, offering a personal blessing. Note that a public presentation of a tallit is in no way required of the family by the synagogue; the tallit can also be given without a public blessing or in a private family moment.

If the parents choose to give a blessing, the total presentation, including remarks by both parents, shall last no more than a total of four minutes.

Remarks must be written out and consist of no more than one page of double spaced text per parent (approximately 250 to 300). The clergy shall review the parents’ remarks in advance and require changes as deemed necessary. Sample remarks are available from the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Coordinator.

When parents run over time, the clergy cuts subsequent Bar/Bat Mitzvah family-centered elements of the service to maintain the overall length of the service.

6.  English Readings: The family may suggest one English reading for possible inclusion in the service. The selection is subject to approval by the clergy.

7.  Honors: Having a role in the service is an honor for those who take part. At Adat Shalom, Bnai mitzvah ceremonies take place in the context of a congregational service where other members are also marking important personal moments. For that reason, the number of honors reserved for the bar/bat mitzvah family is limited to the following:


i) Maftir (final—usually the sixth) aliyah—reserved for the bar/bat mitzvah student.

ii) Fifth aliyah—reserved for the parents. In the case where one parent is not Jewish, that parent is called by his/her English name and stands with the Jewish parent but does not recite the Torah blessings because the blessings are an affirmation of Jewish belief.

iii) Fourth aliyah—often given to the grandparents. The number of participants in this aliyah is limited to 2 people except in the case when there are 3 or 4 living grandparents, in which case all grandparents present may participate in this honor. Non-Jewish grandparents following the practice described above. When there are no grandparents or only one grandparent, another person(s) may be honored with this aliyah.

iv) Ark opening or ark closing–2 Jewish individuals may be honored

v) English reading–Appropriate honor for Jews or non-Jews.

vi) Younger siblings–take part in leading a prayer

vii) Older siblings–may participate by reading Torah, by being one of the people honored in the fourth aliyah or with another honor listed above.


The family may arrange with the Rabbi for an extra aliyah where the parents are separated and would not be comfortable sharing an aliyah.

At services in which two families each celebrate a bar/bat mitzvah, two aliyot are added, with one family taking the third, fourth, and fifth aliyot, while the other family takes the sixth, seventh, and maftir aliyot. Other aliyot are reserved for members of the community.

In the case of twins or other siblings celebrating together, a single aliyah is added to accommodate the second child.

8.  Torah Readings: The bar/bat mitzvah student typically chants the maftir (final) aliyah torah reading. Bar/Bat Mitzvah students with exceptional Hebrew and chanting abilities may also chant the fifth and occasionally the fourth readings. Family members and friends who are competent. Torah readers are also encouraged to chant Torah as a way of honoring the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student.

Many parents find that this is a wonderful opportunity to learn or re-learn Torah cantillation along with the children. Parents are urged to read on at least one prior Shabbat so they do not debut as novice readers at their child’s Bar/Bat mitzvah Shabbat.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah child plus his/her family and friends may chant up to three of the readings for that day. These would typically be the three readings corresponding to the aliyot reserved as bnai mitzvah honors.

Families planning for family and/or friends to read on the day of their child’s simcha must notify the Torah Reading Coordinator as to who is planning to chant torah and what they are chanting no later than one month prior to the date of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service. After that time, the mitzvah of chanting Torah for these aliyot will be given to other readers.

9.  Haftorah Reading: At the Shabbat morning service, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student typically chants part of the week’s haftorah and the accompanying blessings.

10.  Child’s Dvar Torah: Depending on the child’s and family’s preferences, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah may offer a dvar Torah during the service. This may take a variety of forms, including traditional dvar Torah interpreting the week’s parsha, an arts performance, an original story related to the parsha, or a short presentation on research related to another Jewish topic. In all cases, it is reviewed and approved beforehand by the B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator or another Adat Shalom clergy person.

A written presentation unaccompanied by an artistic component may be no more than 750 words. When an artistic component is added, the dvar torah must be shortened accordingly (usually to about 150-250 words) so that the total presentation is no more than 5 minutes.

Please note that while gratitude is an appropriate emotion at this milestone moment, the dvar torah should not contain “thank yous” to parents, clergy and tutors.

11. Photography During the Service: No photography is allowed in the sanctuary during the service. Videotaping is allowed only if it will not impair the comfort or confidence of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and if the video camera is invisible to the community. Unobtrusive audiotaping is allowed.

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X. Oneg Responsibilities

An appropriate way to mark the first moment in community together after becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a seudat mitzvah (feast in honor of performing a mitzvah). In addition to the congregational requirement of doing at least two Onegs a year, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family has these additional responsibilities:

1. Hospitality Fee: Every family celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah at Adat Shalom is charged a small fee ($35 in 2003-04) to defray the cost of hospitality supplies.

