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B'nai Mitzvah Handbook

Please click here to download the PDF version of the B'nai Mitzvah Handbook.



Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a beginning. Jewish law has fixed the age of thirteen for boys and twelve for girls as the beginning of adulthood. Therefore, a child legally enters the stage of “responsibility” at that time and becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Being a Bar/Bat Mitzvah means reaching the age of Jewish maturity and assuming the privileges, obligations and responsibilities of following the Mitzvot, the commandments of Jewish law.

This period of training and preparation can be a time of growth and enrichment, not only for the student, but also for the family as a whole. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah should be treated as a catalyst in your child’s life—the time for grappling with ideas and identities, both Jewish and secular. It is a time that can have deep significance, and be of vital importance to your child’s development as an individual and a Jew.



Preparation for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah begins when the child enters religious school. It is expected that every child be enrolled in the Beth Am Jewish Learning Center, Beth Am Sabra Program or a Jewish Day School before and during his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah year. It is important to remember and to impress upon our children that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not the end of their Jewish Education but rather a very important milestone within it.

Formal Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation tutorials begin approximately six months prior to a child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah date and continue until the ceremony.  Tutors will be assigned by Rabbi Earne and will contact you to arrange a schedule.



Since the cornerstone of the rite is being called to the Torah for an Aliyah to recite the blessings, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah can take place any time the Torah is read. Traditionally, the Torah is read every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. The Torah is also read every Festival morning and on Rosh Hodesh (the New Moon) each month. Please remember that Congregation Beth Am is an egalitarian synagogue and that service participation follows the guidelines as such.

Each student is given a Bar/Bat Mitzvah date occurring as close as possible following their 13th birthday according to the Hebrew calendar. Dates are assigned during the students’ 5th grade year. Each family will be notified with their assigned date soon thereafter.



The Bar/Bat Mitzvah program is specialized in order to prepare each individual with the necessary skills and knowledge to enable them to take their position as members of the synagogue and the Jewish community. In order to participate in this program a student and his/her family must meet the following requirements:

  • All candidates must be Jewish. Please feel free to discuss any issues relating to this with us.

  • It is the synagogue policy that all families must be members in good standing: that all dues, fees and other financial obligations are 100% fulfilled at least 6 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date.

  • Jewish Education -- All candidates must have successfully completed 5th through 7th grade in a formal Jewish education program.  This includes 5th & 6th grades at JLC and 7th grade at the Sabra Hebrew High program. If enrolled in a Jewish Day School, students must have completed the same three years immediately preceding the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. During their 7th grade year, all students and families, regardless of where they are in school, will participate in Beth Am’s monthly Tallit ’N T’fillin (TNT) Program.

  • Mitzvah program -- A Mitzvah is one of G-d’s commandments. When one becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, he/she assumes the obligation of observing and performing the Mitzvot of Judaism. Since a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a “family affair,” we ask each family to participate in the mitzvah program together.  Each student and family will participate in the mitzvah program, which is incorporated into the monthly TNT’s.

  • Shabbat attendance – The most important parental preparation for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student is for your family to regularly attend Friday evening and Saturday morning services before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  We want you to feel comfortable in services and be a part of our Shabbat community.  The Bar/Bat Mitzvah student and their family are expected to attend Shabbat Services at least twelve (12) times during the twelve months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  Of the twelve services, nine should be Shaharit, depending on the service in which your child will be participating.  We also give credit for students who attend services at another congregation.  Please email Rabbi Earne so he can keep track.

All males are required to wear a kippah in the sanctuary.  Females participating in the service are required to wear a head covering.  All Jewish men wear a tallit when participating the Shabbat morning and holiday morning services.

Of course, it is hoped that attendance at T’fillah (services) will be a part of your family’s regular life style.  Please understand that familiarity with the prayers comes through exposure; it is only fair to students that they be given quality time to listen and learn.

  • Tutorials -- Approximately six months before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, each student will begin a series of individual meetings with one of our tutors. Students are assigned to a tutor by Rabbi Earne.  Tutors will contact you prior to the beginning of lessons to arrange for a schedule.

Each student is expected to study at home each day and to fulfill the assignments given. We recommend at least half (1/2) an hour of study each and every day. Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation is cumulative learning; it must be repeated and reinforced. Studying the day before the next lesson just will not accomplish the goal.

We urge parents to carefully supervise your child’s study and preparation for lessons. If at any time during the six (6) months of formal training the student falls behind, the parents must provide additional tutoring at their expense until the student is on schedule. Parents will be regularly informed of their child’s progress.

