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?

Example of a student brainstorming possible mentors: Cousin Brad comes to mind. He’s a journalist. My Torah portion is about a war between the Israelites and the Moabites. Maybe he could help me write about my portion as though I were a reporter on the scene. Why doesn’t war go away? I’d like to talk with him about that, my grandfather Rob too, he fought in the Yom Kippur War, for Israel. And then there’s Uncle Bennie, the way he chants the Kiddush over the wine, you can tell he loves doing it. I’ll talk to him about that; why is he so into it? And…

• Who has talents like your talents?  Who could help you creatively apply your talents in Jewish life, beginning with your bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah?

Example of how one of the mentoring sessions worked out: Cousin Brad and I made a pretend newspaper about stories in the Torah to hand out at my bar mitzvah service. Everyone was fascinated. We put in some information about new archaelogical digs that happen in the towns that my Torah portion discusses. We included some midrashim that show how the rabbis deal with the idea of war. I shared some quotes about when war is ethical in Judaism and interviewed some of my teacher and family as to how they feel and think about that in our tradition. My cousin edited my interviews and we included them, along with a prayer for peace and internet links to many different kinds of Jewish organizations that work for peace and security for Israel. I learned so much doing this. It was my favorite part of becoming bar mitzvah, being mentored by Cousin Brad and making our newspaper.

Are you making notes?

• Are there Jewishly focused poets, chefs, artists, historians, politicians available to you as mentors?

Another example of how a mentoring session worked out: My neighbor is a Jewish fabric artist, she makes amazing quilts. She offered to help me make a quilt that would have the prayer of my heart illustrated on it. You know how in the morning blessings there is one that says that God guides our footsteps? I have a big decision to make about which school to go to next year. So that is the prayer I put on the quilt, for guidance. While we were sewing it, the guidance came! I realized what to do. And the quilt is hanging in my bedroom to remind me to pray for guidance and listen deep inside for the answer. Thank you God!

• Are there graduates of advanced lay Jewish learning programs or students of Judaism at local universities who might become bar or bat mitzvah mentors?

Example from a follow-up survey to the doctoral research done on new methods of bar/bat mitzvah preparation: Mom put a note on the bulletin board at the Jewish Studies Department at the local universities. "Seeking a bat mitzvah tutor who can MENTOR my daughter regarding prayer, mitzvot and her dvar Torah." I'm in love with the girl who answered the ad, Jan,  who came last week, she's majoring in midrash, that's how things that interest or bug us about Torah get filled in by stories our ancestors made up. She says we can make midrash too. I want to make one about Kobi and Zimri, two lovers in my Torah portion who get killed. How cool is that?! There's midrash about lovers in Torah?! Wow.  Well, not so fast, Jan said, first we are going to study all the midrash she can find that was ever written about them. I'm up for that, I thought this was going to be all boring memorizing like my friends did for theirs. This is exciting."

What are you ideas for finding great mentors? Use the Contact Button to please let us know so we can share them here at