Bar/t Mitzvah – how we at Etz Chayim abbreviate the phrase to mean a Bar or Bat Mitzvah – is a person who is taking her or his place in the community of Jewish adults. We are exceptionally proud of our Bar/t Mitzvah program and how students and families experience the process of preparing for and celebrating Bar/t Mitzvah here. The program is rigorous, meaningful and individualized. It serves to build community and connections among the students and families.
Each student and family is supported by a dedicated team composed of the Rabbi, Director of Learning, Executive Director, Bar/t Mitzvah Administrator, teachers and mentors. We want each of our students to feel successful, accomplished and engaged in the full experience of becoming and celebrating Bar/t Mitzvah.
Students who become Bar/t Mitzvah at Etz Chayim develop skills and tools that will be of great value to their personal Jewish lives, to our congregation and to the Jewish community at large. Among these are the ability to chant Torah and Haftarah and to to lead services. Our program also encourages wrestling with and interpreting Torah. Students develop these skills by writing commentaries, delivering a D’var Torah (speech interpreting a passage or theme in their Torah portion) and facilitating a conversation about their D’var Torah. Another cornerstone of our program is helping students establish a Tikkun Olam habit, a commitment to social justice and repairing the world. Our goal is to develop engaged members of the Jewish community.
A Bar/t Mitzvah ceremony can take place any time on or after the 13th birthday on either the secular or Hebrew calendar. Prior to beginning our Bar/t Mitzvah program, students should have participated in up to 4 years of learning in a Religious School or Jewish Day School, or an equivalent course of study. Families are expected to have been members of Etz Chayim for at least three years.
Families with special needs or unusual circumstances around prior learning or synagogue membership are encouraged to contact our Director of Learning to explore pathways to Bar/t Mitzvah.
“Learning by doing” is a core concept at Etz Chayim. This is one reason why we require students and parents to attend a minimum number of services in the year preceding the Bar/t Mitzvah. The Bar/t Mitzvah service has the same structure, uses the same prayer book, and meets in the synagogue just as any other regular scheduled service. We say that the Shabbat service invites the Bar/t Mitzvah, not the other way around.
Community is fundamental to our congregation. Our Bar/t Mitzvah program builds this in a variety of ways. Students and parents get to know each other and create bonds of connection through the Bar/t Mitzvah Family Class, by attending each other’s services, and as they prepare and serve oneg luncheons for each other. The Bar/t Mitzvah program offers something for families with a strong religious background as well as parents learning alongside their child. All skill sets and learning styles are welcome.
To learn more, contact Abra Greenspan our Director of Learning.