Approximately six weeks before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the students will begin weekly meetings with the Rabbi to review all preparations and including his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech.

  • Continued Jewish Education -- It is expected that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student and their family make a commitment to continue his/her Jewish education at the Beth Am Sabra Program or equivalent. We believe in the importance of continued Jewish education for the development of a committed and educated Jewish adult.


The fee for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program is currently $1100. This fee is in addition to the regular JLC school fees and helps to defray the cost of the tutoring provided to train the students, material fees, and other administrative costs. This fee will be charged to the membership account twelve (12) months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The fees are subject to change and will be billed at the amount in effect twelve (12) months before the student’s date.  All dues, fees and other financial obligations must be 100% fulfilled at least 6 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date, and subsequently incurred dues, fees, and other financial obligations to the Congregation must be promptly fulfilled prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Fees Include:

  1.  Tutoring for 20 Sessions

  2. DVD of Ceremony

  3. Tikkun/Prayer Book

  4. Live Streaming


Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah family will follow this basic schedule:

Attend Shabbat services regularly. This is essential to provide the highest level of comfort for your child on his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah day.

In the 6th grade year

Attend three 6th grade Havurah events with all the 6th grade Havurah families.

In the 7th grade year

  1. Attend monthly TNTs as a family.

  2. Work monthly on TNT Mitzvah Projects.

One year prior

  1. Bill assigned to family to allow time for payment plan.

8 - 7 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah

  1. Call to arrange six month meeting with Rabbi.

6 months prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

  1. All families should meet with Rabbi for the “six month” family meeting.

  2. Students begin weekly tutorial sessions.

  3. Students should be practicing at home at least half an hour (1/2) hour per day.

  4. Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee should be paid in full prior to this time.

  5. Schedule “six week” Bar/Bat Mitzvah appointments including rehearsal.

  6. Schedule meeting with the Executive Director, Mark Gulner, to speak about facility arrangements.

5 - 3 months prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

  1. Student to meet with Rabbi to work on speech.

6 weeks prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

  1. Family will meet with the Rabbi for the “6 week” family meeting.

  2. Student to begin student meetings with the Rabbis to prepare and rehearse for Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

  3. Student rough draft of speech ready to bring to the Rabbi by “five week” meeting.

  4. Rehearsal time should be confirmed with the Rabbis’ assistant.

3 weeks prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

  1. Return completed Honors Sheet to Rabbi.

  2. Submit final copy of parents’ speech to Rabbi. No more than 500 words.

  3. Submit copy of Booklet, if you are making one, to the Rabbi for approval.

  4. Meet with Rabbi to tie tzitzit on the tallit.

2 weeks prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

  1. Meet with Rabbi for final student meeting.

Week of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah

  1. Bar/Bat Mitzvah rehearsal

After the B’nai Mitzvah

  1. Pick up DVD of service

  2. Continue Jewish Education

  3. Continue involvement with USY

  4. Read Torah or lead services for YAD Squad



 During the week preceding the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a rehearsal is held with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student, the parents, and the Rabbi in the Synagogue. The rehearsal takes one and one-half hours (1-1/2 hours) and is important to ensure a smooth flowing Bar/Bat Mitzvah day. The rehearsal does not replace the need to attend services on a regular basis.

  • Photography -- You may wish to have a professional photographer take pictures to commemorate the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Please remember that no photography, professional or amateur, is permitted at the Synagogue or on its grounds on Shabbat. The facilities of the synagogue are available before or after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah day for taking “simulated” poses. In practice, most people use the time of the rehearsal for taking pictures.

  • Video -- Professional video recording is not permitted in the Synagogue on Shabbat. However, through the gift of the 1987 Adult B’nai Mitzvah Class, which contributed timer-generated recording equipment, we are now able to record your son’s/daughter’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The recording is from a simple, stationary camera and provides a wide-view of the entire pulpit.  If you would like a copy of this DVD, please request one from the office the week following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

  • Streaming B’nai Mitzvah Per Request – We are now live streaming B’nai Mitzvah services per your request.  Please contact the office for more information.



  • Food baskets -- In lieu of flowers, we ask that you donate two food baskets for the needy to be displayed on the bimah. The contents of the baskets are given to Jewish Family Services after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and should contain certified KOSHER food.  Usually, you may choose empty baskets the Congregation has on hand for this purpose.  If you choose to display flowers or plants they must be in addition to the food baskets.

