Bar and bat mitzvah customs and policies of temple beth el, newark, de (Revised: Sept. 2005) I. Introduction

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TEMPLE BETH EL, NEWARK, DE (Revised: Sept. 2005)


The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is an important event in the life cycle of every Jew. It signifies acceptance of responsibility by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and recognition as a Jewish adult by the local Jewish community and the Jewish people as a whole. It is a symbol that a certain level of Jewish knowledge has been attained and that there is a commitment to Jewish living. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony includes traditions to represent the above ideas. This ceremony for both young men and women may take place at any time after age 13, the minimum age to be considered ritually an adult. A Jew may become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah anytime during his/her life, and we hope that many adults in the Beth El community will consider the ceremony for themselves. The point is that becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is far from automatic for any child who completes the Hai class of our Religious School. While we plan the curriculum so that most children are prepared for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony at this time, the staff of the synagogue has a commitment to preserve the integrity of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah event by insuring that every child is prepared both in skills and in attitude for the acceptance of Jewish adulthood.

A. Educational Requirements to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah
1. A familiarity with Jewish history, customs, holidays and ethics.
2. The ability to read fluently and understand the meaning of major Hebrew prayers of the Sabbath services through classroom instruction and participation in weekly services. Regular attendance at both Shabbat evening and morning services is expected during the period of preparation. Parents are stongly encouraged to attend with their children.
3. An understanding of the Torah and Haftorah portions read the week of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. A short description of both will be written by the candidate and delivered at the service.
4. The ability to chant portions of Torah and Haftorah based on participation in a scheduled class in trope.
5. Each Bar and Bat Mitzvah candidate is expected to prepare a D'var Torah (a commentary on his/her Torah or Haftorah portion) of his/her choosing after consultation with the Rabbi to be presented during services at which he/she becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
6. It is expected that the Haftorah portion and D'var Torah project will be completed 2 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony (and prior to invitations being sent out).

7. To achieve these goals we require a minimum of four successfully completed years of Hebrew and religious school education at Temple Beth El or an approved equivalent. However, Temple Beth El feels that to remain true to the highest ideals of Jewish education we strongly encourage the student to participate in the full religious school program. The Rabbi will administer a test to children not attending religious school at Temple Beth El to ascertain that they have reached the appropriate level for Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Additionally, it is expected that if the parents of these children have lived in New Castle County, DE or adjacent counties they must have maintained synagogue membership for the four years prior to becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

8. In order to become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a child must be currently enrolled in religious school and be receiving a passing grade at Temple Beth El or in an approved equivalent.
9. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony marks the beginning of serious adult Jewish study, and we strongly urge B'nai Mitzvot and their families to demonstrate their commitment to Jewish education through participation in confirmation and adult education programs.
10. Judaism is a religion of caring and action. Each student is therefore expected to do a minimum of 13 mitzvot (thirteen hours of community service) during the Daled and Hai years. The mitzvot should be done for both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities.
A. Selecting a Date:

Dates will be selected by members in good standing whose children are meeting the educational prerequisites. The date for the ceremony is any time after the thirteenth birthday. The date can be chosen in the child’s Gimmel year. The policy prioritizes the selection of Bnai Mitzvot dates based upon the secular birthdate of the child, with the highest priority given to the oldest child. The parents will be asked to attend a meeting early in the Gimmel year to select their particular Bar/Bat Mitzvah date.

B. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah's Preparation:

The school will provide the foundation for participation in the service. Of course, the best preparation comes from regular attendance at Shabbat services, both Friday night and Saturday morning. Attendance at both services is required as part of training. It is expected that students attend at least 15 of each during the year prior to becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

C. Obligations of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family:

1. Members must be current in their payment of all dues and fees at the time Bar/Bat Mitzvah training begins and at the time the ceremony occurs.

2. Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates and their parents are expected to participate in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah workshop.
3. It is a custom at our Temple for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah parents to sponsor the Oneg Shabbat on Friday and Kiddush Saturday morning on the Shabbat of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. The Kashrut policy does not allow any home-baked goods to be brought into the synagogue.
4. Many families have chosen to beautify the sanctuary with flowers on the pulpit and a centerpiece in the social hall. Flowers should be delivered before the office closes on Friday.
5. Families are responsible for providing kepot (yarmulkas) for the Saturday Morning service at which the child becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
6. It is a tradition that the student and family make a donation to the Temple in honor of the occasion. Contributions may be made to one of the various synagogue funds such as Building, Education, Library, Landscaping, etc.
7. In case of financial need the above obligations may be waived.
D. Services offered through the Temple:

1. Sisterhood catering may:

a. Prepare the Oneg Shabbat & Kiddush.

b. Cater your reception at the Temple or your home. To help our Banquet Manager plan & implement for lunches and dinners, a $500 deposit is due upon signing of contract. Another deposit of $500 due three months before event, with the balance due one week prior.

For Onegs/Kiddushes a total of $700 should be on deposit before the day of the event with a $300 initial deposit, $200 three months before and another $200 one week prior.

Any remaining balances will be billed and payable upon receipt.

2. Judaica shop may provide:

a. Kepot (yarmulkas)

b. Tallitot (tallis)

c. Gifts

(Please contact the appropriate chairperson or the office for details)

  1. The Synagogue is a special place. It represents Jewish tradition and responsibility. Our behavior and dress should reflect the special quality of the place. Walking into our sanctuary is different than walking into a community center or an office building. With that in mind, kippot for males must be worn in the sanctuary, non-revealing tops covering the shoulders must be worn when on the bimah, and skirts should be at least knee-length on the bimah. Women are encouraged to also wear head coverings.

B. What happens on Friday night?

1. During Friday evening services we honor the Bar/Bat Mitzvah by calling upon him/her to chant the Kiddush.

2. Candidates are encouraged to lead all of the Friday evening service.
C. When does the ceremony take place?

1. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony generally takes place on Saturday morning, beginning promptly at 9:30 AM.

2. Please inform friends and relatives that it is inappropriate to use recording devices or cameras during services and Kiddush.
D. What happens at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah services?

1. What does the Bar/Bat Mitzvah do?

a. Candidates chant the Haftorah blessings and portion.

b. The maftir from the Torah is chanted by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The

candidate, if prepared, may also chant other aliyot from the Torah.

c. Candidates are encouraged to lead other parts of the service.

2. Non-Torah Honors

a. Appointment of an usher to request that at least men wear yarmulkas, to aid in orderly seating, to hand out books and pamphlets, if necessary.

b. Selected English readings may be assigned to family or friends. (See form at back of booklet.)
3. Possible Presentations/Talks

a. Presentation of the tallit, generally by Jewish parent or relative.

b. Presentation of the Torah, generally by Jewish parent or relative.

c. Prayer or talk to Bar/Bat Mitzvah, generally by parent or relative.

d. It is suggested that these talks are under 4 minutes.
4. Torah Honors

a. Torah service honors are restricted to people who are Jewish. The form at the back of this booklet should be filled in and given to the Rabbi at least one week prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. For all participants, give the English name. For those who recite blessings, please give also the Hebrew name of the person and his/her father and mother.

b. There are 7 aliyot to the Torah (besides the maftir for which the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is called). The first and second may be offered to a Cohain and Levi, respectively. If there are no Cohanim or Levi'im, anyone may have these aliyot. Aliyot are given to family members or to close friends. Couples may be called up together for an aliya.

c. Someone to lift the Torah and someone to tie it may also be honored.

d. There are also various ark openings as indicated on the service schedule.
5. Railings

        1. Temple Beth El tries to be handicapped accessible. There are railings on the right and left sides of the bema.

We must emphasize that the learning of the portion takes place at home, not in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah class. If a student is not progressing satisfactorily more time must be spent in practice. Parents should monitor their child's preparation and not allow a day to go by without practice. Please inform the Rabbi of any special problems your child may be having at home or school so that he may deal more effectively with him/her.

The preparation to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a challenge to both the student and to his/her family. The interest, concern and encouragement of the entire family will help your Bar/Bat Mitzvah appreciate the special quality of the day. It is our hope that the experience will be one of spiritual growth and of involvement with the Jewish community. If it is a day remembered for only a big party, a rich opportunity will have been lost.

May this life cycle event be a true simha.


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