2. Spending Time with the Congregation: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah family is expected to spend at least a short time with the congregation after the service so members of the congregation have an opportunity to wish the family “mazel tov.” If guests are invited to a luncheon to follow the service, the start time of the luncheon should allow the family time to greet the congregation in an unhurried manner.

3. Contribution to the Oneg: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah family is expected to contribute to the oneg on the day of their Simcha. This oneg contribution does not count towards the two mandatory oneg duties required for members each year.

Whichever Oneg option is chosen for marking this simcha, the family is expected to provide the food themselves. This can include hiring a caterer, providing platters of food, preparing the food at home, or arranging for friends to provide food. All foods must meet Adat Shalom food guidelines. There is no mechanism for the family to write a check to discharge this obligation. At a minimum, the contribution to the oneg for the simcha means either:


A. Providing a snack for the entire congregation, followed by a luncheon outside building.

  • This option is only available for those who are providing lunch elsewhere for all invited guests, such that guests will not be eating their full meal at the oneg.
  • The snack provided is minimally defined as at least 3 small servings per guest, including Adat Shalom members formally invited to the simcha.
  • The servings are to be provided so that all the food is shared by invited guests and others at the oneg. This food may include a cake.
  • Table linens, drinks, decorations, and additional food are optional.


B. Full Oneg Lunch. When the family has not invited their guests to a luncheon to follow the service, the guests will of course join the congregation for lunch at the oneg.

  • The family is required to provide food for the oneg sufficient to feed the number of invited guests, including those invited guests who are congregants. This is defined as 6 small servings per guest.
  • The servings are to be provided so that invited guests and others share all the food at the oneg.
  • This food may include a cake.
  • Table linens, drinks, decorations, additional food, and music are optional.

Special Note–When the Kitchen Has Been Kashered: In the event that a family is renting Adat Shalom’s facility for the evening and also is kashering the kitchen (which is not required by Adat Shalom but an option for families that wish to do so), the family may either provide all the food for the oneg via their kosher caterer or the kitchen will be sealed and the oneg will require kitchen-less preparation.


4. Assist Another Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family. Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah family must serve as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah oneg coordinator for another family. This coordinator duty may be incorporated into one of the family’s two obligatory oneg duties for the year. The coordinator works closely with the celebrating family to coordinate all the oneg details and to carry them out in the following ways:

  • The coordinator communicates with the family in advance and serves as the stand-in for the celebrating family on the day of their simcha.
  • If mutually agreeable, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family may deliver food, tableware, etc., to the coordinator in advance of the simcha for them to bring to the oneg.
  • If the family has hired a caterer, then the coordinator serves as point person for the caterer if there is a problem during the service, prior to the oneg.
  • If the celebrating family wishes the social hall to be set up using tablecloths or any special table decorations, such as flowers, the coordinator, if mutually agreeable, can arrange to have them done, or do those tasks.
  • The coordinator will be responsible for seeing that if Adat Shalom’s tablecloths are used, that they are signed out, laundered and returned to Adat Shalom, whether by the coordinator or the celebrating family.
  • The coordinator works closely with the oneg captain so that the captain is aware of what food the family is providing and whether the family has suggestions for categories of food to be provided by the rest of the oneg crew. (These suggestions should be broad categories — such as green salad, fruit salad, brownies or cookies — and take into account both cost and easy of preparation. If the family has a very specific menu item they would like to see at the oneg, such as carrot salad with raisins, they should provide that item themselves).

5. Photography During the Oneg: Non-intrusive photograph is allowed during the oneg. Because this is the opportunity for the congregation to greet the family, this is not the time for a family session with the photographer.

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XI. Additional Celebrations

In keeping with Jewish tradition, many families hold a party or reception to mark this important life cycle event. The community rejoices with all its families and acknowledges that there is no “right” way to celebrate. As a community, we do encourage each family to consider their options carefully so as not to spend more than the family can comfortably afford and so that the focus of the celebration remains on the child and on his/her accomplishing a major Jewish rite of passage. We urge families to reflect on the values inherent in each option when planning a celebration, from the choice of venue for the celebration to the invitations, decorations and entertainment to the food.

1. The Mitzvah of Sharing Our Bounty with the Needy–Mazon: At the time of a simcha such as a Bar/Bat MItzvah, it is traditional for Jews to show gratitude for one’s good fortune and prosperity inherent in having the opportunity and financial resources hold a celebration by ensuring that the hungry also have food. The Adat Shalom community joins with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation in supporting Mazon: The Jewish Response to Hunger. We urge families to observe this mitzvah by contributing 3% of the accumulated costs for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration to Mazon to help alleviate hunger.