  • Religious items -- Your child will want to have his/her own Tallit and Kippah for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Any of the Jewish bookstores in the area will carry these items.

  • Invitations -- Any reputable printer can print Bar/Bat Mitzvah invitations in varieties of script, colors and designs. In keeping with the spirit of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah please do not order your invitations on Shabbat. Please remember to include an invitation to the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat Service on your invitations.  The office can confirm the time the Friday service is scheduled to begin.

It is important to keep in mind that Judaism is about community-building. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is an important transition into adulthood and how invitations are handled is a lesson in itself.  It is very painful for an individual child to attend a service of a classmate when everyone else is invited for the festivities and they are not, especially when comments are made that exclude the individual.

Therefore, if you are planning to invite more than 50% of your child’s classmates, we encourage you to invite the whole class.  Please obtain a current mailing list from the JLC Director or Rabbi Earne as close to your anticipated mailing date as possible.

  • Parents should speak to their child about proper behavior/comments in class and at a service or party. No one wants to invite a child who is offensive to their own child or cannot be trusted. We as a shul and community can only make guidelines; it is up to each family’s conscience to enforce them properly.



  1. You and your child are encouraged to attend Friday night and Saturday morning services, whether or not s/he is invited to any social celebration.

  2. When your child is a guest of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, it is appropriate for them to be present at least for the Torah service, Bar/Bat Mitzvah introduction to the Haftarah and the Haftarah.

  3. In order for your child to participate properly in the service, and to ‘be there’ for their friends, any ‘breaks’ your child takes from the service should be brief, and close to the sanctuary.

  4. Proper attire includes knee length skirts or dresses (modest attire) for girls, and slacks with collared shirts for boys. Once students have become Bar/Bat Mitzvah, they should wear talitot each Shabbat morning. Please review with your son/daughter how to sit on a raised platform. Short skirts, bare shoulders, and bare midriffs are not acceptable, and people so dressed will be asked to cover themselves before entering the sanctuary. We urge all honorees to be conservatively and appropriately dressed.

  5. Our young men and women should understand that their behavior (both at the service and at the celebration) is a reflection on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family, the synagogue, the school, and their own family. When they conduct themselves properly, we can all be proud!!!

  6.  All men, regardless of their faith, are required to wear a kippah in the synagogue building. Females participating in the service are required to wear a head covering. Jewish men and women may wear a tallit (prayer shawl) during appropriate t’fillot.



The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is an important milestone for the entire family.  Recognizing the institution that plays a significant role in helping you reach this important ceremony illustrates a valuable lesson in community financial support.  A permanent reminder of your special day is important.  It could range from a donation of a prayer book in honor of the Bar/Mat Mitzvah, to a Tree of Life plaque, or creating a new endowment.  The important lesson is we need to help each other through participation and mutual support, spiritual, emotional and financial.  Please discuss your tzedakah interest with the Rabbi.  Please consider a Jewish institution for part of the tzedakah gift.



The key element of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is for the student to be familiar with the design of the T’fillot (services). Our students participate in services on a variety of levels, some more fully by leading a large part of the Shabbat service and/or by reading additional portions of the Torah. If you have a question about the service, family or student participation (including non-Jews participation) in the service please feel free to ask Rabbi Earne.  The Congregation can provide CD’s to assist honorees in practicing the Hebrew blessings which are assigned to them.



Shabbat Candle Lighting -- Grandmother(s), mother(s), Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and sisters come up on the bimah for the Shabbat candle blessing. Recite the candle lighting berakhah (blessing) found on page 301.

Parent Blessing – Parents can present their own blessing when they present the tallit at the beginning of the service or parents can present their own blessing for the child’s next step on their journey at the end of the service.

Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv Service – Child is encouraged to lead English reading on pages 23 & 33, Vishamru and Hatzi Kaddish.

Kiddush -- Grandfather(s), father(s), Bar/Bat Mitzvah and brothers come up to recite the Kiddush.


Birkhot HaShahar & Psukay D’Zimra – led by the student(s), a family member, or a congregation member.  This is up to parents based on your child’s ability.

Shaharit - led by the student(s), a family member, or a congregation member.

Torah Service

  • At the beginning of the Torah Service, parents, grandparents and siblings walk slowly to the ark.

  • The ark is opened, the crown is placed on the Torah, and the Torah is handed down from generation to generation.

  • At a service with two B’nai Mitzvah students, the Torah will be passed through one family and then through the second family.  The student receiving the Sefer Torah second will carry it through the congregation to the shulhan (table). The other student will carry the Sefer Torah as it returns to the ark.

