Teachings: Helpful Approaches & New Ideas

Thirteen Sacred Shifts Possible Through a Meaningful Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Process

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues here

Well-conceived bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah preparation processes, rituals and celebrations lead to wonderful developmental outcomes such as these that we have identified through exit interviews with our program participants. 

1. Parents shift from stressed taskmasters to empowered family bar/bat mitzvah team members.

2. Youth go from being cared for like children to becoming young adults caring for others by learning to recognize, respect and consider the needs of others and acting accordingly.

3. Youth go from being entertained as guests at birthday parties to taking on the mitzvah of helping one another by carrying out assigned hosting tasks at the bar/bat mitzvah services and celebrations of family and friends.

Reclaiming Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a Spiritual Rite of Passage

Featured at the Jewish Futures Conference

Provides the tools and understanding necessary to create a conscious Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience infused with spirituality and meaning. The original purpose of this important rite of passage is carefully reclaimed: Ensuring a healthy Jewish lens for living is conveyed to each student; a lens that supports love of life and respect for life.

The Story of Pachi and How the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Revolution Got Started

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution

"The Story of Pachi"

The easiest way to learn why staff at Bmitzvah.org collect and create exciting new approaches to bar/bat mitzvah is through the story of Pachi, who taught Rabbi Milgram, this site's author and founder, the importance of mentoring meaningful bar/bat mitzvah processes.

During my son Mark’s bar-mitzvah preparatory year, since his Torah portion was Noah [and the ark], I felt fortunate to be serving for as rabbi on a Universe Explorer cruise up the coast of Alaska. We helicoptered onto glaciers, whale watched, visited tribes. The big "Ah Ha!" moment happened in Victoria, British Columbia at the Natural History Museum.

BMAP: Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Planning, Logistical Emotional Intellectual Spiritual

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues here

A physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually satisfying Bat or Bar Mitzvah can best emerge when you begin by creating a BMAP – a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Action Plan. This involves pausing with the likely stressful array of logistical decisions that are on your plate, and reclaiming the joy of this process by taking some time to focus on building a healthy planning team and considering the feelings and needs of each member of your team.

If you are parent, the BMAP process will transform you from a taskmaster into a team member; if you are an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah student the BMAP will awaken more spiritual possibilities than you might ever have imagined; if you are an adolescent student, the BMAP will empower you in numerous healthy ways.

Four Cross Cultural Examples of Adolescent Rites of Passage

To what end bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah? Across cultural look at adolescent rites of passage along with the Story of Pachi help us take a look at our own rite with new eyes.

The Mescalero Girls’ Puberty Ceremony.

The ceremony is conducted by men determined to be holy by the tribe, beyond reproach. Each Holy Man/Singer must be intelligent and able to memorize and interpret songs in a special form of Mescalero Apache. Each must sing 64 different songs on each of the four nights of the Ceremony Additionally, the Singer must memorize long stories of the people, their travels, and accounts of tribal interacts from the beginning to the present. The Ceremony is thus a re-enactment of events from the beginning of cosmological time and a recitation of ethno-history.

Pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah Rituals: The Educators' Blessing

The B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

"There’s one week to go before your bat mitzvah. Let’s do something when I come over, can I surprise you? Pack some sun screen and a bottle of water, we’ll have a little adventure together."

The bat mitzvah girl was very psyched by the idea, her folks didn’t let on that I’d cleared the mystery trip with them in advance.

We found a spot beside a river dotted with butterfly bushes. Perfect. She helped me neatly set out a

Four Inspiring Approaches to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues

Option #1: Congregational

Today, a classic B-mitzvah ritual is one at which the student symbolically reveals Jewish life skills by chanting from the Torah scroll and then offering an inspiring interpretation of the weekly Torah portion during a religious service. Congregations often have additional expectations of the B-mitzvah student, such as chanting from the prophets, wearing of a kippah (scull cap), tallit (prayer shawl) and, on weekdays, tefillin (meditation boxes with straps), as well as lighting Shabbat candles, leading parts of a Shabbat, Monday or Thursday service, regular service attendance, and organizing a social action initiative to help others materially or physically. Some communities reserve some of these elements for males only. Many congregations welcome innovation and creativity by the student in formulating the ritual. Be sure not to assume local norms; bring your questions to the presiding rabbi or cantor.

A Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Student Pre-Initiation Ritual

B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

Beginning to face life as a Jewish adult requires life skills, as well as ritual capabilities. The ability to face the darkness and listen for meaning while being supported and trusted by your elders to be able to make it, does lurk in the B-mitzvah process, in so far as our children are learning how to listen for the Torah as it applies to life.