More information about Mazon is available at www.mazon.org. Donations may be sent to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, 1990 South Bundy Drive, Suite 260, Los Angeles, CA 90025-5232.

2. Renting at Adat Shalom: After dates have been scheduled and about a year before a class’s bnai mitzvah ceremonies begin, all families are sent information regarding the opportunity to rent Adat Shalom’s facility for a bar/bat mitzvah celebration. Families are given a limited amount of time to indicate their interest and place a deposit for a rental. After that, the family may still rent the facility on a space available basis but it can also be reserved for other uses on that date. When more than one family sharing a date indicate interest, a coin is tossed to determine which family may rent the facility.

Please see the food guidelines and rental contact for details about restrictions on food served at private parties.

3. Rental Options:


A.  Extended oneg.  Families may combine a private celebration with the congregational oneg by using the extended oneg option. In this option, the congregation and the invited guests join together in the Social Hall for the oneg. After congregants depart at about 1:30 PM, the family and friends stay for additional time (usually 1-2 hours) for a more private celebration where focus can be placed on the child. For an extended oneg, the social hall is rented is on an hourly basis for the time it is used after 1:30 PM, making this an affordable and low-key option for families comfortable sharing their celebration with the community. Note that the oneg crew leaves at 1:30 PM so other arrangements must be made to serve any additional food and to clean up.

B.  Evening rental.  With this option, guests return to Adat Shalom in the evening for a private party, for which the building is rented. It is important to note that your vendors cannot have access to the Social Hall until after 4 PM to set up.


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XII. Expressing Gratitude to Adat Shalom

Many families wish to express their sense of connection to the congregation by making a contribution at the time of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This is in keeping with the traditional Jewish custom of marking a simcha or a loss with a financial gift to the synagogue or another Jewish cause. While certainly not required, a donation to one of the congregational funds strengthens the synagogue community that helped make the Bar/Bat Mitzvah possible. Details about existing funds are available from the office.

Many families also ask about how they can express their appreciation to the clergy for their important contribution to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience. The traditional mode for doing this is by making a donation to a clergy member’s discretionary fund. Through these funds, the clergy at Adat Shalom support needy individuals, synagogue programming and the work of other non-profit organizations with which they are involved. Again, this is entirely optional.

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XIII. Jewish Life After Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the entry door for full participation in the adult Jewish community but the education that our students receive prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah is an elementary education; it can no more serve their needs as adult Jews than an elementary secular education can serve them as adults in secular culture. The crowded curriculum of the bnai mitzvah preparatory year focuses on the Jewish skills and knowledge integral to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah process and leaves little room for other topics. Jewish learning is a lifetime pursuit and one in which we strongly encourage every one of our teens to take part.

In the Washington area, we are fortunate to have many options for teen learning, from Day Schools (which have entry programs at the beginning of high school for those who attended secular schools earlier) to intensive supplemental schools such as Shoresh to our own congregational high school program. Adat Shalom’s varied programs for teens are designed to involve teens in many different ways. The Torah School offers classroom education through high school, focusing on a values-based curriculum. After completing 8th grade at the Torah School or in Day School, many of our teens work with younger children as teaching assistants (madrichim) in the Torah School and at the congregational retreat. [2] Our teens take part in local, regional and national activities through the Reconstructionist movement’s youth group—Noar Hadash. At this time, we also offer a monthly Rosh Hodesh group for girls through the Kolot program. We also encourage our teens to chant Torah at services, join the congregational choir or participate in other of Adat Shalom’s adult activities that suit their interests and talents. Our Adult Education and Community Life Committees sponsor programs that support parents as they help point their children in healthy directions.

In whichever way is chosen by a particular family and student– from Jewish Day School to becoming as a Madrich/a and/or a member of Noar Hadash to attending our classes for high school students– ongoing participation in Adat Shalom is our community’s goal for every teen.

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  • 24-36 months prior to the ceremony-Date assigned through the congregation’s scheduling process. Receive Bar/Bat Mitzvah Guidelines
  • 12-24 months–Begin attending B’nai Mitzvah informational meetings and family education workshops
  • 9-18 months-Begin cantillation classes
  • 6-12 months–Begin individual tutoring sessions, assign Torah readings, begin tikkun olam project
  • 3 months–The entire family meets with the clergy to review progress. Child meets with rabbi to discuss D’var Torah
  • Within 2 weeks prior to the ceremony–Final reviews with clergy and tutor

[1] Adat Shalom also has a “Ben/Bat Torah” program to help adult Jews attain increased levels of education and commitment, whether or not they have had a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.

[2] While public schools do not count volunteer hours in the student’s home church or synagogue, volunteering as a Madrich is a popular way for our teens in private school to earn community service hours.

Approved by the Adat Shalom Board February 26, 2004; April 22, 2004.