  • Family members stand together in a straight line on the bimah, facing the congregation, while the prayers of Sh’ma, Ehad and Gadlu (pg 141) are recited. As the student carries the Torah through the congregation family members should follow the Torah until they reach their seats, at which point they return to their seats.

  • Torah Readings – The student generally reads at least one Torah portion. Family members and friends are called up to the Torah for the Aliyot. Families are given the privilege of distributing many of these honors to family and friends. The Honors Sheet is available on-line at  The Congregation can provide CD’s to help honorees in practicing and Hebrew blessings which are assigned to them.

  • All of our students, whether Shaharit or Minha, shared or single, will have three (3) Aliyot to distribute to their family. Typically, one of these is reserved for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, one for the parents, and the third for the grandparents or other honoree.  The other Aliyot will go either to the other Bar/Bat Mitzvah family or to other members of the congregation.

  • At our Synagogue, both men and women are called to the Torah. In the past, some honorees have had difficulty chanting the blessings. We insist that those who are chosen for Aliyot be thoroughly competent to recite the Torah blessings, so as not to embarrass themselves, you, or our Congregation. Blessings can be located on page 142 of the siddur.  The music can be learned by requesting a CD from Rabbi Earne or the tutor.

  • Family members are encouraged to learn one of the Torah Portions to chant in honor of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child. Please understand that the portion read from the Torah Scroll does not have vowels and takes significant preparation. ‘Cheat sheets’ will not be permitted at the shulhan.

  • Following the Maftir reading, the honors of Hagbah (lifting the Torah), and Gelilah (binding and dressing the Torah) are available for your family.

  • If there are two B’nai Mitzvah students participating in the service, one family will distribute the honors of Hagbah and Gelilah and the other family will distribute the honors of the prayers found slightly later in the Torah Service.

  • Prior to the reading of the Haftarah portion the Bar/Bat Mitzvah presents a short speech.

  • If there are two B’nai Mitzvah students participating in the service one will read the first portion of the Haftarah and do his/her speech on the Haftarah, and the other will read the second portion of the Haftarah and do his/her speech on the Torah portion prior to its reading.

  • Following the Haftarah, parents come up to the Shulhan for the Parental Blessing (provided for you). At this point the student has the option of reading the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Pledge. The Rabbi will discuss the pledge with the student during their meetings together.

  • Additional honors which the family has the opportunity to distribute are: A Prayer for Our Country on page 148 (English), A Prayer for the State of Israel on page 149(English or Hebrew), and A Prayer for Peace on page 149 (English).  All are available on-line at

  • If there are two B’nai Mitzvah students participating in the service, these prayers will be distributed by the family which is not assigning Hagbah and Gelilah.

  • Other honors include opening the Ark at the end of the Torah Service. When the Torah is returned to the ark, those being honored precede the Torah to open the ark and will be instructed to close the ark at the appropriate time.



We know that there is a great deal of concern around the concept of having two students share a morning service. Please be assured that we have done our homework and have been in contact with other synagogues that do this on a regular basis. We have designed a general concept based on what we have found works best. Each set of students will be different based on their needs, desires, and abilities. We will work with you every step of the way to make sure that everything works smoothly.  We will also be available to assist the families to consider any joint plans to sponsor the Oneg, Kiddush and other reception options at the Synagogue.



During the six months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah the student should research and write a rough draft of his/her Haftarah/Torah speech. The rough draft should be brought to the “five week” meeting with the Rabbi. The student is required to read and research commentaries on the appropriate section for his/her speech – either the Torah or the Haftarah - they are different.  If you have any questions about which portion the student will be reading, please contact us.

The speech should be between three and four minutes in length and contain three main sections:

  1. The history and background of the piece. (Who wrote it, when, what does it say?)

  2. What message in the parasha can be related to life in today’s society?

  3. How does it connect to you and your life?

As this is a Dvar Torah, a "Torah Talk," it is appropriate to focus only on these three sections.  "Thank You’s” may be written out in the pamphlets or expressed orally during the reception.

Research – The primary place for the student to find information on the Haftarah/Torah is by reading the translation in the Humash. This will provide the student with an overview of the portion and with several commentaries on the bottom of the page.  A tremendous amount of information is also available on the internet.  The Rabbis can identify several reliable websites.



  1. All deliveries of food, baked goods, and gift baskets must be made to the Synagogue before 2:00pm on Friday.  Food to be consumed on the premises must be Kosher and obtained from sources approved by the Rabbis.