It also helps to create something that helps frame the transition in stage of life. This might be a pre-b-mitzvah gathering to be held outdoors, perhaps with a bonfire.

Creating a Personal Community

A personal kehillah, "community" is a small group of mentors/advisors that the student and family create to meeting monthly and contemplate the roles and issues of adulthood, to help the student emerge with dignity and awareness into adult life. Besides, it's terrible to be isolated and this can happy in suburbia, small towns, and some families - here's how to get past all that to meaningful connections. [Credit for the basis of this idea is due to Rabbi Geelah Rayzl and Dr. Simcha Raphael.]

The Bat Mitzvah Girl Who Loved Horses

Are there tasteful limits for B'nei Mitzvah? B Mitzvah! The Bar/Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution

There was a twelve-year-old girl who loved horses. She was preparing to become bat mitzvah and insisted on horseback rides for her friends in the synagogue parking lot as well as centerpieces with famous horses depicted upon them. She also wanted to wear her riding hat when she read Torah. What to do? What’s a parent or rabbi to say?

Reb Goldie: “Ashley, I’m so impressed by your love of animals, especially horses, that I’ve brought you some information from Judaism about animals and horses.”

How to Create a "Green" Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Ensure All Rites of Passage Are Kind to the Environment

Spirituality is When Learning Leads to Meaningful Action

The environmental impact of your rite of passage, celebration and even your thank you notes is worthy of serious consideration since there are lots of ways to have a wonderful bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah while also being gentle on the environment. Here's how:

Meaningful Bar/Bat Mitzvah Themes

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues

We’re not talking about the fabled (we hope) family who had each table and food station designated as a different department store chain as though a B-Mitzvah were some kind of celebration of North American retail business. There’s a powerful world of stimulating themes right inside of your planning, self-assessment and d’var Torah preparation processes. Your selection of themes necessarily precedes the ordering of invitations, selection of music, design for centerpieces and the like. Here are some examples:

Finding Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Tutors Who Can Be Real Mentors

The B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

For this to be a meaningful rite of passage, youth need something more than tutors who help with memorizing how to chant Torah and prayers; meaning-making mentors can be life-saving relationships. Mentors don’t have to be experts in the tradition, although your tutor might also be a perfect mentor, that's for you to say after reading this article. The best mentors love their lives and their connection to Judaism. A good mentor might be a great cook, artist, journalist, or doctor who is deeply, organically connected to living as a Jew in his or her own way. Who relates to Judaism and life in ways you truly admire? Might they be willing to mentor for your bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah process?

Creating a Family Learning Trip During the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Year

Mark:  "It seems my mother thought that the best way for me to experience my pre-Bar Mitzvah was by being stranded on a boat, floating away from civilization while practicing for the big day.

And although surviving without an internet connection, phone communication, cable television, and other necessities, all in all it was the motivation I needed to sit down and learn my Bar Mitzvah readings.

Guide to Choosing a Jewish Name

This article teaches how to identify the right Jewish name for yourself, or for your child.

Understanding & Appreciating the Jewish Calendar

What are the blackout dates for Jewish rites of passage?

For those scheduling Jewish life cycle ceremonies there are hundreds of available dates as well as a number of black-out dates when rites cannot be held.

Holy Rolers: Who Are You Becoming in Community?

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues!

It's great fun to have a special role in your community. It's also holy, we call these roles Shevet Shomrei Kodesh, Tribal Guardians of Holiness. Here are some examples to develop for yourself, students, grandchildren, etc!   Can you expand this list? Who do you know for whom one or some of these roles would be an exciting fit or identity to try on with meaningful mentoring and community support?

What Age Bar Mitzvah? What Age Bat Mitzvah?

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues

Please don’t undertake a Bar/bat mitzvah process of learning and planning a ritual and celebration just because everyone else is doing it, or because of parental or communal pressure. It is right to undertake Bar/bat mitzvah when one is developmentally willing, curious, and has the time to learn new things about being Jewish and about oneself.

Parent Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation Rituals

As the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student become known to their peers in religious school, or through another context, it becomes clear that this experience is an initiation for them too, into being parents of a(nother) teenager, an evolving adult. This is a season of new parenting skills and perspectives.

One community of which I am aware holds a session of Bar/Bat Mitzvah prep where the parent(s) aren’t present so that the youth can outline any concerns that have been repressed. At such a session an assignment is planned for the parent(s)/guardian(s) that will help them prepare for the B-mitzvah day.