  2. Please remind your guests that smoking, photography, writing, and the use of audio or video recorder, are not permitted in the Synagogue or on the Synagogue grounds on Shabbat.  Also, please ask your guests to put all pagers or cellular phones on silent mode before entering the sanctuary.

  3. Only soft candies are permitted to be tossed at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah because of the possibility of personal injury.  They must be soft, kosher and approved by the Rabbis.

  4. If you are having a significant number of non-Jewish guests, a booklet with explanations of the service is a nice way to help them feel more comfortable. Examples are available from Rabbi Earne.

How can we make our day a Simha, a day of joy?

There is no “right” way to approach the manner of celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The kind/amount of activities and food which are provided to guests are the choice of each family. We just ask that the celebration reflect the occasion—that the luncheon/dinner/party honors your 13 year old son/daughter who has just participated in a sacred religious ceremony.

Friday Night Oneg – Families are expected to participate in sponsoring the Oneg following Friday night services in honor of their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Please speak to the Executive Director for more information. When the synagogue holds a dinner, some families join us for the evening.

Saturday Kiddush – Families are expected to participate in sponsoring the Kiddush following Saturday morning services in honor of their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Many families choose to co-sponsor or sponsor a Kiddush luncheon for the community. Please remember your child is celebrating his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a part of the community. If you choose to host a luncheon at the Synagogue directly following services, you are highly encouraged to include the community in your simha. Please speak to the Executive Director for more information.

Saturday S’eudat Shlisheet – If you are having a minhah/maariv service you will need to decide what ‘type’ of S’eudat Shlisheet, third meal, you wish to have between the minhah (afternoon) service and maariv (evening). In our congregation this third meal can be as simple as cookies, cake and drinks; a time to serve hors d’oeuvres; or a sit down meal for your guests. Please speak to the Executive Director for more information.



In addition to your Shabbat service Shabbat Shalom sheet, some families prefer to create a booklet with information to help guests understand the service.  We have sample booklets in the office.  Please see the rabbis’ administrative assistant to borrow some sample booklets.



Your reception can be held Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night), Sunday afternoon or evening, or several other times. Remember, a successful party begins by incorporating Judaism. If your simha is on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday evening) we strongly encourage beginning with Havdalah, and it would therefore, begin after Shabbat concludes.  As education is an essential part of the Bar/Bar Mitzvah experience, parties should not be planned during JLC or Sabra hours.   Entertainment should be in keeping with the values of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. A Las Vegas Night may not be the most appropriate of themes. Please remind DJ’s that certain songs are inappropriate for B’nai Mitzvah receptions.

The Rabbi will regretfully decline your kind invitation to any party that is held outside the Synagogue on Shabbat. He will make every effort to attend parties held on Saturday evening (his arrival will be after Shabbat) or Sunday, provided the food served meets kosher dietary requirements.

When choosing outfits for your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah as well as for those that he/she will attend please keep in mind that this is a celebration of their coming of age in Judaism and that their clothing should be in good taste with a reasonable amount of modesty.



All food that is served at Congregation Beth Am must be kosher. Please speak to the Executive Director, Mark Gulner, for more information about catering and preparations.

If you have a luncheon/dinner party at home, in a restaurant, or any place other than the Synagogue, we, of course, cannot insist that it be kosher. However, we respectfully urge you to consider having a kosher meal in keeping with the spirit of the reason for the celebration. If you choose to serve a meat meal it should contain kosher meat with no dairy products served at any time during the evening. A dairy meal can include any type of kosher fish. If you have any questions regarding Kashrut at your simha please contact us. We are happy to work with you and if necessary the caterer/hotel/restaurant to avoid any issues.



Please remember that your child as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is leading services as a celebration of their entering into the adult Jewish community. We know that the details of planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah can sometimes feel overwhelming but hope that you will keep in mind the intent of the simha. If you have questions or concerns of any kind please feel free to bring them to our attention.  Rabbi Earne can be reached at 858-481-8454 or

B’nai Mitzvah Family Reference List

Below is a list of names of families who have gone through the B’nai Mitzvah experience at Beth Am.  They have volunteered their emails so that you can contact them if you have any questions about the B’nai Mitzvah process at Beth Am.  We provide this list because we are aware that planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah can be overwhelming and we as your community want to do what ever we can to help you.

  1. Vicki Mannor,

  2. Teri Naftalin,

  3. Patrice Gold,

Mazal Tov!